Ercol chair face-lift


I have found Pinterest to be exceptionally useful in identifying your personal style, be it fashion or interior design. I didn't necessarily think I had 'a style' until I began whiling away a few minutes a day pinning things to my various boards with no other reason than 'I like that!'. After a few weeks had gone by, I decided to take a look back over my various pins and was blown away to realise yes, I DO have a style! While my husband and I are still in the early stages of designing our first own home together (we haven't moved into it just yet) we've used the drawn-out buying process to build a clear picture of what we want the house to be and, thanks to Pinterest (which I prefer) and Houzz (which he prefers) we have been able to set some goals before the big move. And one of these goals was having an armchair.

We were very fortunate that when we moved from our fully-furnished rented apartment to unfurnished rented semi-detached house, we were able to beg, steal, borrow and Freecycle enough furniture to fill the empty rooms. And talking about our adventures of procurement meant more people were inclined to help us out (thanks to our neighbours who gave us not one, but two sofas!) - but that's for another post entirely. But we needed an an extra chair and this time, we were hellbent of finding one we had chosen ourselves and that would be on e of the first building blocks we could use to influence our design choices for the new house. Thanks to Pinterest, I realised we have a penchant for period pieces; and by period I mean 'of the time', which saw us looking up Ercol.

And here she is! Our very own, at just £20 thanks to a local antique centre selling her off because alas, she had no bottom. This is how we transformed her (just) to suit the design we are aiming towards for our new sitting room (if we ever actually move!) in.

So if you're thinking about how to get that designer piece without the price tag, have a look at how we gave her a face-lift:

1. Making sure we can sit in her

Alas, the leather strapping that creates the spring to the seat of our Ercol, has perished and become so brittle some pieces had completely disappeared. This meant the first thing we had to do was give her back her spring by creating a new interwoven web for the bottom cushion to rest on top of.

By measuring between the slats, we allowed ourselves an extra few inches at each length of webbing, to fold back on itself to create a small case for a piece of wooden dowel. The doweling we cut to size, using one of the original pieces as a guide for the size and length we needed. These tiny pieces of wood lock the webbing into place, without the need for staples, pins or screws - just a few simple stitches to create the case and then I sewed the folded end in place, crossing over to make sure it wouldn't fray or warp.

2. Making sure we can sit in her and not have webbing embedded in our buttocks

While we were fortunate enough that our chair came with all her original cushions, the bottom seat was again showing signs of perishing, and had certainly lost a lot of its padding meaning that the covers were now baggy. To make sure she was going to be a seat you'd want to sit in, and stay sat in, we decided we'd better give her an upgrade, so bought a brand new piece of foam. Using the original cushion, we carefully marked out the shape on the new piece of foam and using nothing more sophisticated than our kitchen bread knife, my husband hacked away until we had the size and shape we needed.
That blue fluff got EVERYWHERE!

3. Fabric face-lift

Of the whole process, this was the part where I endured a very love-hate relationship. The thought of picking apart the original material covers felt like an injustice - what had it ever done to me? But the material was faded and worn in places, and while its pattern was fine it wasn't really to our taste. So carefully, using my trusty unpicker, I pulled the seams apart so as I could make a try pattern using my new material, which came from John Lewis.

"Why do you need to recover this? It's fine for me!"
I carefully traced around each piece of the original material to create a new set of pattern pieces for my cushions. I made an extra allowance for the new, denser foam we had chosen for the bottom seat, and decided to stay true to Ercol and make the covers removable (which is probably the most sensible thing as we planned to use this chair as the only one our dog is allowed up on for a cuddle on in our lounge!).

4.  Pulling it all in

Once the pieces were sewn together, and the zips neatly finished off, we decided to use some upholstery buttons to add the finishing touch - a la true Ercol. However, we since lost our internet at home (as we had hoped we'd be moving long before now) and didn't find any clip covers to use in our local haberdashery. This is the final thing left to do now, but we have started enjoying it and it is great for friends with bad backs, or those with babies to feed thanks to her high back and arms. And of course, she's good for dog cuddle and great book (or blog post) too.

Have you recently enjoyed an upholstery project? What were the challenges you faced? I'd love to read your comments below!

Laura x

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