Confessions of a chair addict

Hi. My name is Rita, and I’m a chair addict.

This (sorta) Old Life: Confessions of a chair addict

Chair make-overs are my favorite kind of before/after DIY blog posts, and I’ve pretty much never met an old chair that I didn’t think I could save.

When I bought that first one I had no idea what kind of path I was starting down.

It was a wicker rocker with an ugly cushion that I thought I could easily recover. For at least 8 years I kept a piece of fabric tucked around the cushion and called it good. Eventually, tired of the accusation I felt from the chair every time the fabric got all wrinkled and revealed that I was taking no better care with it than any college student would, I finally just bought a new cushion for it from Pier 1.

This (sorta) Old Life: Confessions of a chair addict

That project chair was 24 years, 4 houses, and 2 marriages ago. I had a lot of years after it that were good ones. Years in which I could sit in a chair and then walk away from it. Years in which I didn’t check out every garage sale chair for untapped potential. Years in which I didn’t drop by thrift stores just in case there might be some amazing (chair) find that I would otherwise miss.

All that changed 5 years ago, when I moved into my own house for the first time ever. I didn’t have much money, but there was no one to check my impulse to fall hard for every cheap chair that crossed my path.

 This (sorta) Old Life:  Chair addict

Which would explain how I ended up with this big guy. He was free.

So, I started collecting chairs. At first, that seemed OK, necessary even. That first house-of-my-own was empty, and the kids and I needed some places to sit.

But, when we moved to our current house, it became clear to me that I might have a bit of a chair problem. We moved so many chairs.

It’s because I’m a sucker for beautiful lines.

This (sorta) Old Life: Confessions of a chair addict

And saucy style.

This (sorta) Old Life: Confessions of a chair addict

I find it so hard to resist a seat I can sink into.

This (sorta) Old Life: Library with white reading chair

The guy I bought this one from told me that it’s the most comfortable chair ever. He was so right. Someday, I probably won’t be able to get out of this low-slung wonder of a chair. But I won’t let go of her until that day.

I didn’t hit rock bottom, though, until I met this one:

This (sorta) Old Life: Confessions of a chair addict

She was only $5 at a garage sale. $5! How could I let her slip through my fingers? I loved the sweet curve of her base, and she was an oh-so-comfy rocker. I thought it was going to be no problem to fix her right up.


I’d like to tell you how much time and money I’ve spent on this great bargain, but I’ve lost track of both.  I can, however, detail what I’ve spent money on. First, there was the sandpaper, paint, and finishing wax I bought to transform the frame.

This (sorta) Old Life: Confessions of a chair addict

And the many, many granny blankets I bought when we thought we’d like to recover the cushion with a knit blanket.

This (sorta) Old Life:  chair addict

Eventually realizing we’d never find a blanket bit enough to provide “fabric” to cover both seat cushions, we tried buying some simple slip covers from Ikea. They weren’t quite right, but we thought we could make them work.

This (sorta) Old Life: Confessions of a chair addict

Denial can truly be an ugly thing, can’t it?

There was the first wrong fabric I bought when I decided that I could fix the Ikea cover problem by making my own (slightly bigger) ones. (You can read about that misadventure at Fabric Depot here.)

gold fabric

And the second wrong fabric, in which I took the small problem of the first wrong fabric and made it bigger by purchasing even more wrong fabric.

This (sorta) Old Life: Confessions of a chair addict

Later, (after a little chair/fabric store detox) there was the third wrong fabric. We ended up using that on our long bench after I abandoned my idea of trying to do some kind of fabric/blanket combo on the chair cushions. Because, yes:  I had gone back to the blanket idea.

I can be the queen of trying to get around a problem rather than through it.

This (sorta) Old Life: recovered bench

Then there was the final wrong fabric, which looked so much like the first (along with a maybe-this-could-be-the-right-fabric-and-I-can’t-pass-it-up-because-its-a-sale-remnant-that’s-too-awesome-to-leave-here fabric).

This (sorta) Old Life: Confessions of a chair addict

When I bought the last round of wrong fabric last spring, I was so sure it was going to be different.

I had decided that I was going to do better. I was going to be better. I wasn’t going to try to do some jacked-up, half-assed thing with granny blankets. I wasn’t going to fold a length of fabric over the cushion and call it good.

