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A Rockin’ Heirloom

I’ve mentioned a few dozen times that my husband and I have taken over his grandmother’s house, along with a good number of her furnishings. Though the majority is now tucked away in a storage unit, there are a few pieces that we’re dead-set on holding on to. A plush rocking chair is one of them. Miss Bobbie brought my mother-in-law home from the hospital, and rocked her in this chair. Roughly 20 years later, my husband was brought home from that very same hospital and nursed and rocked there as well. So, why rock the boat? We’ll be having our baby at that exact same local hospital, and I decided that though we’ll bring ‘em home to the chair, it was time for a little facelift.

Gotta love the vintage tweed. It had dried into a crusty, hard texture that smelled rather musty, to put it nicely. So, with a fresh coat of paint, 5 yards Amy Butler fabric and some elbow-grease, I got the job done last week!

I love it! It was also a pretty easy revamp as well. I ripped off all the old fabric, taking care not to damage any of the pieces. Initially, I wanted to save each section to use as a template to re-upholster, but then I decided to slipcover it instead. This way, it’s much easier to remove to clean or change out the fabric down the line. I mean, it is a nursing chair, I’m sure we’ll have our fair share of accidents and spills on it. Though I do plan to scotch guard it here soon. Right now the fabric is just stapled to the bottom, but I’m considering sewing/stapling on some velcro to the fabric and chair to really make removal a breeze.

I absolutely adore the lime-green dots! It fits in so well with the Joel Dewberry fabrics I’d used for pillows and my duvet cover. The nursery is finally starting to pull together.

Doesn’t the color look great? I’m trying not to overload the room with matchy-matchy things, or clashing colors, so I’ve worked really hard to keep my color scheme of aqua/teal/coral/white.

For those of you who want to attempt a upholstery-to-slip-cover transition of their own, here’s a quick breakdown of my process:

1) Take apart the elements of your piece. In my case, I had to unscrew the arm rests before pulling the old fabric off. I used a hammer and chisel on the particularly rough staples.

2) Remove any rotten fabric or fillings. The chair was in decent enough shape, for it being over 40 years old. To clean it up a little, I Febreezed the hell out of it and then covered it with a fresh layer of cheap quilt batting.

3) Create a paper template. I have a giant roll of butcher paper leftover, so that’s what I used to create my templates. You could also use large newspapers. I cut a rough square larger than the piece I was cutting, then traced an outline with a crayon. Once I had the shape ready, I cut it out and held it up to the chair to ensure the size would fit. My chair consisted of 8 pieces. A back, front, seat, seat front, 2 seat-bottom sides and 2 seat-top sides. Once I had my basic pattern created, I laid the pieces out on an old sheet, and created a mockup.

This helped me determine where I needed to edit the pattern, as well as how I would put it all together. It also helped me choose the thickness of the new fabric, since you can see every lump in the batting through this thin sheet.

4) After the mockup, I edited my butcher paper pieces, then laid them out on my good fabric and went to town on the slipcover. Once it was sewn and serged, I slipped it over my chair, stapled the bottom on, and flipped it back over. I painted the feet and arms with white spraypaint (after roughing it up way too much with 60 grit sandpaper…don’t do this, use 120 or higher!!) and two coats of spray gloss. And don’t freak out, my husband did all the spraypainting. I was fume-free inside. Then we laboriously located all the screw-holes, had an argument about how grumpy my husband was to be using mis-matched screws, then filled in the holes left behind with some 1/2 inch furniture plugs we painted to match picked up from Lowe’s. And voila! A lovely, re-invented chair.

It’s not 100% perfect, but to be honest with you nothing I make is. I’m not a perfectionist, and you can tell. I still love the way it looks, and only a pro would be able to tell the difference. I’d never offer to sell my work, but I would definitely help a friend in exchange for a good dinner out! The fabric wrinkles when you sit on it because I didn’t make it tight enough. I don’t care. It’s the comfiest, coziest chair in the house! Now I just have to build a footstool to match.

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  1. Nikki

    I was so touched by this. I’m just catching up on your posts and I want to say that I am so sorry for your loss. This project is incredibly sweet tribute to your husband’s grandmother. It looks fabulous in the room and I dig the contrasting fabrics. This may be my favorite project of yours to date!

    1. killer b.

      Thank you so much Nikki! We’re finding ways to give his grandmother a nod so her memory lives on. She absolutely adored birds, especially the red songbirds, so my husband will be building a birdhouse soon. I just can’t wait to tackle more projects!

  2. Amanda

    It looks great! You did an awesome job – I love the fabric!

  3. Jacque

    What a great way to preserve something so special!
    I’d recommend a footstool of some kind to go with it. You want to be as relaxed as possible when nursing and it also helps with positioning. I bought a cheapo step stool from Target when I had my daughter.

    1. killer b.

      Oooh, a footstool, that’s a great suggestion! It’s something I’ve actually been wanting to build, and now I have a good excuse! I was just going to build a simple little footstool and upholster it with some fabric remnants, but I like this idea so much more

  4. Lynette Coughlin

    Your chair looks super cute. I can just see you sitting there rocking your little red headed baby girl!!!

    1. Susan @ Busy at Home

      I do think the chair color looks great in that room! My instinct is always to go too matchy-matchy (safe) and that ends up ruining things. I think you chose really wisely! The finished chair looks really professional and the whole room is gorgeous!

      I came here from the TDC linky party!

  5. Heidi

    This turned out very beautiful and I loooove the fabric. Is really a great tribute to your family history, wow, if you’re having a girl just think of when she’ll rock and nurse your grand kids on that same chair! I’m getting a teary eye. Good thing you’re building a footstool too, believe me, you’re going to need it to relax a little (fall asleep on the chair unintentionally when nursing at all hours of the night :)

    1. Heidi

      Oh Gosh, just realized the date of your post, and you did have a girl! Yeiii congratulations!

      1. Thank you Heidi! I enjoy rocking her to sleep in her great grandmother’s chair. Though Miss Bobbie unfortunately passed before little Charlie was born, I’m very glad we got to hold on to this piece of history for her

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