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Why It’s Worth Getting a Pro to Reupholster Your Mid-Century Furniture

My Danish teak chairs are much better for it.

I’ve had a set of Danish teak dining chairs for about 10 years or so. They were a Craigslist find from someone’s mom who was getting rid of them for $10 a pop. I flipped them over, saw the Made in Denmark/Sax stamp on the bottom, and snapped them up—despite the hideously ’80s swirly burgundy fabric on it.

It took me another five years to finally attempt my own DIY recovering of the seats—knowing nothing other than the fact that a staple gun (which I borrowed from this here office) was required for the task. Removing the old staples and fabric seemed near-impossible and, I thought, it would just mean more cushioning, right?

Wrong. While I did a decent enough job making a smooth surface on the seating, underneath was a disaster. And it made it impossible to get screws to keep the seats attached to the chair itself. Every week my cleaning person would sweep up another random screw from the floor, and the seats became just free-floating risky death traps for anyone to sit on.

My terrible stapling job. My sock too.

A friend recommended I chat with Mark Cocar of Icon Mfg., who specializes in mid-century furniture—both recovering it and designing it himself. Mark had me send him shots of the seats (easy to do, since none of them were attached anymore), and quoted me $45 a seat, including fresh foam, labour and a nice fabric in the $25 to $30 per yard range. Game on!

I visited Mark at his Parker Street Studios workshop on the 3rd floor, and it’s a window into a magic worker. You’ll see the prototypes he’s working on, the projects he’s in the process of making beautiful again, and a few that are waiting for inspiration—including a vinyl-covered sofa that was once in the lobby of the Cobalt.

Tools and projects in Icon Mfg.’s workshop.
The sofa from the Cobalt. Oh the stories it’s seen.

Next up was selecting the fabric. It was a tough decision, and I came back twice to take fabric books home, to see how it worked in the light in my apartment. There are a lot of fabric books to choose from!

So. Many. Fabrics.

Finally, I went with a lilac shade—something bright and poppy in my white and black kitchen. Mark ordered the fabric, and had the seats back to me within a few days. He discovered a third layer of fabric under the two I knew about—the original vinyl. They’re significantly lighter now, and cushier thanks to the fresh foam. And best of all, the seats stay attached to the frame.

AND I LOVE THEM.

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