I was going to be a grown up. I was going to do the hard, right things. I was going to actually recover the cushions. I was going to sew. I was even going to do piping, dammit! (Oh yeah:  Add the cost of piping to this project.)

I read tutorials about how to recover chair cushions. It really didn’t look that hard, and I knew that I could do it.

First, of course, I had to buy a new sewing machine.

This (sorta) Old Life: sewing machine

(At this point, the cost of my $5 chair is so far beyond ridiculous it is, well, beyond ridiculous. The only redemption here is that I’ve used this machine for other things–most notably, the family room pillow project–and I love it. Even addiction stories sometimes have a silver lining.)

Then I disassembled the original cushion cover so I could use the fabric pieces as patterns:

This (sorta) Old Life: Confessions of a chair addict

This (sorta) Old Life: Confessions of a chair addict

I even sewed a few seams, which felt so, so good:

This (sorta) Old Life: Confessions of a chair addict

But it was the piping you see above that brought an end to this particular chair pipe dream.

Although I used a zipper foot (as many tutorials told me to do), I had a hard time getting the seam close enough to the edge of the piping. (Many of us addicts have perfectionism issues.) It was only OK on the straight seam you see above, and I needed to do some tricky curvy seams and just didn’t know how I was going to get the seam close enough to the piping.

This (sorta) Old Life: Confessions of a chair addict

On top of that, the original piping was one long piece that wrapped around the edges of the cushion in a way that I couldn’t easily remember/recreate once the whole thing had been torn apart.

Throw in a typical work overload situation, and it was easy for me to procrastinate on the whole project for so long that I forgot most of what I’d figured out about how to do it. (Procrastination is perfectionism’s better half.)

And then it was summer, and we were in the thick of our family room re-do (in which I switched obsessions and got perfectionistic about our fireplace).

This (sorta) Old Life: family room fireplace

Late in the summer, as part of figuring out family room storage, we cleaned out and re-organized our garage and work shed–which made me confront the ugliness that was my chair project.

A frame in pieces, and big old ugly cushions with no covers. More fabric than I knew what to do with. Nearly two years of false starts and wasted money and lost time.

This (sorta) Old Life: Confessions of a chair addict

That was my bottom.

I admitted I was never going to recover the chair cushion, and I threw it away. While I was at it, I also admitted that I was never going to fix the caning on this $1 garage sale find, and I gave it away to a local thrift store.

This (sorta) Old Life: Confessions of a chair addict

We also got rid of an Ikea chair  and some other garage-sale chairs I should never have purchased, making the whole thing The Great Chair Purge of 2013.

This (sorta) Old Life: Confessions of a chair addict

And you know what?

It felt really, really good to let go.

So good that I I resolved never to go back. Never again would I succumb to the Siren call of a down-on-her-luck chair who just needs the right kind of love to be a seat worth sitting on. I would be chair co-dependent no more!

Even when Cane found the most awesome deal ever on a cool retro industrial chair, he had to talk me into it. Me.

This (sorta) Old Life:  family room chairs

And when we went to the Mecca of misfit chairs last fall and I really, really wanted to find something to go with that cool industrial chair, I walked away with nothing.

My recovery was solid.

This (sorta) Old Life: Confessions of a chair addict

However, if you were to see what I came home with a car full of last Thursday, you might think I’ve fallen off the chair wagon.

I’m pretty sure Cane did.

This (sorta) Old Life: Confessions of a chair addict

There was not one, but two of these.

But you’d both be wrong.

I’ll tell you all the reasons why–including my principles for chair addiction recovery–in our next post. Hope you’ll come back for part 2 of this story! (I’ll get it up as soon as I can, but I’m still way under water at work, so it might not be until next Monday.)

In the meantime, I’d love to hear about you. Got any hoarding addictions of your own to share?


Discovered last night that a few of you awesome readers nominated us for a Homie award on Apartment Therapy. (Thanks!) We’re not at all in the running for a prize, but it made us feel great to make it to the list. If you’d like to add your vote, you can do that here.

But a better reason to check out the list is that you can discover a bunch of other great blogs. (It’s how I’ve found a few of my favorites. Like Broke Ass Home, which I checked out last year just because Emma had me at hello with that blog title.)