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A Tale of Two Victorians

About six months ago, a client approached me wanting a pair of modern farmhouse chairs using classic Victorian arm chairs. I found a pair that were similar—but not an exact match—and slowly the brainstorming began. What type of fabric should I use? How can I get the light wood finish from a pair of chairs that have red undertones? Do I keep the carvings or not?

I got busy stripping off the fabric and then I used stripper to take away the varnish and stain. This is what the frame looked like after the stripping. So, the finish of the wood still had a reddish tint.
No matter how much I stripped the wood or sanded the wood, it remained red. So, I brought out bleach and a paint brush and went to work painting on the bleach and allowing each layer to dry on the wood in the bright sun. I continued to apply the bleach until I had the perfect look below.  Bleach causes wood to become porous, so I did a light sanding and then applied a clear wax to seal the wood.
About that time, my client decided the flowers had to go, so off they went and I began to work on the second chair. The flowers were much easier to remove on the second chair.
Then I went to work bleaching the second chair. You can see below that the chair on the right still was red while the bleached chair on the left had just the right finish. The more layers of bleach you apply to the wood, the lighter the wood will become.
You can see that the two woods have a slightly different tone, even though they both have been bleached. The reason is the type of wood. Mahogany wood bleached lighter than the walnut chair on the right. But, they were similar enough to get the modern farmhouse look we were going for.
And then, the fabric! The client decided she wanted two tones of linen fabric: one a light natural and the other, black. I made a seven inch stripe that traveled down the entire front of the chair. And here you go!
I’m a firm believer that old Victorian chairs can have a second life. And, one of those ideas is to turn them into modern farmhouse chairs like these. Do you have old Victorians that you wish could have another life? I would love to hear about them in the comments section below.

Wendy Conklin

I'm Wendy Conklin, The Chair Stylist.

What brings me joy is helping others live more creatively. I design antique-inspired, boutique chairs, and I teach others how to do what I do. Check out my shop, services, and courses to bring more whimsy into your home and life!


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