Re-Styling a Classic Kroehler


There was recently some discussion on my Facebook page about whether or not a classic Kroehler chair needed to be reupholstered, or if it was perfect in its original state.

The two schools of thought seem to be:

1. Vintage furniture ought to remain intact and as original as possible in order to preserve its integrity and authenticity. [Or, it’s great as it is!]

2. Vintage furniture, with its solid foundation, makes a great jumping off point for creating one-of-a-kind treasures. [Or, it could be so much better!]

I think we all know where I stand on this issue.

This little beauty was brought to me by a client practically minutes after I posted a similar style on Facebook. I like to use my Facebook page to show examples of free and nearly-free awesome vintage furniture on Kijiji…in the hopes that someone else will rescue it and give it a new home. It’s almost as though I asked the universe for this Kroehler chair project, and my request was granted!

After I made sure the client was on board, I decided to make some changes to the style of the chair.

20130719-085333.jpgThe chair was originally very boxy and flat. After 40 or so years of use, a seat will flatten out and require extra padding, though I believe this chair was meant to have a very square look.

20130720-074829.jpgI carefully removed the Kroehler tag on the back of the chair (to put back on once finished), and removed the wood plugs so I could unscrew the wood pieces.

20130719-114322.jpgThe only way to properly reupholster these chairs is to remove the wood. Removal is simple; just unscrew the nuts on the seat and in the back.

20130720-080338.jpgThe pieces look like this once the chair has been stripped down.

20130720-080129.jpgI refinished the wood using these products.

20130720-080532.jpgMy decision was to make the sides just a little more curvy, and change the piping detail. This will not change the design of the chair; Re-design implies that the frame of the chair has been altered while Re-style is merely a surface change. I made a cardboard template of the new shape of the side, and used it to pad the chair to the new shape. These templates were also used to cut the fabric.

20130720-082533.jpgPadding is achieved with cotton felt and bonded polyester.

20130720-082635.jpgWhen figuring how I am going to tweak a piece of furniture, I take the client (and the small amount of info I have about them), the design of the piece, and the chosen fabric into account. For instance, a great deal of information can be gleaned from asking a client what they most love about their piece. That answer, combined with the fabric choice – in this case a steely grey – gives me the inspiration I need. With this chair, I want to highlight the modern look, keep clean lines, but make it more contemporary. The choice of fabric makes me want to remove fussy details, so I tried the seat with top stitching instead of piping, but felt it was lacking character. Piping was definitely the way to go with this chair.


20130720-150238.jpgI used the same cardboard template to cut the sides of the back, so it would have the same rounded shape as the seat.

20130720-150440.jpgAfter I reassembled the pieces, the finished result looks much more refined than the original.

20130720-150836.jpgSo, what do you think of the changes? Do you prefer the original boxy look, or my curvier version?

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