I started bringing new furniture home practically the second we closed on the house. I was able to justify this by telling myself that anything that I moved in, I wouldn’t have to move out for the foreseeable future, unlike apartment living, where I was practically guaranteed to have to trudge it someplace new after a couple of years. There are a number of items of furniture I lust over in my soul at Fabulous and Baroque, one notable example of which is the Queen Anne’s Revenge Chaise. If I won the lottery, I would would re-poor myself in a week’s time with Fabulous and Baroque’s furniture. Since I have not won the lottery and won’t win the lottery since I don’t play the lottery, I have been trying to scratch this itch with furniture found on Craigslist.
It wasn’t long before I found a couch that was listed as being from the late 1800s with ‘minor’ upholstery damage. When I went and saw it in person, I realized that the damage was a little more severe, but since I didn’t intend on keeping the gold brocade anyway, I figured it was no big deal and loaded it up in the uhaul.
I took this photo immediately after we brought it into the house, before we returned the uhaul. Jason voiced his concern about Napoleon ripping out more stuffing since his stuffed toys have an average lifespan of about a minute and a half. I countered that the couch didn’t have a squeaker, so it would be fine.
We came home to carnage. Stuffing was everywhere, and he’d built himself a fine nest, all the way down into the hay that the rest of the couch was stuffed with. Hay. Hay and…matches?
It was about this point that I realized I’d gotten in way over my head with this couch, that the entirety of my reupholstering experience consisted of some benches I’d purchased for a penny and a half-assed job on an IKEA couch that didn’t have long for the world anyway. You can’t just slap some monster fur over hay and matches and ripped-up matted wool and call it a day. I’d go in and look at it, get intimidated, and leave the room again. I’d prod at it, trying to figure out how exactly I would get the fabric up and under the wood pieces, get overwhelmed, and walk away. Eventually, I threw a dropcloth over it and pretended it acted as some sort of invisibility cloak, masking my incompetence.
Napoleon did not forget about the joyful time he had ripping out couch guts, and I found him lounging on my failure more often than not.
I’d wanted to have the couch done for our wedding as the group was getting ready in the house and thus photographs would be taken on/around the couch, but with all the flipping projects I planned for myself before the wedding, including some house renovations, there was simply no way I was going to get it done, so I settled for ‘artistically’ draping a blanket over the damage, like a surgeon taping a band aid over some festering sore. When everyone’s family was over at my house for the rehearsal dinner, everyone who moved the blanket to see what was underneath grimaced like the hay, matches, and matted wool had physically hurt them. You shouldn’t pull back the curtain if you don’t want to see tiny, hay-stuffed Oz. That one’s on you guys, not me. I tried to protect you from the horrible truth.
I think Napoleon only ever left the couch to eat and pee.
After the honeymoon, one day I’d decided I’d had enough of being defeated by a couch and started to pull off the brocade, which was so old and fragile that some of it literally disintegrated in my fingers. I don’t even want to know what I inhaled over the course of reupholstering it, because I only occasionally remember to wear protective headgear. After I got the fabric on the back off, what had been puzzling me for months became clear. Of course I couldn’t see how it all went together with the fabric in place. The fabric on the back and sides was nailed on last, after the front and the cushion had already been upholstered and fitted in. Once I saw that the back had been upholstered and then screwed to the frame, it was just a matter of taking things out in the reverse order of the way they’d been fitted in.
I’d done that giant ouija board in the background of this picture earlier in the month, because somehow a coffee table sized ouija board was more pressing. It may or may not get its own post in the future.
I’m bad at taking photos in the middle of a project like this, because once I get going, I get so thoroughly engrossed that I don’t even think to pause and photograph the process. Basically, I took the old fabric off as carefully as I could, so I could use it to make a template for the new fabric. I then sewed the pieces together with a sewing machine, stapled on one side and stretched the fabric as much as it could stretch before stapling the other side. This keeps the material from sagging/wrinkling over time. The seat of the couch was redone with a LOT of upholstery foam, which makes it significantly more comfortable and somewhat less flammable than being stuffed with matches. The sides and the back were nailed on with decorative smoked crystal nails, and when it was all said and done, it looked like this:
Originally, I planned to silver leaf the wood, but now I’m glad I didn’t, the original wood is so pretty that I think it would have been a shame to cover it up, and the brown tones give it a warmth that helps keep the living room inviting. It’s not perfect, but it’s much better than it was, and it’s sufficiently scratched my itch for a more ornate couch at a sixth of the cost of a new one. I think I’d ultimately like it more with a matte fabric instead of this shiny faux ostrich, but with a dog in the house, an easy-clean surface rules over them all. I’m sure at some point (years down the line, not any time soon) I’ll have to tackle it again and we’ll see if my technique can be improved.