When my husband’s grandmother gave us an early 1900s Cogswell chair she no longer wanted, there was no question it deserved the royal treatment. It was in impeccable condition, had a classic shape, was super comfortable and most importantly, had come from someone we love. It’s tired fabric was the only thing holding it back. Knowing nothing about how much fabric would be needed to reupholster it, I brought the chair to Bill at Patriot Upholstery in Portsmouth who had come highly recommended (even though from the outside his shop looks like it specializes in car and truck upholstery).
Reupholstering is a serious commitment. If you’re going to spend a few Benjamins on reinventing a piece, you better make sure 1. It’s in excellent condition, and 2. you choose a fabric pattern you are good with “from this day forward,” because for what you’ll pay, you’ll be together forever. Told I needed 5-6 yards, I headed to a local fabric store but sadly, no one assisted me (which in my experience was a pattern there — no pun intended), so I helped myself to some of the swatch books. I searched for something that evoked “Coastal Living” sans your typical ships, shells, lighthouses or starfish. The fabric I liked best was a jaw-dropping $75 a yard (at six yards we’d be looking at $450…and that’s before the upholstery costs!). I noted the maker and shelved the project. Months later, I was motivated and after some research (i.e. Google search), learned you can order large scale fabric swatches at little to no cost, so I was able to see more clearly exactly how the pattern would look on the chair, not to mention experience the feel and quality of the fabric. By the time I pulled the trigger, the fabric I chose had been marked down considerably — around 60%.
I dropped the chair and the fabric off at Patriot Upholstery. Here’s the result:
Bill took it upon himself to cover the arms and the bottom section of the chair in a divine navy blue and trim both sections with the fabric, which I think came out amazing. also He restored the wood on the arms and legs. I asked him to save any extra fabric so I could perhaps make a throw pillow. Instead, he made three of them featuring a different sea creature on each. The Octopus Chair now has a new century to add to it’s history–along with a new look.
Patriot Upholstery is located at 2580 East Main Road in Portsmouth, across from Clements Market. www.patriotupholstery.com. Special thanks to Bess Walker of Walker Interiors who kindly took my call and answered my questions about what kind of fabric I would need for this project.