Thursday, June 23, 2011

Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum (Part 1)

It may not be a dead man’s chest that I'm tackling with my next project, but it could certainly use a new lease on life.

This battered monstrosity is a chest we inherited in a roundabout fashion from The In-Laws. Before it came to us, it was in the boys’ house back in Wimbledon. (Nostalgic sigh for the days when we lived in London.) Even before then, I think this sucker had seen better days. But hey, there’s not much I’ll turn up my nose at when it comes to free furniture.

To give the down and dirty laundry list of issues to tackle with this beast:
  • The bottom is practically coming off. It looks like someone stomped on it in a fit of rage. This makes its capacity for storage en masse somewhat diminished.
  • The skirting and the top have hugenormous cracks in them. I could play peek-a-boo through the crack in the top when Piggly Wiggly gets old enough.

  • The nicked, scarred, watermarked, and generally abused condition of the wood; including a huge miscellaneous oil/wax stain. I’m not big on miscellaneous stains, myself. TLC is desperately needed here.

  • Seb is less than reassured at the structural integrity of the handles. I just think they’re kind of ugly…but in a much less offensive way than the dresser drawer handles!

There’s one final problem, not specific to our little chest, but the chest will help us solve this dilemma: we need more living room seating. Now that we have a new couch, it takes very strictly its policy of seating for two people…no more, no less. We have lots of Ikea stools, which are handy in a pinch, but they aren’t very comfy. The dining room chairs are also a serviceable option, but they do have to be dragged out from around the table and have the distinct air of being used in a pinch. I don’t want people to feel like I’m scrambling for seating for them. Our place may be small, but it’s not so small I can’t finagle some more seating in the living room.

Enter, stage right: our abused little chest. With a bit of structural reinforcement, courtesy of the Husband, and some upholstering, courtesy of Yours Truly, our little chest can make for easy in-a-pinch seating that doesn’t feel like an afterthought. However, it needs to be convertible seating, so that I can still use the chest as a coffee table when eating in the living room, or eventually letting Piggly Wiggly use it as a table for colouring and crafts.

Step one, as ever, measurements. In this, as with many furniture improvement projects, MDF has become my best friend. The MDF will be upholstered with firm foam (try saying that five times fast) and my fabric of choice and then have little fasteners added on so I can clip it in place when the chest is used as a bench.

Step two: measurements in hand, I decided the next step was to get the fabric I wanted. Off to Fabric Box back down in North Camp, just minutes from our old flat. They carry a line of curtain and upholstery fabric that I now am in lurve with: Prestigious Textiles. And this beauty is my choice for the living room bench:

1 metre of beautiful Full Stop in Sapphire. It comes 134cm wide, so I knew that I’d have quite a bit to play with since the top of the chest is only about 86cm across and 45cm wide. Even with 5cm-thick foam, I’ve got plenty of length to play with.

Oh, and in case you didn’t notice, I got this lovely polka-dot in the PVC-covered wipe-clean version. All the better for guests with drinks and rambunctious babies. One has to keep these sorts of things in mind…and I don’t trust my neurotic upholstered-bench-love to rely solely upon a can of obsessively sprayed Scotch Guard.

So with 2" firm foam and some batting to soften the look of the whole thing, I got started:

I gave myself a safety margin of about 14cm on each side (since I only had the cm tape measure at the time).
Now, I have to say, the best instructions on this whole process came from this chair upholstering post on Young House Love. So there isn't much for me to add, really. Just remember the one important thing about upholstering simple shapes:
Wrap it like a present!
I feel like that should become a line in a song. Something you can shake your booty to. Really, I'm just having a Black Eyed Peas moment and singing "Sh-shake it like a Polaroid pik-cha!" over and over again. Now I bet you'll have that song stuck in your head, too. :-)

As much as I'd never upholstered before, John and Sherry's super simple directions made the whole thing seem pretty easy. After about 5 minutes, I had four present-like corners on my cushion.

How awesome does that look? If nothing else, this picture proves that even the upholstering illiterate have hope. It's one of those deceptively simple things that can make a big difference to a piece of furniture. And, when you tell everyone that you did it yourself, they're all ridiculously impressed.

So: making your own bench...a cinch. And having gone the convertible route, it means that our chest is now storage and a coffee table and a bench. Three for the price of one. Awesome opossum. (I've wanted to use that phrase in public for a while now. There's even an actual Awesome Opossum for the occasion:)

How awesome is that? :-) Anyway, let's see just why my awesome opossum gives a nod of respect to my chest/coffee table/bench:

I'm thoroughly pleased with that. And just because the camera keeps showing the colour as more of a royal blue than the navy blue it actually is, I hijacked the pillows from the couch to show how nicely they match:

Ta-da! And - having just tested it - I can say with confidence that my bench is pretty comfy. I think that's a win, if I do say so myself.

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