A Few Vintage Chairs for Your Inspiration

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There are two places in our home where I’d like to put a chair. But not just any chair. It has to be used — preferably from the mid-century era. And it has be something I can bring back to life with new upholstery. Of course, the idea that I can reupholster a chair with no experience or help other than internet tutorials is just that — an idea. As badly as I want to attempt this, I admit I’m more than a little intimidated. After all, chair upholstery can require a lot of fabric, and I don’t want to start something I won’t finish. So while I build my courage to attempt my own rehab job, here are a few vintage chairs that have been given a gorgeous new life with a little elbow grease:

1. Rubie


If I could ever convince my husband that pink really is a great decorating color, even outside our daughter’s room, I’d snatch up this chair in a heartbeat. Not only does it feature the gorgeous mid-century lines that I love so much, it is also reupholstered in Rubie Green’s organic cotton East Village fabric. Seriously, I think etsy seller revivalfurniture made this one just for me. And if not for me, I imagine Nicole Balch from Making It Lovely could find a place for it. Price: $650

2. Lewittes Wingback Cane Chair


Call me crazy, but I think this chair is fabulous!  It’s bright, velvety (is that a word), and seriously funky! And would you believe I found a chair like this with very similar bones at a thrift store once and didn’t buy it because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to reupholster it? The ugly floral fabric definitely needed replacing. Now that I see how gorgeous this chair looks, I’m really beginning to regret passing on that thrift store find. Particularly since it would’ve cost me just $45. Price: $550

3. Lucille


A lot of people think it’s a sin to paint old wood, but I’m OK with it in some circumstances. This chair from etsy seller threesidewaysglances is one of them. The muted gray paint paired with Thomas Paul’s parasol fabric is a gorgeous combination. But, this chair will definitely call attention to itself, so it could be tough to place. Still, projects like this give me hope that I can turn a beat up old chair into something fresh and fabulous. Price: $529

4. Reupholstered Vintage Tomlinson Chairs


I admit I’m swooning a little over these chairs. More specifically, over the fabulous reupholstery. Left to my own devices, I never would have chosen something so opulent, with black and grey velvet and velour paired with embroidered satin. And while the embroidery is a little more frilly than I’d like, the combination is really stunning. Price: $599/ea.

Looking for more inspiration? Do what I do: Stalk the Design Sponge Before & After section. I’ll also be obsessively checking Craigslist for the diamond in the rough I can nurse back to health. Have a vintage piece you’d like to share? I’d love to see it!

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7 comments… add one
  • Susie April 7, 2010, 6:41 pm

    I am always checking the before and afters at design*sponge as well. I am determined to learn how to revitalize old chairs- I’ve got a wonderful wing chair in my garage that is in need of a total redo that I picked up for $10.00 at a yard sale. I’m seriously thinking of signing up for an upholstery class this fall through our local community college system just so I can have the self satisfaction of doing it myself! Thanks for showcasing these great chair makeovers!

    • jennae April 9, 2010, 8:13 am

      I’m so afraid of wing chairs! I’ve read they require a lot of fabric to reupholster, and I’m so scared I’d take one apart and not be able to put it back together! They are abundant on Atlanta Craigslist too, so finding one on the cheap is pretty easy.

      But seriously, I think I’ll have to piggyback on your idea of taking an upholstery class, because then I’ll be able to rehab chairs to my heart’s content 🙂

  • Rachel April 8, 2010, 8:30 am

    Thanks for featuring my lewittes chair! I really appreciate it!

  • dayka@ life+style April 9, 2010, 12:10 am


    I love your blog! I was coming by to leave the requisite courtesy comment and say you’re about all things green–very cool. i’ve decided that i’m going to start making trying to do more beyond my basic recycling, so i know you’ll be a wealth of knowledge. i’m loving your green-room-in-a-box idea, too!

    thanks for becoming a follower! btw, someone submitted a lewittes chair for one of my trash day posts a few weeks ago, and i came up with (i think) some great ideas for reupholstering it. if you have a chance, look under the “trash day” file and check it out. and if you see them again, snatch them up!!!! 🙂

    • jennae April 9, 2010, 8:19 am

      Really happy to make your acquaintance and help you be greener in any way I can 🙂

      I saw the post about the Lewittes chair (yeah, I spent most of last night stalking your blog), and I loved your ideas! I secretly wish the chair I found at the thrift store was still available, because it would be mine. But since we just moved closer to the city, I think I’m going to spend this weekend mapping out all the nearby thrift stores, because I am determined to find another. Your trash day posts are so inspiring, and thanks for introducing me to Better After, as well. You’ve got yourself a regular reader in me!

  • Ashley January 25, 2012, 8:59 pm

    I just purchased the Lewittes chair at a flea market in Knoxville, TN. It had the exact same fabric and finish as pictured. I bought it for $45. Stripped it down to the bones and am in the process of painting it wicker white. Have a beautiful paisley print fabric purchased to re-upholster it myself. I’m really looking forward to re-purposing this chair. It’s my feature piece in the guest bedroom I’m decorating.

  • Debra March 16, 2015, 9:53 am

    My husband and I do a lot of flea marketing but never have I seen one of these chairs . With us having to combine 2 households when we got married we have no room for anymore furniture., unless start getting rid of some of it.
    I came upon a lewittes caned wingback chair from a local flea market. My husband told me to go look at it ,as I was looking at a sleigh bed. I thought to myself oh that is beautiful. We never buy any of the furniture, we look at it and we just dream about it. The chair I found was an ivory color material with a green marker stain on it. but, after looking at the price on it I had to do a double take. For once I can say, I purchased my first dream chair a Lewittes caned wingback chair, for $20 .
    I have been trying to get the stain out however, I may reupholster it. After looking up these chairs online I have seen where some were purchased up to $1,000 after reupholstered. Anymore information about the chair would be greatly appreciated, And Thanks for listening to my story. Debra

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