Wear Out Your Chairs

I was alarmed to recently discover that the fabric on one of our dining room chairs had worn out, revealing the foam padding underneath. In fact, I tried to deny the issue by stitching the hole together and moving that chair to a spot seldom occupied. When a second seat developed a hole, I had to face the facts.

As we moved into our home nearly twelve years ago, my husband and I selected a beautiful new table with six chairs and a china closet for our new dining room. While the construction remains solid, I admit that I only looked at the pretty pattern of the fabric in 2005 without considering its durability.

Years ago, when the vinyl seat covers of some of our chairs split open, we opted to purchase a replacement set.  This time, reupholstering was the answer, so I checked with friends about who to call and started browsing through fabrics. The two of us were still sitting on perfectly good cushions, though, and didn’t feel much urgency to get the work done. I ordered a few samples from on-line stores, but weeks went by until a deadline presented itself.  (Deadlines are often-needed motivators for us. Last year I decided that we would install a long-overdue handrail in our stairway just three days prior to my mom’s weekend visit. Dave was a good sport, enlisting a handy friend’s help to complete my hastily planned project.)

This time, I gave about six weeks’ notice, telling him that I wanted the chairs ready for my Bunco group’s gathering in June.  As he wondered aloud whether we could get someone to complete the work in that time frame, I shared that I would love it if we could do them ourselves. We decided that if he could figure out a way to remove a seat, we would attempt our first upholstery project. He rounded up the necessary tools and I ordered the fabric.

On the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, we worked together, with him removing seats while I measured and cut fabric. I then carefully stretched the pieces tightly over the old fabric for him to staple in place.

The first one was nerve wracking, mostly because I wanted them to look professionally done even though we were completely inexperienced! It turned out pretty well. (We went back later to fix one little thing.)

Old on the left – New on the right

Feeling more confident, we did another chair that day and the remaining four on Sunday. With the Monday holiday to spare, we successfully completed the project.

As I researched fabrics, I realized that a more heavy duty material would outlast the original quilting-style fabric. That made our task of achieving a smooth fit a little harder, but I hope that it will be decades before I notice any holes.

Our dining room chairs have always been well used. In each of our homes, we have set up a table near or in the kitchen for family meals and have not opted for a formal dining room. We are on our third table (fourth if you consider our kids’ table).


Son, Eric, on the right and friend, Jeff, on the left in 1988.

Our first table came from my grandma’s home in 1984.

Our first purchased set lasted until 2005 after these chairs were replaced.

Our current table with the newly re-upholstered chairs.

Gathering these photos, I was surprised at the sentimentality I felt about all of the times we’ve used our chairs.  Most of our family meals have been simple, but we have been nourished physically, relationally, and spiritually as we have made it a priority to eat together after bowing in thankful prayer. With our kids grown and on their own now, only two chairs get used these days, but I treasure the meals that Dave and I share at home and our evening games of Quiddler played at our table.

I’m convinced, and research backs it up, that families who eat together are more likely to flourish. A 2014 article from The Atlantic states, “children who do eat dinner with their parents five or more days a week have less trouble with drugs and alcohol, eat healthier, show better academic performance, and report being closer with their parents than children who eat dinner with their parents less often, according to a study conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.”

So, wear out your chairs! I’ll let you know if we hang out our upholstering shingle.



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