The Antique Chairs I Accidentally Bought.

I’m using the term antique loosely here. In fact I have no idea how old these chairs are but I know they’re not from an ancient Pyramid and they’re not from Wayfair. They’re somewhere in between.

I’m sliding down a slippery slope of overindulgence.  Not with money or booze or food but with old stuff.  Creaky, glowing, interesting old stuff is making its way into my house again and if I’m not careful I’ll be living in a granny pad once more.

I did that when I first bought my house.  Surrounded myself with enough red velvet and lace curtains to choke Queen Victoria. Also I had no idea what I was doing at the time so there was that issue.

There are rules and ratios about how much old stuff and how much new stuff you should have in your house and how much older the new stuff should be from the old stuff  if you want to strike the right design balance. It involves math and percentages and being very careful about the selections you make.  My method for striking the right balance in decorating is somewhat less refined.  I load up on one particular look until I start to feel anxiety in my toe knuckles, and then I pull back.

It’s the toe knuckle test.

I was starting to get too far into the mid century mode and it was making me sweat a little. It didn’t feel comfortable, as in, my toes were tingling.  I wasn’t really sure how I was going to solve this little problem, but I knew it didn’t involve buying another mid century modern piece of furniture.

I needed something country and cozy and blanket like.  That was achieved by ripping all of my floors down to their original pine and refinishing them (more on how I did that in a later post) to a natural tone.  Apparently for me to get cozy I need to surround myself with saws, hammers and centipedes so large I can hear them coming.

The one thing people say about my house whenever they come in is that it’s comfortable and cozy. I never, never want to change that feeling people get when they come in.

It’s generally easy to maintain that cozy, comfortable and relaxed feel when there’s always piles of laundry to be folded on the couch.

I was still on my rustic, cozy kick (having just bought this antique hardware cabinet for my kitchen) when I accidentally bought these chairs.

They’re not what you’d call rustic.

These double blind caned (also known as French caning) Louis XV chairs were probably made in the early 1900’s.  Double blind caned?  Oh, you haven’t heard of that before?  Neither had I until I accidentally bought these chairs.

What is blind caning?

Blind caning is when you can’t see where the caning is attached to the chair. The holes are only drilled partway through the furniture and the caning is then pegged and glued into place.   DOUBLE blind caning is when the same technique is used twice, once on the front and once on the back of the furniture.  So there are two layers of caning instead of just one like you would normally see in a piece of furniture.

At least that’s what I could figure out from searching Google.

I say I accidentally bought them because I wasn’t looking for chairs. At all.  I’d resolved to not having 2 chairs in my living room because there isn’t room in there.

But there I was strolling through a local antique store the size of a shoebox (with enough furniture in it to fill a castle) when I saw them.

I got tingly toe knuckles. But in a good way.

I sat in them, got anxiety, almost bought them, decided that was stupid, walked away from them, looked at them again, left the store, turned right around walked back into the store, stared at them again, left the store, then called the store owner 10 minutes later from another store to say I was going to buy them.

What was my deciding factor?  3 of the 4 people I was out shopping with that day said they’d buy the chairs from me for their home if I decided I really couldn’t find a place for them in mine.

So far they look good everywhere so I don’t think finding a place for them will be a problem. They’re small, lightweight and comfortable so they made great extra seating at Thanksgiving.

Once I get the cushions recovered (as opposed to stuffing them into white pillowcases as I’ve done here) the chairs are sure to look even better.  I’m going to do them in either a neutral linen or velvet and I’m going to have them understuffed with down so it looks like they’ve been sat in for years.  It’s a more relaxed look, less formal.  Also it’ll help them be comfortable.

And cozy.

 

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Striking the right balance between eras and styles when decorating is a mathematical science that depends on percentages and ratios.  Or in my case - does it make my toe knuckles tingle?

66 Comments

  1. Janie says:

    OMG….I am so jealous. I LOVE THOSE CHAIRS. Wonder what it would cost to ship them to Texas if you change your mind. ha ha You find the best “antiques”…maybe because you have excellent taste.
    I laughed at the pillow case comment. I have two beautiful antique wicker chairs with upholstered seats. I also have two cats. I wrap a king size pillow case around the seats to catch cat hair. Easy to remove and launder.

    • Tina says:

      My solution is to have all furniture in leather. It’s easy to clean. Then, because I can’t bear to have my skin touch leather, I meticulously make quilted chair covers that I can strip off and wash.

