Snag » Before and After All Found. All Vintage. Wed, 05 Oct 2016 21:18:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Before and After: A Forever Chair Wed, 05 Oct 2016 02:00:34 +0000 You may remember that some time ago I found the “perfect” chair for my living room. Though I had a plan for said chair, the reality of my plans is that they often go unrealized for years and years. I can say, for once, that I did not let that happen to this chair. It did not have to go off to the island of furniture too filthy to come inside—at least not for very long. For a big project such as this to go from beginning to end in less than one year, for me, is rather remarkable. And I’m more than just pleased with the fact that it’s done—it also looks as amazing as I had envisioned. Here’s a before pic of my frizzy green filth monster:


I bought this chair expecting to have it reupholstered. I had seen a picture of it posted from a friend’s shop out of town and I fell in love with the shape. But its condition left a lot to be desired. 50 years of love had taken their toll inside and out. Note the crumbled, rotting foam in this in-progress shot from my upholsterer:


All of the materials under the fabric were more than past their prime so this puppy had to be stripped back to the bare wood frame and springs.


This part is tricky. When you have to replace everything you run the risk of the end result having a slightly different shape than the original. But my guy came through big time.


I’m even more in love now. The orange-red color might not be for everyone but it’s going to work very well in the overall scheme I have planned for my living room.


Even my upholsterer loved this one—it’s now one of his favorite projects. I think he had fun working on it.


The very steep angle of the seat gives it some dramatic flair. It appears as though you’d be forced into a deeply reclined position while sitting, but it’s actually extremely comfortable and natural feeling. And it’s 1000 times more comfortable with new high density foam.


For the fabric I chose “Rivington” in paprika by Knoll Textiles. It’s the same fabric that I used on my sofa but in a different colorway. The fabric has a high wool content and is treated with nanotex technology to make it virtually stain proof. This upholstery job should last another 60 years. And at nearly 94, should I still be lucky enough to be around, I’m sure I’ll be able to discount any damage incurred in that time as “character.”

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Before and After: The Home Office Thu, 25 Aug 2016 13:00:34 +0000 You may remember way, way back in 2014 I shared a before post about my guest/bedroom home office. You can check out the original post here. At that time I had just bought an amazing desk and credenza that I had deemed worthy of sacrificing my guest bedroom for. That sacrifice has taken much longer to complete than anticipated. It began with selling my tanker desk which was replaced by my kitchen table and several storage totes of its contents—and that’s kind of where it stopped for about two years. Two years of all of my office supplies being lost in boxes while a desk worth more than my car sat—appropriately—idle in the garage. But it has now happened. It has finally happened. Oh, glorious day my desk and credenza are here!

So what are these pieces? Well, they’re movie stars—sort of. Designed in 1959 by Bodil Kjaer, this rosewood desk and credenza were manufactured by E. Pederson and Sons A/S in Denmark. The designs earned some fame after appearing in Tiger Tanaka’s office in the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice.

Tiger Tanaka's Office in You Only Live Twice, 1967.

Tiger Tanaka’s Office in You Only Live Twice, 1967.

My pair, however, had a little harder life. Originally belonging to a prominent Des Moines architect, they made their way through a host of area executives at publishing and insurance companies before finally being abandoned in a corporate move. A realtor saved them as they were being hauled to a construction dumpster and eventually sold them to a friend who sold them to me. This was likely the only chance I’d have to own them (they don’t show up in the wild) so I took it. They’ve waited so long for a good home—so let’s see how the transformation went, shall we?





There’s still a lot of stuff to figure out on this wall, including the art, cord management issues (something that wasn’t a problem in 1959), the rug (which needs to be bigger and under the desk) and possibly the paint color. More on that one in a bit.





Again I think this wall is up for an art change. I always sort of liked having Africa above my computer, so I may just swap the two walls out. I’m not sure about the paint here either. The room actually has three colors, a sherbet green, light blue and dark grey. I think maybe I’ll keep the light blue and change the green and grey to a dark teal or blue grey. I think that would set off the rosewood nicely.





