There’s nothing more fun than taking an old piece of furniture and giving it a new lease on life. So when my daughter took on a friend’s home renovation project, I was presented with a unique opportunity. (Ok, fine – I invited myself into the project. I am that mom). My daughter and dear friend were very gracious to let me.
What Really Happened
While doing a walk-through of the home with my daughter, a pair of Louis XV round-back chairs sitting in a dusty corner of the garage caught my eye. The owner wanted to find a way to use them, but for some reason, the cross-stitched floral upholstering did not fit the modern vibe he was after.
So with his permission (and my daughter’s), I took it upon myself to reupholster these two “granny” chairs. And yes, I made sure to stay out of my daughter’s way. I’m not that bad, ok.
In Lou of Flowers
As you already know, the main reason these chairs were sitting in the garage was the soft pastel shade of floral bouquet fabric gracing the chair. It just did not fit the updated and modern feel of the owner’s bachelor pad.
If you’re like me, you probably wondering what the deal is with King Louis’ curvaceous style. So I did a little digging.
One thing is for sure, history is a real trip.
A Trip Down Louis Lane
In every era, art and design have been influenced by current events. Louis XV’s characteristically lavish and embellished style was no different, and it changed throughout his life.
Also, King Louis XV was not so different from us. Just like you may not appreciate your parents’ taste in furniture, the young king didn’t like his predecessor’s heavy and geometric (clunky) decor. That, and the fact that he also wanted to bring the outside inside, helps explain all those beautiful curves.
Gardens were a big deal during that era. The bigger and fancier the garden, the cooler the king. Hence, lots of garden parties!
Water features were the most important part of any garden. Why? I can give you a couple of reasons – no electricity and no DJ! So, architects of that time had to use gravity to design ALL their fountains. They even figured out how to make the fountains sound like music.
That’s pretty amazing if you think about it, but that’s not all.
When Louis XV finally got a chance to influence the palace interior design, the rocaille style was born. The trimmed-down rocaille design mimicked natural forms like seashells and curving fountains of water. Louis also removed horizontal struts from his chairs and table legs.
All the archeological discoveries in Rome and Greece further influenced the rocaille style by introducing elements like fluted columns into trim and moldings.
So, now you know! The thing is, Louis lived in the 1700s. How do you take something that old and give it a new life?
It took a little time to strip off the old fabric and thoroughly clean each chair. The stuffing and wood frame underneath was in great shape. So, I decided to leave the underlying fabric in place and clean up the wood details with a damp rag.
Even without the decidedly feminine colors and design, the chair itself was curvaceous for a room full of clean lines, leather-clad seating, hardwoods, and masculine tones. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do anything about the chair’s shape without damaging its historical value, so I chose to experiment with fabric.
Old With The New
The owner already had a lot of heirloom furniture in the dining area of his open-concept living space. I needed to tie some of the modern styles with some of the more vintage pieces in the room.
Fabric is a great way to tie elements together. So, I settled on a “gentlemen’s lounge” vibe for the seat and the back of the chair. For this, I chose upholstery fabric with a clean and open plaid pattern.
The best I saved for last – the seatback.
A Touch of Whimsy
These particular round-back chairs traditionally have a large embroidered motif in the center of the backrest. So I thought it would be fun to play off of that idea. I found several whimsical centerpieces like a fun farm-style rooster and a motorcycle as options.
Discovering that the owner was an avid motorcycle enthusiast made that choice simple.
Yes, I made up that word. You know – Versailles (pronounced ver-sigh) and style equal versa-style!
Anyway, it perfectly describes the finished pair of chairs that were now functional and a conversation piece in one. I mean, who else has a couple of embroidered Harley’s on their round-back chairs? One thing was for sure; they no longer looked like “grandma” chairs.
The combination of curves and geometric patterns also helped unify the design elements in the room. Who knew the King of Versailles could be so versatile!
One thing, though – no good project goes down without a hitch. I did make one little big mistake.
In my hurry to begin my project, I didn’t take a before photo of the chairs. Always take a “before” pic! Lesson learned, but I did manage to find a look-alike. The chair above gives you an idea of the before and now; here’s is how the project turned out!
Hopefully, I got the king’s seal of approval. And even if I didn’t, the owner loved his chairs, and that’s what matters.
Thank you for reading, and I look forward to seeing your own project photos and ideas. Don’t forget to comment, share, and stay tuned for more!