  2. Meg says:

    “enough red velvet and lace curtains to choke Queen Victoria.” hahah!! I’m dying. that and the laundry piles on the couch. your writing is so hilarious. love the chairs!

  3. Marsha says:

    Love them.

  4. You’re hilarious. Love reading your blog… toe knuckles! You help me see old things in a new way. And I’m not just talking antiques. Everyday experiences. Thank you Karen!

  5. Danni McLaughlin says:

    Velvet might make them look a little, uh, “mature”. I like loose weave linen down pillows as cushions. Cheap (ish) no commitment and there are so many sizes to choose from at places like HomeGoods that you can almost always find something that looks great.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Danni! I understand what you’re saying but if did them in velvet I’d understuff them and they’d get marked and worn in no time making them look old and authentic as opposed to “mature”, lol. Also leaning towards a charcoal/black. They’d just look comfortable. I’ll be having to reupholster them myself or have them done. You can get pillows at Homesense (Homegoods in the US) but not upholstered seat cushions. 🙂 ~ karen!

  6. Jo says:

    I vote for Navy Rough Linen. By some sheets for fabric to make them. Think this would be perfect!

  7. Anita Hilton says:

    In the 1930s my Great Grandmother haunted the auctions of the Hollywood movie studios. She owned a pair of the exact same chairs. Hers were purchased with maroon devore’ cushions. The velvet had a striped pattern of two 1/2 inch wide stripes separated by a 1/4 inch burned out stripe. Finally the pattern was completed by a 1/2 wide burned out stripes on the outside of the paired stripes. The down cushions had compressed to approx 1 inch thick. They were finished with the same fabric welting where the top and bottom pieces met the side panel.

    • Denise says:

      Your remarkably detailed and thorough description of the cushion fabric makes me wonder whether you still have theses chairs … 😀

  8. Miriam Mc Nally says:

    Loooovvveeeee those chairs.
    I was actually admiring the “recovering”, thinking ‘what a nice, cosy, relaxed kind of cushion covering’. So, today’s lesson for me, just stuff everything into pillowcases. Or leave it on the sofa, to be folded!
    I’m currently on a break from clearing 2 rooms out: painter coming tomorrow. We have far too much stuff here!

  9. Paula says:

    There is nothing quite like somebody wanting something that you have to make you want it even more! Gorgeous chairs. My home must be cozy because I always have clothing in the living room except when I tidy for Christmas or Easter. 😉. I would really love to learn how to balance though because living in a century home, my stuff is “grannyfied”.

  10. Nicole says:

    Understuffing? I would never have thought of that, but it’s so smart! It will look loved right from the get-go! I’m totally going to do that with the next cushions I stuff.

  11. Madalina says:

    IMHO a sand/oatmeal/buff linen would bridge the gap between antique and modern.

  12. Lorie says:

    Have a similar chair purchased from garage sale. Painted it white and instead of reupholstering, covered it with sheepskin rug. Modern shabby chic and easy.

  13. Joyce says:

    Well, it seems you learned my secret of decorating a cozy home…piles of laundry! For the less knowledgeable, do not have piles of laundry in the kitchen! So untidy, for that room, a bowl of fruit and a cat on the counter.
    Your welcome

  14. p says:

    Me like! J’aime les chairz! Je suis tres jelle’
    Tu sont en pointe!
    J’ai une Louie the fourteenth hanging out in ma basemente. It has
    orange velvet which would be tolerable’ but there is a jank paintjob
    on the wood.

  15. Mary W says:

    LOVE these so much. They look very good and comfortable with the white pedestal table in front of the two lamps that I didn’t like much until now. The lamps seem to me to make sense now. I’m thinking the floors have a lot to do with it. And the paintings gazing outward instead of inward – perfect! You sure do have wonderful accidents and extremely talented toe knuckles! I do have a problem with the poking up knobs on the end of the arms. I would be sanding those off unless they were integral to structure. But since I haven’t sat in them, this may not be any problem – just the thought of them poking me as I relax my arm. They may be up too high to be a problem but they look like nipples on men. But other than that those two tiny things, I do love them, even the color is great – worn and perfect for you room. Good job! The room is perfect and if I lived in it, would stay the same, even the lamps that seem like guardians of the room – really like them now. And I know you were waiting for my approval with baited breath – which is a really strange thing to say – what is baited breath? maybe morning breath?