Another former inhabitant of an executive suite, the Nicos Zographos chair is finally happy to have a home, too. I have a plan to change the drapes out for some longer and wider gold drapes of the same material. I think the gold/blue/rosewood palette is going to feel very rich. I may still keep some of the pops of orange and green in the space as accents, but I’ll have to see how that feels in reality.

So there you have it. What do you think, are these pieces worth making my guests sleep on an air mattress for? Hopefully someday I’ll have a space large enough for both an amazing Bond ally office and a guest room so this is really just temporary. But I knew that when someday came, I’d never be able to find this desk and credenza without selling an organ or two.

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Before and After: Journey to the Bottom of the Seams Thu, 30 Jun 2016 11:29:14 +0000 When I bought the chairs in today’s Before and After, I expected this post to have a much different ending. I fully expected this to be a “look what I found under this ugly 80s fabric!” post and I was going to title it “White Lies Beneath” and that was going to be clever and everyone was going to be all like, “Wow! Holy crap! I can’t believe that was under there!” And really, it was so, so close to being that kind of post. So close.


Last fall I purchased a pair of 1950s loose cushion chairs. They were in great condition, but had been reupholstered in sadness in the late 80s. A nursing home in hell is missing four cushions. I planned to reupholster, but I soon discovered that behind the zipper lay another cushion cover. Into this magical fabric Narnia I gladly went.


Ok. Less of a bummer. Actually in person the little blue, pink and yellow threads were pretty cool. I could live with this. But…there was another layer of fabric underneath. Could this be the original fabric? Pristine and preserved through the ages by layers of ghastly mauve swaddling? With great anticipation I peeled back the layers to reveal…


This kind of terrible and definitely worn out barkcloth fabric with a greasy head stain on the back. Awesome. Jackpot. Fail. But hey, at least I could retreat to the white covers, right? All I needed to do was wash them up and put new foam in. Easy peasy. Unless, of course, the aged latex backing on the fabric disintegrates in the washing machine leaving a thick orange sludge and unreinforced fabric with the tensile strength of a paper towel. Which is exactly what happened. Sigh. Off to the upholsterer!


Other than the unexpected expense of the upholstery, I have to say these look much better than they would have with any of the old covers. Converting the back cushions to box cushions and adding the button detailing gives them a much more tailored look. For the fabric I chose Hourglass from Knoll Textiles in the Aegean colorway. It complements the lighter wood nicely.


So I guess I can’t be too mad at these chairs. They turned out nicely, even if they were a big tease. And no, this doesn’t stop me from dreaming. Every time I see a great piece of furniture doused in pastel Southwestern fabric or floral tapestry, I’m still going to take a peek underneath. And someday I am going to find the original fabric. And someday it isn’t going to look or smell like a man made of cabbage died on it. Someday.

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Before and After: A Forum in Hell Wed, 15 Jun 2016 14:30:52 +0000 Whenever I tell people that I buy furniture from Craigslist often, they get kind of squirmy and ponder about the weird things I might encounter or the probability that it will end in some kind of shirtless, toothless Cops-style drama. It never has. Even the strangest places I’ve ever gone to buy something have turned out to be fairly benign. So, I never think much about answering an ad and hopping in the car. At least I didn’t before I bought this:


And I bet I know what you’re thinking, “Why did you buy that?” Let me  paint you a picture. The scene, as I pull up to a not-so-great house in a not-so-great neighborhood, is a running truck with two dudes parked in the driveway and a woman hanging out of the front door screaming back and forth with an unseen man inside the house. Cool. I wait by the front door, in the rain, until the screaming stops and the woman leads me to a garage behind the house—followed close behind by the man from the house and the two dudes from the truck. Oh…cool. But, I’ve made it this far, I’m either going to buy a credenza or get murdered in what appears to be a shed built for that purpose. I was informed they had just painted the floor and that’s why there was paint on the legs. And painty foot prints on top. Because why wouldn’t there be? Despite the ready-for-death condition of the piece, I decided to pity buy it—because there’s not a single other person on this entire Earth that would. One of the guys from the truck helped me carry it—informing me along that way that he could carry it by himself if I wanted because he had spent 25 years in prison power-lifting. Not terrifying at all.

