Sitting Pretty

Happy Snow Day All! This is the time of year (cold, icy) when I get excited to take on projects around the house. Recently, I reupholstered a really beautiful modern chair my husband salvaged from his employer’s trash pile. To look at the state they were in when he plucked them from the garbage, one could see why they were on their way out. But they are pretty similar to a classic Mies Van Der Rohe chair that’s in the Museum of Modern Art, and in the back of my head – though I have never done any upholstery before – I thought that with new fabric, these chairs would be beautiful imitations.

First, I would need some cool fabric and leather seemed ideal, but I didn’t know where to buy leather. So I started at the place I always do when I have no idea where I would think to buy something: eBay. There I found all kinds of companies selling leather scraps from bigger projects that would be big enough for this project at really low prices. After watching a little for some vague notion of what to do, I turned to the chair with the eye my father always describes when he talks about looking at a car engine…”Okay, how does this puppy work?” Thankfully, it was not mechanical, so there really wasn’t much to it – there’s a bottom of the chair and a back of the chair, and it was clear that all one had to do was redo the padding and cover it with the new leather. Thankfully, the main equipment involved was a stapler. Of course, this is all easier said now than it was done (and there were times I thought about dropping it off at the upholstery shop on Mt. Vernon), but I persevered and the second chair only took me a day to do.

In the end, I spent 4 days (over the course of a year) reupholstering the two chairs. Now we have two really beautiful re-newed chairs that look pretty chic if I do say so myself! The original chair has official replicas that sell anywhere from $500 – $1500 each, but my reupholstered knock offs cost me $170 total. Plus, by fixing the old chairs we both saved the space in the landfill and the resources that would have been spent manufacturing new ones. Moral of the story: Being Thrifty and Creative = Being Green. So before you buy that new [bed, dresser, stroller, table, bicycle, book, etc. etc.] check out eBay, Craigslist, a garage sale or even a dumpster near you, or our network of reduce/reuse/recycle businesses in Alexandria. Your pocketbook and your planet will thank you for it!

If you’d like to see the whole story, see my blog entry at


Danielle (EPC Member)

Chair, Before (Before) vs. Chair, After (Chair, After)

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