recovering dining chairs

Mid-Century American of Martinsville Dining Set

We recently revived a MCM American of Martinsville dining set. Manufactured in the 1960s, the table and chairs combine the beauty of Scandinavian lines, the warmth of walnut wood, and the sturdiness of American craftsmen.

American of Martinsville

When David and Michael brought the set home, a quick assessment revealed that everything needed work. The chairs: cleaning and recovering. The table: refinishing.

Mid-Century Modern Chairs

Chair seats became my responsibility, so let’s start there. A striped, canvas fabric covered the seat, very utilitarian but a bit casual for this set.

American of Martinsville

I began removing the staples and soon discovered the next layer. Someone previously ripped off the black dust cover, but the under fabric appeared to be a formal gold brocade.

American of Martinsville

Yikes! A stained gold brocade.

American of Martinsville

Undeterred, I kept popping those staples and encountered a new surprise — a third layer of fabric.

American of Martinsville

I had made it down to the original orange fabric. How perfect for these chairs, but the edges showed brittleness and staining was evident:American of Martinsville

The final step, uncovering the foam. It appeared to be 1960s polyurethane foam.

American of Martinsville

David went outside to pull the foam off the wooden boards and clean them up.

By the way, I generally buy my supplies from Joann.

  • 2″ high density foam from their online site. An employee once asked why I use 2″ instead of 1″. Because American bottoms appreciate 2″ foam.
  • Polyester batting
  • Fabric. I usually select a neutral color, preferably from the remnant section. For these chairs, however, I wanted something special. I tried to match the original fabric as closely as possible.

You can read my earlier post on recovering MCM dining chairs here: Recovering Dining Chair Seats: Mid-Century Modern

The narrow backs are cane over walnut, making it more durable than cane alone. An added bonus, the lumbar arch of each chair offers back support along with its graceful curve.

American of MartinsvilleAlthough we have 5 dining chairs, the captain’s chair did not go into our booth. Apparently odd-numbered chairs unnerve customers. They tend to say, “Hey, you’re missing a chair.” This way, if we offer 4, we have the ability to throw in a bonus chair should the buyers show interest.

MCM Dining Table

David took charge of the dining table. Sadly, there are no before or during photos.

The chair leg joints all needed tightening, so David removed the legs from the side rails (aka apron) and discovered a few of the dowel pins that align and strengthen the joints had broken off. Nothing is ever easy — or quick.

He drilled out the broken ends and created fresh holes for new dowel pins to be glued and inserted. Each leg required gluing and clamping, then the sides had to be joined to the legs. More gluing and clamping. Finally, he assembled the whole frame, trying to keep it level and square. Once more, gluing and clamping. He gave each of these individual sections a full 24 hours for the glue to set.

The refinishing process involved lightly sanding the old finish with 220-grit sandpaper and then applying 5 coats of spray lacquer.

Now the details really pop.

The wood grain pattern, with its dynamic, flowing arches, is called a cathedral design. A  woodworker achieves this effect, one of the most desirable patterns for tabletops, by sawing a log using a flat cut. Often only half of a table shows the cathedral effect, but — bonus — this table has matching cathedrals.

American of Martinsville

The original craftsman laid out and joined these 4 cathedral graining wood veneer panels in a Reverse Diamond Pattern. Abutting the ends of the patterns is tricky and requires careful cutting to make an exact match at the apex of each triangle. Reverse Matching Triangles give the face of the table the same matching pattern on all four sides. The result, as you clearly see, is one gorgeous tabletop.

Of course the x-shaped inserts, the hallmark of all American of Martinsville tables, appear at each table corner:

American of Martinsville

American of Martinsville’s Dania II

American of Martinsville is a storied American furniture maker, whose bold designs helped furnish homes throughout the 20th century. Our chairs definitely belong to the Dania II collection, as seen in this 1963 ad. I circled the chair in red:

American of MartinsvilleAt this point, I can’t verify the American of Martinsville furniture collection and time period of our table. Probably Dania or Dania II, but more research is necessary.

