Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fashionable Makeover

Are you one of those women/men who has a fetish that you just can't help resist? Maybe it's a fetish for shoes, or purses or cars or ..... as in my case, antique chairs that need an extreme makeover. I'm not sure what it is but no matter how many chairs I may own in my house or have at my shop whether here in New Orleans or in New York, I always have room for one more, or two, or four....

Frankly, I'm obsessed. I see a chair with beautiful "bones" (as I call it), but otherwise ugly, tattered and torn and lying in the back corner of a flea market or auction or estate sale where all the discards are, and I can't help but gravitate to it. I think it goes along with my desire to save the world -- animals, people and all. I'm sure Freud would have told me it all started in childhood with experiences of feeling left out, not being loved enough, etc. Well, whatever the reason is, I just can't help myself!!!!!!!

So imagine my husband's surprise and eyes when I brought these things into the house.

As my wonderful friend, Sandy Foster, of My Shabby Streamside Studio said (and by the way, congratulations, Sandy, for being featured in German Elle Decor!!!! but I digresss), "Those look like they belong on the set of a 70s Western movie bordello set!!!"

Frankly, I guess they did look like that. My husband just gasped and my little Roma just looked at me and said, "it's okay, mama, I know you can make them pretty again." Maybe that fetish gene has been passed down to my daughter too. But I found these chair completely irresistible!

These chairs came to Louisiana or "La Louisiane" (as the welcome sign into the State says) by way of France in the early part of the last century and what caught my eye about them (looking past the hideous aged red velvet), was the hand carved blonde walnut frames. The attention to detail on these chairs are fantastic and I saw in my mind the hands that so carefully carved the back and legs of these chairs. Often, I tell people when they ask me why I restore pieces, "I see dead people walking." And I don't mean that in a gaulish kind of way. I see the loving hands that made them and the children that sat on them and the young girls who sewed on them as they talked about beaus and such. I see all the lives these chairs have touched and I too want to be a part of their history. I am only a keeper of these beautiful treasures and I feel it is my duty to bring them back to their original glory -- and maybe even a little more.

So with my wonderful craftsman and woodworker who always shakes his head when I bring him my treasures, and my amazing upholsterer, and with my vision of what I saw in these chairs, I went to work on them, from the inside out. We replaced all the worn springs and tacks and replaced the heavy, dusty red velvet that was hiding the beauty of the beautiful carvings. I chose a pale blue aqua solft velvet and a simple double cording for the upholstery. Something that was light and beautiful enough to compliment the ornateness of the chairs without taking the eye away from the blonde walnut details. I also decided to leave the wood as it was. Often, a piece may beckon me to paint it to give it a certain facelift that changes its style, but in this case, the lightness of the wood with the fabric that I chose just seemed to compliment each other exquisitely. One did not take away from the other.

And here is the result.

How gratifying it is to me to see these chairs alive again! And I hope they live for another 100 years.

I would absolutely love to see these chairs around a modern table.

Indeed, the contrast between the clean and simple lines of modern table with these rococo style chairs would be a divine contrast, don't you think? Food for thought.

Have a wonderful weekend and thanks for stopping by.


  1. Leave it to Karina to see the hidden beauty behind the garish, by-gone fabric on these chairs. Not only did these chairs gain new life, their facelift gave them a look that says "disegno Gentinetta". Another amazing job, another amazing story!!! As always, inspire!!!


  2. Oh they look lovely Karina! I'm surprised how often people are unable to see past the surface details of a building or piece of's all about the lines! Glad you rescued those little beauties....



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