Oct 18, 2011

the true (potential) cost of my vintage chairs

i am having some second thoughts on reupholstering my vintage chairs. 
even though the chairs themselves were only $30 a piece, one of the chairs has some damage in the caning on the arm:

in order to get this fixed, i got an estimate of $150. (i was pretty surprised at this! i thought it would be half this cost..)

the upholstery estimate per chair is $225, and they each need about 2.5 yards of fabric. i already have enough of a simple nubby neutral fabric that i really love. i paid $15 per yard. however, because i plan to paint the chairs, i would need to deliver the chairs to the upholstery shop, let them strip the chairs, pick them up, take them to the restorations specialist to get the caning fixed, bring them home to paint them, and them bring them back to be reupholstered...and then, pick them up once they are finished. that's a lot of gas and time...

my bargain chairs are slowly becoming a potential money pit:

chairs: 2 at $30e ach=$60
caning restoration: $150
upholstery: 2 at $225 each=$450
fabric: 5 at $15=$75
paint: $30
gas, taxes, etc: $100?
total for both chairs: $865

i could save a little bit of money, and some driving by stripping the old upholstery off myself...i'm just trying to figure out if the hassle and time is worth it.

i have had my eye on these chairs for a while...i could get two new chairs for about the same cost that rehabbing the vintage chairs would be...i would probably get these in the grey or the beige, but the orange velvet is really pretty too!

some other budget friendly options:

i love the unique look of the vintage chairs, and the frames are nice and sturdy...just starting to reconsider the money and effort that will go into fixing them.

what do you think? are the costs and hassle worth it, or would you just order new?


  1. I see your point...new may be better...However, what if I have a had them take out the cane panels on the arms, upholster that and only have the cane on the back?? I have seen that done before when replacing/repairing the cane was too pricey...Good luck!

  2. I love Vintage Vines suggestion! These chairs look like Lewittes & sons...actually very valuable. I personally would bite the bullet and strip them myself (but that is what I do after all!) and have them done. You won't regret the irreplaceable one of a kind look.

  3. Maybe it is time to do a project? Why not give it a shot and try it yourself. Think of how proud you would be every time you look at them. If your hesitant about the price of fabric try it with burlap or muzlin first just to see how to do it. They really are great chairs. And you don't have to tuft them either. I posted a couple of days ago about redoing a settee I did and didn't tuft it. You can do it!!!!
    ~Debra xxx
    Capers of the vintage vixens

  4. I think you should refurbish them...so unique! Perhaps have them pad and upholster instead of the cane where it is broken. $433 per chair doesn't seem too bad though for such quality.

  5. Maybe lowering your ideas for the vintage chairs would help? Stripping a chair of it's upholstery isn't all that hard, possibly time consuming but not hard. And why not remove the caning altogether instead of replacing it? You could upholster the caning parts and if you really didn't want to put that much time and money into it you could upholster the front of the caning parts and leave the back/sides "raw". Just a thought, but it's quite doable if you're up for it.

  6. While there is something to be said for having a one of a kind piece, I think there might be one two many pieces of this project. It's the cane repair that's getting me (and you, sounds like), especially if you're going to paint right over them. After you spent all that money for the caning, I think you would feel the pressure to paint perfectly, and sometimes that doesn't go your way...If the new Home Decorators chairs will fit the space and look, I'd probably go for those.

    It's good that you realized this before starting--so often it feels like you're already halfway into a project before realizing it's a money pit, and of course at that point it is so much harder to walk away!


  7. I'm not much of a do it yourselfer, so I would say it is more about the look you are going for. The can chairs have such a fun vintage vibe, while the Home Decorators chairs are so classic. I also loved A Vintage Vine's suggestion of upholstering the arm panels to cut down cost. Decisions are the worst! I know whatever you decide it will be fabulous! Can't wait to see which direction you go!


  8. I was unaware of this, but my aunt told me she has recaned tons of furniture. She says it takes a little while, but it is not actually hard to do. I did a quick google, and there are lots of tutorials. Good luck!

  9. I enjoyed reading through your posting. I need to say that it was the 1st article on your blog I genuinely enjoyed and in which I had a feeling of agreement, know what I mean? In any case, keep the posting and I’ll be back once again.

  10. I love the chairs...so unique, and I would try to upholster the sides...love them!

  11. I'd refinish them. If you decide you don't want them I'll take them off your hands! (:

  12. yes, i recently found out that repairing caning can be expensive, only because it is done by hand--ouch. i am normally ALL FOR vintage, but in this case i say go new. the only reason being that the new chairs you showed are comfy arm chairs, and the two you have are arm chairs, but not the kind you can swing a leg over and watch some flicks. if you are looking for more of a statement piece regardless of comfort, go with the vintage. if they're going in a TV room where you want to play games, relax, nosh, etc., get the new ones.

    you have a lot of differing opinions here--hope this helps! :)

  13. thank you thank you for all the comments!! i am still in limbo. earlier today, i was at a clients house, and actually sat in the decorators best marie chair. it;s beautiful in person, and quite comfy, but not as substantial as the vintage chairs. AGHHHH! i still don't know what to do. i;m gonna have to sleep on it for a day or two longer....

  14. How much would it be to upholster over the arms? I like the shape of the arms. But, not always a fan of canning. Also, what is it made of? You know when you get new chairs the wood is going to be something really cheap and probably won't be as solid. Thinking long term here.

    Every year the quality goes down to keep the prices stable. Honestly, I think I've just about given up on buying new. We have a martha stewart (bernhardt) dining set, we bought semi recently. It's absolutely junk. Scratches every time you use it... there are chips everywhere, the stain looks like a two year old blobbed it on. Looks pretty from afar but up close it's a mess. Like a Monet. :)

    I vote to have them reupholstered only if you really love the shape of them and plan to use them long term. I think that the shape is nice.

  15. Ahhh classic problem! I adore the vintage ones they have a more appealing look...they are an investment but timeless and you will get your money back if you sell them!

  16. I have the same issue with several pieces sitting in my garage currently. I wish I could just do them myself because it just almost doesn't make sense to put so much money into them. I actually prefer the cane chairs and think they will look amazing once customized. But I feel your pain. xo

  17. I didn't see your original post, but I think these vintage chairs are pretty awesome! I like the grey upholstery as is. I would just paint the wood frames and give the upholstery a really good cleaning. I don't think the break in the caning will be all that noticeable once painted. But, I'm a spendthrift, so I always go the thriftiest route!

  18. Go for it, "you'll make it up elsewhere" as I always say. They are so unique.

  19. I'm a bit late on my blog reading but it seems like you are a DIY kind of person so you might be able to recane them yourself.

    If you are interested, let me know and I can tell you where I bought the cane and the tutorials/info I have. I'm halfway through doing it myself for some barrel cane chairs and, while it's not super easy, it's certainly doable.