Shattered But Not Broken: An Armchair Rehabilitation

Heirloom chair reupholstered in Penny Morrison Ashok fabric

Here at Revitaliste, it’s our mission to give new life to quality vintage, antique, and secondhand furniture. Sometimes a simple fabric/finish refresh is all that is needed. Other times our work is more akin to reconstructive surgery! Such was the case with one client’s pair of English roll-arm chairs that she had inherited from her mother. One of the legs had been shattered and our client feared these century-old sentimental treasures were beyond repair. But in the hands of a skilled artisan, even the most crippled furniture can be rehabilitated.

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Revitalization Checklist

  • Repair the shattered leg
  • Basic restoration on legs to bring the wood back to life
  • Modernize the back by removing tufting
  • Reupholster
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Produced in the 1930s, these English roll-arm chairs were solidly constructed. Though one cabriole leg had splintered into several pieces (a few of which were missing), it was made of solid mahogany. We were able to insert a metal dowel to reinforce the leg and then glue the splintered pieces together around the dowel. Where pieces were missing, we patched the holes with putty, contoured the puttied areas to blend with the lines of the leg and faux painted these areas to match the wood grain. No one would ever be able to pick out which leg was broken!

Design Decisions

Our client wanted to modernize her mother’s chairs to blend with her relaxed but chic California style. She fell in love with an exquisite hand-printed linen designed by British interior designer Penny Morrison: “Ashok” in Chocolate color way. The subtle pattern and soothing neutral tones of the fabric make these very proper chairs more approachable. To tone down the traditionalist style of the chairs even more, we removed the button tufting and plumped up the backs. We loved the aged tobacco patina of the legs so we didn’t touch the color; We simply cleaned up and polished the legs.

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Things to Keep in Mind

  • With furniture constructed with hardwoods, nothing is beyond repair. A skilled artisan can rehabilitate severely damaged pieces to look as good as new.  
  • Even the most traditional of styles can be modernized with the right fabric/finish!

Have a piece in need of some serious rehab? Get a detailed price quote for your project here.