Curators’ stories – Bringing dining chairs from the 1960s back to life
Vintage – what a pleasure it is! All those histories of craftsmanship, the layers of genuine patina that add to each story and every piece involve a real voyage of discovery. As we love vintage so much, we are introducing a new series to our blog – Curators’ stories. We will ask our professional sellers about some of the sourcing and restoration stories behind their favourite finds.
Today, Oliver from Alto Stile presents these beautiful six Italian dining chairs. You can found them on Vinterior here.
How did you come across these chairs ? How did you source them?
I was down in Italy on a buying trip and attended the auction where these six dining chairs were for sale. When I viewed the sale they instantly struck me as a great set, a lovely piece of design with beautiful patina and colour.
It was not easy at the auction I speak only a few words of Italian and the auction moved quickly so I took a leap of faith and kept bidding against 3 other people, 2 in the room and one on the phone and eventually won them.
I loaded them into the van and made my way to Milan to pick up a few other pieces (The Paolo Buffa coffee table I am selling as well) and then drove through the day and night to Calais to catch the ferry back to the UK.
What type of work did you have to do in order to bring back the chairs to life?
On closer inspection I could see they were going to need a bit of work to bring them back to their former glory. Firstly the upholstery had to be totally redone so I stripped of and discarded the original Skai upholstery and removed the felt inner padding, webbing and springs which had become worn out over time.
Once I was back to the bare shell of the chairs I could begin to french polish them. This is a hard and lengthy process where you very gradually apply a shellac lacquer to seal and protect the wood, and allow a high shine finish. This is the traditional method of applying a finish to wood and although more time consuming than modern methods builds up a superior colour and shine to the piece.
How long did it take?
This is done over a few weeks as you have to let the french polish set before re applying, you dilute down the mixture by adding more methylated spirits till you achieve the shine you desire.
What did you do next?
Then I could turn my attention to the upholstery, I re-applied new hessian webbing and inserted the spring between them tying them in place. Then I attached the top padding and new wool felt to make the cushion soft and comfortable as they had been upholstered originally. Next I applies a undersheet to hold all in place and so the chair conforms to fire regulations and finally added the top green velvet. I saved the original metal studs from the chairs which I reused in the new upholstery. Finally I polished up the frame to really bring the colour and shine out of the french polish, finished off the underside with a white calico fabric and they were finally done.
Tell us about your business, Alto Stile
In my business Alto Stile, I concentrate on Scandinavian and Italian furniture from the 1940’s to the 1970’s, a groundbreaking period in design, which really interests me. I source from the Continent so I can find pieces rarely seen in this country and undertake restoration and reupholstery to bring them back to their former glory, to look beautiful and be ready to go to a new home.