Preserving the Old

Kris and I received from her grandmother a great chair. We eventually had it re-upholstered but it wore down, too. So, we took it to my basement study and it has been my reading chair for more than a decade. One of the chairs in our living room needs to be re-upholstered so we’ve been to a few furniture stores. But one day Kris simply declared that she wanted to get her grandmother’s chair redone.

PreRestChair.jpgSo, last Friday we took my great old reading chair to a furniture restoration and re-upholstering shop in Grayslake, Illinois. What a delight.

Got any restoration stories? Any chairs?

We brought our chair in, a wonderful man lifted it up on nothing short of a stage, looked it over but good, felt it and touched it and oogled about it. Then another worker came by, did the same. They got to talking about it and what might be underneath it. Then one man asked if it was from the 1930s. Then the owner Jose came over and observed that someone had added at least one too many “panels” in the back. So he took it off the stage, put it on the floor gently, and then sat in it and declared, “See, it’s too tight on the shoulders. You sit in it.” So, I did, but I showed him that I sat sideways — which relieved my shoulder some but he was thinking, “See what I told you? Too many panels. It’s tighter than it needs to be.” Jose began to describe what they could do with it.  And how he could repair the broken back leg.

We were hooked. These folks love old furniture and love to restore them. We picked out some upholstering … and Jose knew when to say what as Kris and I meandered through the colors and designs … and now we await the restoration of our chair. It’ll take awhile. We can wait.

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  • My good friend recently had a few older pieces restored that had been in her family for some time. She got a call after taking it in and the person doing the work wanted to know if they wanted to preserve the original stuffing–which was moss!!! She declined…

  • J-Marie

    My uncle enjoys salvaging and restoring pieces to beauty. He has added furniture refinishing to his plate. Even if you are not interested in his services, the pictures are really fun to look at:
    It’s a great analogy of how God works in our lives when we allow Him to.

  • J-Marie

    I apologize, it is Enjoy!

  • Tom

    I’ve been critical here a few times of late, but I deeply appreciate what you’re doing. Not many places this kind of interaction or conversation could happen.
    We’re in the middle of re-upholstering some stuff at our house too :^).

  • Phil Niemi

    When first married, we bought some antiques and did a lot of easier fixes, paint, or mission furniture that don’t require anything extensive. Reupholstering is expensive, but so are good frames and such. Definitely worth it, you get better padding & stuffing than you would a new piece in the show room for the same money. Plus, you’re supporting local economy.

  • Chris E

    I just left the retail furniture business after 10 years, and your post points to a significant issue for the US economy and Obama’s plans to restore jobs: namely that US consumers are so hooked on cheap, faddish junk. I witnessed the transition happen in home furnishings starting around 2000, but accelerating after 9/11. It was not that long ago that many of our customers would pay more for higher quality (often domestically manufactured0 furniture and would be happy to do it. Within a space of about 6 years (~2000-2006), the domestic furniture manufacturing capacity in the US disappeared almost completely. Think you’re going to North Carolina to get a good deal? It’s a sham, as almost no furniture is made in that state, or any state, any more.
    It is popular to bemoan Wal-Mart’s dominance and the death of the little guy, but the sad truth is that US consumers simply abandoned higher quality goods. High quality now is Target. The real sad thing is that, as Scot can attest, higher quality goods almost always cost less in the mid- to long-term because they last longer and give better service. (I draw the line at fountain pens, however.)
    How will Obama restore manufacturing jobs to the US when this kind of mentality holds sway among consumers?

  • My 2 Cents

    Were were young, had 2-3 three kids, and no money…practically on food stamps in our ministry location. But, I had found a grand chair like the one you have (a bit broader all the way around). It was big enough to have 3 kids on your lap while you read them stories. I only had to pay $50 for it, and thought if I saved my pennies, I’d have it redone.
    In a year or so, we had a garage sale and I made enough to redo the chair. We were moving, so I tucked the money away in a special place. We moved to an interim pastorate, and in the course of being there for only 3-4 months, we were robbed. My money from the garage sale was gone (it was Madoffed!). The chair remained as it was. We threw a blanket over it while my husband was in seminary. It made it through our kid’s young years…and disappeared in one of our next moves. Literally. So, we know it is off listening to another family’s stories and holding kids while they grow up.

  • Scot McKnight

    Are you suggesting by any means that we “Madoffed” the chair?

  • My 2 Cents

    Perhaps someone Mad-off with the chair, yes!

  • Chad Hall

    As the son of an upholsterer, I invested many hours helping my dad restore old chairs, sofas, ottomans and even car seats. It’s a craft that I experienced but never mastered. Still, the experience I had and the one Scot describes reminds me of how really good pastors engage their parishioners — nurturing them in a process that restores them to God’s glorious intent.