At the end of the day they turned out to be OK people with a really beat up credenza. But I knew this credenza was from Stanley’s American Forum line and I knew that, despite appearances, it would clean up nicely. So how did I pull this off? Sanding, to start. Lots and lots of sanding. I had just bought a new random orbit sander that I had been wanting to try out. I figured this nothing-left-to-lose credenza was the perfect guinea pig.


I’ve always used a quarter sheet palm sander and I’ve always been annoyed by the little swirly marks it leaves. The random orbit sander is supposed to do away with that issue, and it did to a significant degree. But it can also chew through veneer pretty quickly, so be careful. Fortunately the sanding went well, but there were some ink and water stains that I knew I couldn’t strip or sand out and normal stain wouldn’t hide. My next resort was a major color shift to a darker tone to hide any minor flaws. For this I like to use General Finishes dye stain.


Dye stain is amazing. It’s water based, has no odor and imparts a deep, uniform color in one coat on practically any type of wood. No splotching. No resistance. Just even color. It takes a little technique though. Pro tip: work wet. Flood an entire surface and then wipe it all off with a rag—quickly. Dye stain dries fast and lap marks will show and can’t be corrected. It’s also worth noting that dye stain is permanent, like permanent permanent. So test on a scrap first. I was pretty happy with the results on this piece.

After sanding and one coat of dye stain.

After sanding and one coat of dye stain.

The dye stain helped, but there were still little nicks and flaws that needed some coverage and the color overall wasn’t quite right. My next go to is General Finishes gel stain. If you remember my post on refinishing Broyhill Brasilia, then you may remember that this product is a key step in that process. I used antique walnut because it’s what I had on hand (and was about the right color for this piece anyway).


One coat of this. Wipe it on and off evenly with a cotton rag. Then on to topcoat. My favorite product is General Finishes Arm-R-Seal satin urethane. It’s a strong finish that goes on like a poly but looks more like lacquer or a finer finish. And it’s super easy to apply. Wipe on evenly and thinly with a folded cotton t-shirt rag. Sand to 320 grit between coats. Usually three coats.


After the last coat, I used a 3M 7445 white polishing pad to knick off any specs of dust and give the finish a super smooth feel without scratching it. And with that…voila!



Sadly the super cool original American Forum pulls were long gone when I bought this, so I used some replacement porcelain knobs that I keep around for Drexel Declaration pieces. I like the contrast, but it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

IMG_8891 So often I hear people say, “the finish was beyond repair so I painted it.” And I can just about guarantee that whatever “beyond repair” means to them is not nearly as bad as this piece was. I’ll be brutally honest that I don’t like most painted mid-century furniture when restoration is viable. Aside from professionally applied, commercial quality paints, most hand applied latex and chalk paints don’t produce long lasting finishes. They build up thickly and chip and peel and repainting only builds up thicker and nastier. Paint also changes the original design intent of a piece of furniture. That’s not always a bad thing—but it’s almost always a bad thing. The beauty of quality wood—in this case gorgeous American walnut—is as timeless as a tree itself and the effort required to restore it properly isn’t much worse than painting. And it looks better. And it lasts longer. And that’s the end of my rant.

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Before and After: Sad, Flaky Lamps Tue, 09 Feb 2016 19:16:55 +0000 Every now and then I grab something just because it looks like an easy project. And by “every now and then” I mean all the time. And by “easy project” I mean project that never gets done. And every now and then (and I mean it this time) one of those easy projects gets done.


When I bought this pair of lamps I was excited because I so rarely ever find lamps in pairs. Not that I ever really want lamps in pairs for myself, but I like the idea of it. I’m a tiny bit OCD, so I like things in pairs. I also thought it would be a snap to get the old paint off because it seemed to just blow away in the breeze. I thought I’d try pulling it off with tape. Wouldn’t budge. I thought I’d scrub it off with a wire brush. The brush was going to give out before the paint did. Maybe soaking it off in hot water? Nope. Alas, it couldn’t hold out against chemical stripper. So, some gooey nastiness and toxic fumes followed by spray paint, new wiring, new sockets and new shades—voila!


Easy projects always turn out to be the hardest. I had planned for these to be gray with darker gray in the recessed areas. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a concoction of paint that looked nice washed over it. In the end the only thing in my arsenal of supplies that worked was gel stain. It looked nice but it made the gray kind of a chocolate milk color. Still, I think they turned out pretty good and I’m glad I don’t have to keep seeing their sad, flaky bodies piled up in my garage for another year.

