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In this post I share the telephone chair makeover my sister and I did a few years ago. This has to be one of my all time favorite pieces that we did. You can check how we repurposed an upholstered bench here, for another great project.
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Memories of these telephone chairs
I remember vividly visiting my grandmas house in Bensonhurst Brooklyn as a kid. Thinking of this I can still feel the essence of her home. Needless to say She was a no nonsense Italian woman who valued her family, cooking and sewing. Her house was always in order and had limited things for my sisters and I to play with when we went to visit. She had in her back hallway a telephone chair with her rotary phone perched on top. So for entertainment we would love to sit at this chair and spin the rotary around pretending to call people for fun!
Making a phone call 40 years ago or so was a whole different experience. This was your only non physical connection to the outside world at the time. You could sit there, have a cup of coffee, call a friend and chat for an hour. These chairs were made for this experience.
These telephone chairs that once held such a significant place in a home, were no longer needed. So a ne purposed was found for them! Because of the huge success of repurposing defunct furniture pieces these telephone chairs have had a revival.
How we repurposed this telephone chair
We acquired this chair from a person in Brooklyn. This dejected piece was a rare find! My sister Nicole and I were so excited to get to work on this. We decided because of the damaged wood that we would paint this piece. We wanted to give it a neutral look that had a tint of color, so we chose a very light mint color.
When I get ready to paint wood furniture, the one thing I try to avoid at all costs is sanding. This can be a tedious and difficult job. Especially if the furniture has many rounded edges like this piece had. My secret is using a water based primer. So Sanding isn’t necessary with the primer. Because this is real wood and either the wood grain or the varnish can seep through paint, I use a kill stain primer. Apply 1-2 coats depending on the piece. This primer will block stains coming from the wood.
Once this is dry, usually a few hours I will then apply two coats of paint to my surface. One coat is never enough and a second coat always finishes it off completely. I use regular Benjamin Moore paint for all my painted furniture projects..
The testers are perfect for three reasons. one, there is more than enough to coat a piece like this twice. Two, the testers cost less and Three, all the testers come in an eggshell finish. Once this is dry. I recommend 24 hours. I then seal the painted pieces by using minwax clear coat in a matte clear finish. This adds a durable finish. I always add felt pads to my finished piece to avoid scratching floors.
Textile design for the cushion
First the tattered upholstery and disintegrating foam cushion needed to be removed. A new piece of foam cut to size of seat was prepared. Also used was an upholstered canvas fabric we had bought. With all of these repurposed pieces with textile, a color scheme was decided on.
We had bought these really cool antique keys that sat in a box waiting to find a use for them. Finally one key found a home as a decorative piece on this ombre chest we did for a South Hampton home. Then I had the idea to use this key and design an allover repeat design. I dipped the paint into two colors, one black (using fabric paint for the black) & one the same color mint color ( I used the benjamin moore paint for this) that was used for the wood frame. This helped to tie back the new upholstered design to the frame of the chair.
Uses for a repurposed Telephone chair
There is no designated place now needed to make these phone calls. We make them on the go, in bed, outside, you name it I am sure there is no place that hasn’t been used to make a phone call!
These beautiful repurposed chairs have found new homes in entryways, in nooks and have become a great sitting area with a table to read a book, put on a pair of shoes, look through mail, among other activities.
Below are three places to go for upholstery fabrics
Important when you do an upholstered project that you use fabric specifically for this! There are many fabrics out there and if you use an apparel fabric this may be too thin and can tear easier. So an upholstered fabric comes in a heavier, sturdier weight. Some of them are also stain resistant like the brand sunbrella.
Amazon has a good selection of upholstery fabrics as well as fabric.com for this specific project and was happy with this quality as well. I have bought from both places and have found quality at both. Below are some amazing fun fabrics from Etsy. Alot of fabric places sell their fabric here, so take a look!
Take a look at some of these fun textile selections from Etsy for your next project!
- Feed Sack Fabric By The Yard
- Udder Madness Milk Brown
- Blue Traditional Woven Upholstery
- Canvas Fabric, Washed Canvas Fabric, 16oz– lots of colors!
- Roxy Gold Chenille Upholstery Fabric
- Seaglass Mingle – Blue – Green – Upholstery