About a year and a half ago (yikes, I didn’t realize it had been quite that long), I found this upholstered Eames shell chair for $20. A very good deal to be sure, but it was in need of reupholstery—and, well, it’s pretty much just been sitting in the basement literally gathering grime since then. The thing about these upholstered shell chairs is that once the underlying foam is shot, there’s really no way to salvage the fabric, even if it’s in good shape. Unfortunately, the foam used in the older shells has a tendency to break down and crumble, and ultimately detach itself from the fabric. It’s not a pretty sight, and reupholstery is not a simple DIY (by the way, if you’re looking to have one reupholstered, Retro Redo stocks all of the Girard-designed fabrics used for the originals, and their prices are reasonable).
Rather than let the thing sit in the basement any longer, I went ahead and painted the fabric. With black house paint. And you know what? It looks pretty darned good. Yes, you can still see the lumpy foam underneath, but you can’t see the embedded wax stains, the faded and worn arms, or the cigarette burn on the seat. Given that the entire project took all of an hour and cost pennies, I think it was well worth it!
It’s okay to paint things (or modify them in other ways) even if they’re “valuable” (and really, the true monetary value of any mass-produced mid-century furniture is debatable, but that’s another topic for another life)! The important thing is that the chair is no longer sitting in my basement, and it can now be appreciated for its form, function, and style. And I can sit in it. Which, you know, is what a chair is for!
And yes, I can still have it properly reupholstered someday if I want to. But I’m guessing I probably won’t.
p.s. That Missoni pillow on the chair? I bought that for 99 cents at Goodwill last summer.
p.p.s. EVERYTHING looks good in an all-white room. I should take a photo of some moldy salad in there just to prove it.