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Before and After: The Long, Long Sofa Tue, 02 Feb 2016 21:37:58 +0000 As much as I really love finding mid-century furniture in amazing original condition, there’s a special kind of a joy that comes from bringing a wonderful piece back from the dead. For me, most of the time these end up being refinished wood pieces. I never get tired of it, but I also know what to expect. I’ve resurrected a lot of lost wooden souls. Upholstered pieces, on the other hand, are just a whole different story. There’s just something about the transformation of an upholstered piece that gives me goosebumps. Perhaps you remember this beast I snagged awhile back?


Or maybe not. This particular combination of ivory sadness and grandma floral might have caused you to repress it deep, deep into the recesses of your mind. Maybe you’ll remember how it looked when I peeled back the ugly to reveal the original fabric hidden beneath?


Or perhaps its faded glory failed to leave much of an imprint on your brain either. Well, hopefully the extreme joy of seeing it come back to life with stay with you for years.


BOOM! Try and forget that. 10.5 feet of amazing.


I decided I really wanted to do this one right and make it spectacular. As a nod to its past I chose a fabric that had some similarities to the original. Then I hired a professional upholsterer who did an amazing job. The corners of the cushion are so perfect I could literally stare at them for hours. Some might call me “unstable” but I prefer “detail oriented.”


I also refinished the wood. Damage to the original finish necessitated this, but I also decided to change the color of the wood. The original was kind of a sun-kissed pecan with fly-specking. It felt a little washed out. I changed it to a rich walnut hue and after seeing it all put together I really think it was the right choice.


Man, I just really needed this. Mid-winter it’s just hard to stay motivated and getting this accomplished and having it look so great really makes me excited to find another great makeover story. Garage sale season is coming up soon…

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Before and After: Amputee Hutch Tue, 07 Apr 2015 14:23:40 +0000 Time and time again I fall victim to the pity buy. That sad, forlorn piece of furniture that really doesn’t seem worth the work of restoration but you just know will fall victim to the merciless wrath of the shabby chic army if left behind. That’s the story of this hutch.


I found it sitting in the corner of a thrift store. No legs. Back falling off. An unreasonable amount of leaves and grass clippings inside. It hadn’t lived a glamorous life, but for about the price of a two-person trip to Starbucks I just couldn’t leave it there to be almost-certain prey for an ambitious crafty person armed with chalk paint.

First it needed legs. I scavenged some blonde tapered legs from an old ottoman and painted them black to better go with the freshly polished dark walnut wood. Then I had to do something about that back. Though the whole hutch was wood, the back was woodgrain printed on Masonite. It really cheapened the whole look. Usually I’d cover it in grasscloth or a neutral fabric, but as I was looking at the fabric store something else caught my eye…


The end result is a little out of character for me. Ok, a lot out of character. But I do think the chevron adds some much needed pizzazz and still gives a nod to the era so it doesn’t feel too out of left field. Plus, unlike the chalk paint route, fabric is easy to change out any time you want. The total investment? $24, including the purchase price of the cabinet. Not too shabby—but still pretty chic.

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Before and After: Mid Century Bookshelves Tue, 24 Mar 2015 13:57:45 +0000 When it comes to sprucing up vintage furniture, sometimes small changes make a big difference. Every day I see people chalk painting or aggressively altering vintage wooden furniture that really only needs a little love to look amazing. I’d like to think I saved the bookshelves in today’s post from a similar fate. You may remember these from a few weeks ago.


Honestly they weren’t that bad. What may be hard to see in these photos is some loose veneer, random surface scratches and missing spots of paint from the hardware. Those were easy fixes with a little wood glue, Howard’s Feed ‘N Wax and spray paint. But the most notable damage was a crudely punched hole in the back of the cabinet on the left. I appreciate the idea that someone might want to put stereo equipment in there, but the hole was unsightly. It also didn’t help that the backing material was just a linen-looking vinyl wallpaper that looked cheap compared to the cabinet. The fix? This is why I always pick up fabric and wallpaper scraps at garage sales. A $1 roll of grasscloth wallpaper came to the rescue.