  16. Suzanne Reith says:

    Don’t worry about the cushions. In a couple of weeks they will be piled with laundry and problem solved. Love them.

  17. Stephani says:

    Leave the pillow cases. I like them plus, no effort cleaning.

  18. Cathy says:

    Those chairs are stunning! And I think a linen understuffed fabric is just the ticket

  19. Donna Maxwell says:

    I now know what I am going to do with a chair that I have inherited! Total opposite of my style but a good creamy linen will clean it up. Yours are gorgeous! Pillowcase and all

  20. Su says:

    Love the chairs of course cause I love your style. If you ask me I’d go with linen not velvet for the chair pads. You got a great linen source tight? 😊
    My rule as I decorate is something comes in something goes… painfully useful

  21. Lynn says:

    I found a pair like these on Craigslist a couple of years ago–they are on the long list of the ‘ones that got away’. I talked myself out of them and have been sorry ever since! Our furniture needs have evolved a bit so I probably won’t buy a set like these in the future but I LOVE them! Congrats!!

  22. jaine kunst says:

    LOVE them!!

  23. Linda C Johnston says:

    WOW! Did you ever score! It’s a wonder ALL your knuckles didn’t tingle! I like these best of anything you have shared.

  24. Donna says:

    I.LOVE.THEM

    Seriously, I would marry these chairs if they lived closer! I can’t do long distance furniture relationships – I need to be in the same room as them!

    Great find Karen. I love your decor aesthetic- the perfect mix of vintage, rustic and antique!

  25. Kipper says:

    Beautiful! My home is cozy because it is small and also the dog likes to leave her toys randomly all over the place…most often in the middle of a room or hallway so humans trip over the,.

  26. Librarian Nancy says:

    My mother had a pair of very similar chairs in our living room in the 60’s, except I’m sure hers were a knockoff from JCPenney or Sears. They were finished in a pecan color and had striped green and ivory velvet seats that had the clear plastic covers from the store on them (that was a common thing in the 60s). I think we used them until they fell apart. With the plastic still covering the seats.

  27. Lynn Johanson says:

    Love the chairs! Are you going to leave them gold? I have a pair of caned barrel chairs. They are dark stained wood and cane. I’m thinking of painting them….. Any tips? Will you experiment first?
    And I still covet your cane love seat!
    Lynn

    • Karen says:

      Yes, the reason I bought them was because they’re gold. 🙂 ~karen!

    • Karen S says:

      Use a gold wax. It comes in a small jar (specialty shops, in the framing section) but goes a long way. Just dab a corner of a cloth into the jar and rub a small bit on the high points of the wood. It makes it glow subtly. I use that trick on picture frames from the opp shops (thrift stores), too. It’s a very handy finish to keep on hand.

    • Karen S says:

      To get a similar finish on a brown wood, use a gold wax. It comes in a small jar (specialty shops, in the framing section) but goes a long way. Just dab a corner of a cloth into the jar and rub a small bit on the high points of the wood. It makes it glow subtly. I use that trick on picture frames from the opp shops (thrift stores), too. It’s a very handy finish to keep on hand.

  28. Lynn says:

    Fantastic find Karen , love them under stuffed will non velvet will most definitely be a beautiful enhancement to these lovely chairs.

  29. linda in Illinois says:

    not a fan of the fake gold look myself, but that could be fixed I’m sure.

  30. Marcia says:

    We have a couple of chairs similar to this from my husband’s grandmother. When we got them the were a medium pecan type finish. I “pickled” them (kind of like white wash but more subtle) and had them reupholstered. Several years later I reupholstered them myself. Then the giant dogs came. Specifically my daughter’s big hairy shepherd/rottweiler mix who liked to sit on the chairs and look out the front window. I discovered (after it was too late) that he’d been using the arms as a chew toy and had gnawed off a considerable part of the carved end. I love the design and the chairs are comfortable. I’m still trying to decide if I love them enough to try to rebuild the arm with wood putty and then reupholster them yet again. So far I’ve not been that ambitious.

    Yours are lovely, and if you can’t find a place for them, you can add me to the list of people who will buy them from you.

  31. Darla says:

    Great find! I agree with the velvet. It won’t crease when someone sits on it like the linen would.