This next ad, also from 1963, doesn’t feature our table and chairs but offers a description of Dania II:

Why The Bride Set Her Cap for Dania II Too! She knew it would lead the life they love — casual, easy-going, impromptu. She wanted to begin it right — flair without frills — simplicity with just a touch of sophistication — and unbelievable storage space. She was delighted at so much Dania II to choose from. Smart component wall units with numerous shelves, drawers and trays. Occasional tables for every conceivable purpose. Inviting chairs and sofas, smartly upholstered. Even a spacious cabinet for their growing record collection. And all in warm walnut with a durable matte lacquer finish. Now the three of them are set for a long and happy life — new bride, new groom, new Dania II. One of the many contemporary designs for living, dining and bedroom by American of Martinsville for young people who want authoritative design, quality craftsmanship.
American of Martinsville

On Display

American of Martinsville

We moved this gorgeous Mid-Century Modern American of Martinsville dining set into our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Interiors. I want to give a special shout out to our son, Michael, the Avonlea photographer, for his beautiful photos.

On Avonlea Antiques’ new website, customers can make online purchases. It’s worth checking out, and items are added each week. This dining set isn’t on the Avonlea website yet, but stay tuned. It’s coming soon!

Ann Marie and David

Link Parties:
Inspiration Monday @ Refresh Restyle

Make It Pretty Monday @ The Dedicated House

Recovering Dining Chair Seats: Mid-Century Modern

Recovering dining chair seats, perhaps the easiest upholstery project, still requires organization.

Recovering Dining Chair Seats

Peeling Away the Years

I always love seeing the layers of history. The photo below shows the jaunty floral fabric wrapped around the original batting and wooden seat. It’s 90’s and awful, I know. The staples are already out, so let’s see what’s underneath.

Recovering Dining Chair

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a plump seat. Instead, imagine a pancake. One layer down and we’re at the dirty, original, yellow fabric stapled securely in place.
MCM Yellow Stripe Fabric

How about delving down more layers? Here we are at the thin, sad interior batting:
Dining Chair Old Batting

Foam and Batting

Luckily, Joann’s offered a 50% discount on their $59.99 high-density foam the day I ordered online. After seeing it in person, I absolutely recommend the high density. A roll of 2″ x 18″ x 82″ is perfect for covering 4 dining chair seats.2" high density foam
I traced the wooden chair seat onto the 2″ foam with a thick black marker. David grabbed the electric knife and cut out four pieces of foam.
Dining Chair Foam CutThe foam will provide a far more comfortable cushion. Below, there’s the wood seat, 2″ foam, batting, and the ivory microfiber upholstery fabric. By the way, we found the fabric in Joann’s remnant fabric bin. Four dining chairs require 1.5 yards of fabric, which we purchased for $9.
Recovering Dining Chairs

The Process for Recovering Dining Chair Seats

  1. Spray glue on the wooden seat and the pre-cut foam. Let both sit and get tacky before adhering together. NOTE: David prefers using 3M General Purpose 45 Spray Adhesive. After he unsuccessfully used the spray pictured, he went out and bought the 3M spray and tried again.Recovering Dining Chair
  2. If rounded edges are desired, spray the glue on each raw edge of the foam and compress. We used a punch awl to help with the fold.Recovering Dining ChairRecovering Dining Chairs
  3. Cover with batting and staple down.Trim excess. Recovering dining chair
  4. Cover with upholstery fabric; use hands to smooth the fabric, and staple. Cut excess.Recovering Dining ChairRecovering Dining ChairRecovering Dining Chairs
  5. Fold the corners neatly, making sure to cut excess fabric to eliminate bulges of batting and fabric.
  6. Fold corners and trim excess material before stapling.Recovering dining chair seats
  7. Optional but simple, this next step involves stapling a cambric dust cover to the seat’s underside. It finishes off the piece by hiding all your fabric edges and staples.Recovered Dining Chair Seats
  8. And a quick photo of the recovered chair seats:Recovered Chair Seats

Sure, the hands-on experience proved more challenging, but we saved a lot of money and, really, that’s all there is to recovering dining chair seats. They’ll look stylish with the matching dining table.

Thanks for stopping by. David and I will be back with a new project in no time!

Ann Marie and David

 

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