The difference is subtle and maybe a little difficult to appreciate in these photos, but trust me, they look better than they probably ever did. The grasscloth adds a luxe feel and contrasts well with the rattan, but it still feels very much period appropriate. This is also a good trick for hutches or shelving that have fake vinyl woodgrain backings. Small changes can make a big difference.

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Before and After: Cloth Corded Lamp Thu, 12 Mar 2015 16:32:17 +0000 Often what holds up a project the longest (aside from epic procrastination) is finding the right materials for an appropriate restoration. The pieces and parts that give vintage items their charm are hard to find in today’s market. That was the case with this hanging counterweighted light fixture I purchased in the fall.


When I bought this for the low, low price of ten bucks, it was hanging in a wood paneled room and looked devastatingly cool. It came home with me, but it did have some issues, chiefly a fraying rayon-wrapped electrical cord and an oddly placed power switch (probably installed at some point to repair a damaged cord). Although the wires inside were still safely insulated, the frayed cloth was unsightly. But I knew this lamp wouldn’t be the same without that cloth cord so I headed online to find what replacements were available.

IMG_7254Surprisingly there were several modern day options. Retailers like Color Cord, Snake Head Vintage and Sundial Wire offer myriad colors and styles of cloth-wrapped wiring for a variety of purposes. Hurray! I found the color and style I needed from Snake Head Vintage’s eBay store (free shipping, score!).


I was unable to find three wire braided cord like the original in a suitable color, so I settled for a two wire twisted style in champagne gold. I also picked up a vintage-looking replacement plug. At about $1.50-1.75 per foot the wire isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s well worth the cost for the finished product. The lamp looks as good as new (note I also replaced the lamp socket for safety reasons).

IMG_7259It’s even more glorious installed.


These resources not only give me some great options for projects that have just been sitting around collecting dust (including several retractable ceiling fixtures), but also ideas for dressing up other pieces like this swag lamp I found over the weekend.


I’m always on the fence about swag lights because of the obnoxious chains and long lengths of electrical cord. But perhaps a shimmering gold or bronze cloth wire instead of boring brown vinyl will class that whole affair up a bit. I’m excited to find out.



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Before and After: Danish Chairs Thu, 22 Jan 2015 15:52:26 +0000 Some projects take awhile to do. And by awhile, I mean months and months if not years. But some don’t take so long—especially if you can talk someone else into doing the work for you. As you may recall, back in July I picked up a pair of beech framed Danish arm chairs with some “colorful” homespun upholstery.


Though the chairs themselves were great, the cushions reeked of a bad 90s makeover. If water-stained silk wasn’t the worst choice someone could have made, I’m pretty sure that getting water-stained silk in what can only be described as “electric mauve” was, in fact, the worst choice anyone has ever made. For such a bright color, it really brings you down. But I knew I could put right what once went wrong with a few yards of fabric.

"Hourglass" by Knoll Textiles in Ricochet Teal

“Hourglass” by Knoll Textiles in Aegean

Initially I thought I’d use a nubby oyster colored wool, but after comparing it with the light wood frames I decided I needed something bolder. I had purchased some Knoll fabric for another project, but the color was too perfect for these chairs. The textile is called Hourglass. It’s one of Knoll’s more affordable fabrics and though it’s made mostly of recycled polyester, it has the appearance and hand of worsted wool. It’s also a commercial grade material and should wear like iron. The tiny pattern gives it a little visual texture without becoming overwhelming. With the fabric chosen, I just had to convince my mom to sew the new cushions for me. I’m not sure how I managed that, but the result speaks for itself.


After seeing these, I can’t imagine any other color that would look half as good with that wood. In all honesty it wouldn’t take much to improve upon the mauve nightmare that previously haunted them, but the difference is really night and day. I’m very happy with their new look.


Fortunately I didn’t have to do much to the chairs, just a once over with some polish and they looked like new. But I did take a moment to polish all of the hardware. Small touches make a big difference.


Of course it hasn’t been discussed what I’ll have to do in return for this little favor (or the many other favors that I call upon my dear mother for), but I’m sure she’ll think of something. In any event, good work mom!


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