  32. Gail Riley says:

    I see your email, as with all superfluous ones that I am quick to delete, and I always pause on yours. And each time I read , you tickle me!
    I have owned a crappy motel, turned resort motel (added horse shoes, duh, resort) turned into very marvelous inn. On a creek, huge blue spruce, Rick outcropping…My chickens (eggs worth say, $5 each) and coop were replaced by a magical 3 Story Tree House. Good move, rented most all the time and pricey. Tho we did build stupidly and frightenly in the recession. Love trumps all.
    Wish you lived close by. I bet most of your readers think they/ we would be friends, but we really wood.
    Got nuthin to do? Google Highland Haven Evergreen Co then! Google Eliza Cross, Happy Simple Living. You really would be friends. She has written a dozen books, I’m on my 3rd and it is sooo hard for me. Any way, Colorado beckons for wine with us.

  33. Susan says:

    Love the chairs! I wasn’t a huge fan of the table until you added these chairs. The first picture was misleading and I thought they has a dark stain. The second picture looked too gold, but the third picture with a close-up of the details, brought me back to love. I would age them a bit more with a black glaze which would look fantastic with the charcoal linen. Without the glaze maybe a charcoal cotton velvet which would have a sort of dusty look. Nice find!

  34. Benjamin says:

    I’m glad to hear you changed direction from choking queens…
    The chairs are beautiful and go so well with your tulip table.
    Hugs to you. ❤

  35. Sherie says:

    You should cover them with red velvet

  36. Kelly says:

    Karen,
    I need the antique to modern math ratios stat!

  37. Marilyn Meagher says:

    Sigh..these are gorgeous…they would look good in a gunny sack

  38. I would do a velvet cushion so fast it would make your head spin. Maybe even in an periwinkle or an light blue. love these chairs. Lucky you. No offense, but your granny pad days were pretty grim. You surely smartened up your taste. I still decorate the same as always…which is just plain English taste with lots of crap. I still have my butter yellow walls, but I will never get rid of them.

    • Karen says:

      Ha! I used to have yellow walls too. 🙂 Yellow is a HARD colour to get right so if you found the perfect butter yellow, keep them forever. ~ karen!

  39. Lovely interesting chairs pity there was no pic of the bottom

  40. Dana Studer says:

    I love them! Mom had chairs like that for eons. They had a turquoisey, cobalt blue velvet upholstery and covered buttons (is that tufting?) on the seat. It was my time out spot. Once I was banished for 5 minutes into one of those chairs. My usual “I gotta go pee” wasn’t working with Mom so I peed in the chair. The buttons rusted and leaked rust into the velvet upholstery. I was in some deep doodoo. They had to be reupholstered. Dont pee in your chairs, Karen.

  41. Sally says:

    Amazingly beautiful! What a find! And they are a perfect addition to the mix. Really, thank goodness for tingling toes. I vote for the under stuffed velvet cushions. Pics when they are done please.

  42. Dave says:

    The term “blind caning” struck me as funny because my parents had a friend who happened to be blind and he actually caned chairs. How weird is that? I guess technically it would be double blind caning since he was blind in both eyes. I’ll stop now.

  43. Jackie says:

    I love your new chairs. But I love all the things you do. Your house looks great. When can I move in?

  44. Beth says:

    Are these chairs gilded or is it a trick of the eye (a la blue/black or white/gold dress)?

  45. Ecoteri says:

    Laundry. oops. going to go switch it around

  46. ecoteri says:

    laundry oops. going to go move some from the washer to the drainer

  47. Pam'a says:

    These aren’t my chairs, alas, as I was a prisoner in my childhood of that faux Mediterranean/shag carpet/avocado green madness– with all forms of “antiqued” and ” gilded” wood… But I know you’ll enjoy them! The understuffing is a great (non-70s) touch, but one suggestion: Put in more than you think you want because you’ll wish you had before long. 🙂

  48. Beckie says:

    Velvet for sure! Those chairs deserve velvet cushions!

  49. Robert says:

    Now you’re obviously have to get a huge petticoat á la Dior to go with that cannage don’t you?
    Are you sure about putting black/charcoal velvet in the cushions? I’m thinking it would be a little harsh, maybe if you find black velvet with red undertones instead of green undertones?
    A deep chocolate brown would be a stunning as some else mentioned above and would also be very “Mexique” 🤔😊https://youtu.be/PmhmtJF5w9k

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