A Rustic Chic Makeunder


Ever notice how the perfect things in life eventually find you?  Whether it’s your soulmate, your calling, your home or even your . . . dining chairs.  Ok, that’s a bit of a stretch but if you are a rustic chic style junkie (and why are you here if you’re not?) then you’ll totally understand where I’m going with this.  In this case I had to wait some 70+ years for these down-at-the-heels beauties to walk into my life.  Not that I am 70+, the chairs are . . . just wanted to clarify that.

Anyway, we had been searching for a long time for the right dining chairs – strong-lined, simple, tailored and a bit graphic.  But the search was fraught with disappointment and woe.  Just wasn’t feelin’ the love.  Looking for it in all the wrong places as the song goes.

Then on a Saturday not too long ago, six of these beautiful Louis XVI-style chairs from Tendenze Design in Califon, New Jersey (www.tendenzedesign.com) found us.  Tendenze Design is owned by Andrea Filippone and she has a tremendous assortment of all things RC.  From chairs to mirrors to planters, Andrea’s eye is amazing.  She also lives in a renovated barn that would make Axel weep with jealousy.  Tendenze’s lushly planted grounds surrounding the barn are on the yearly garden tours out here.  Take a look at her website and then run, do not walk, to visit her.  (We have not yet been able to finagle a tour of her home, but maybe she’ll read this and take the hint.)

Back to the chairs.  They appear to be mahogany or fruitwood and have the classic 1930’s streamlined tailoring often found in that decade’s interpretation of Louis XVI-style furniture.  They have beautiful brass fittings and sabots on the front legs (an instant selling point for me) but they definitely need work – refinishing and reupholstery.  With regard to the existing linen velvet upholstery, it’s difficult to tell what the original color was – pink, mauve or . . . green?  (When I said in a previous post that I was a sucker for anything covered in moss, this was not what I meant.)  I do, however, really like the crisp, boxed edges of the way the original upholstery was applied and the tapered legs and want to retain those details when I have them made under. 

One of the most fascinating things I discovered on these chairs (see the detail shot of the front seat edge below) was that the welting substrate is metal wire, not cord.  I have never seen welting done like that before and to my knowledge no one does it.  I intend to ask my upholsterer. 

But what about the wood finish?  These may have had a French polish at one time, but it’s difficult to tell and in any event, that would be too slick for the barn.  If these were going into one of my client’s residences in the city, I would probably have them French polished.  

One thought about refinishing the frames is to stain them dark (to contrast with the barn’s center table) and then do a dull-ish clear wax topcoat.  My other thought is to go over the existing finish with a few coats of paint, lightly distress them by sanding the edges and recesses and then do a clear wax topcoat. Still another thought is to bleach them to their raw wood state and possibly just wax them with a bit of burnt sienna or raw umber artist’s oil paint mixed in the clear butcher’s wax. I would love to hear some feedback from you all with your thoughts.

For the upholstery I’m thinking greige linen or possibly a silk matka if I can find the right slightly chunky weave.  The chairs will get medium-light usage so I’m not too concerned about using heavy-duty-wearing fabric, although cream denim with French natural nailheads all around the seat and inside back could impart just the kind of great yin and yang that I call RC.

The photos here were taken just as I had finished cleaning them as best I could and was preparing them for storage in the red barn for the winter where they will anxiously await their forthcoming rustic chic makeunder.  I’ll follow up with the final results once they are done.

All photos by Joel Woodard

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