Sitting on the side of the road, left in a dark street or shoved in the back of a garage — chairs of all shapes and sizes are located and return to life courtesy of Andrea Mihalik. Working out of her studio, Wild Chairy, at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Mihalik reinvents lost designs using a no-holds-barred strategy and most of ecofriendly materials. Employing old-world tactics and new patterns, she generates boldly designed chairs that not only look good but feel great too.
Curious about what is needed to create these wonderful layouts? We sat down with this reupholstery whiz to select her brain on her favourite endeavors, ecofriendly reupholstering and tips for DIYers.
Q. How can you begin doing this?
A. I got started in upholstery almost 3 decades back. In my career, I was a photojournalist, traveling the globe shooting everything from popes to presidents. Upholstery sort of found me. My husband gave me an upholstery book for Christmas composed by Matthew Haly of the Furniture Joint. At the rear of the book it said that he gave classes, so I signed up and drove to New York every Saturday to take the class. I was hooked and knew that I wanted to continue to learn more, so I turned into a 44-year-old intern in BDDW at Philadelphia, working free of charge for four weeks to give me the skills I needed to head out in my.
BEFORE: Mihalik discovered this incredible 1930s wingback chair on the sidewalk when picking up her daughter from a buddy’s house. It was in poor shape, but the timeless shape prompted a makeover. She dragged it home, believing she’d have it reupholstered for her own house. Now, after fixing it up herself, she has put it into her own inventory.
AFTER: The rear of the chair is upholstered with Designer’s Guild fabric; the front is coated with a British herringbone fabric. The contrasting fabrics include the masculine and feminine notes Milhalik desired.
BEFORE: Mihalik bought this chair with an auction. She wished to maintain the framework intact and took her time finding the ideal fabric to complement the wood’s color.
Q. What was the primary chair you redesigned?
A. The initial chairs that I ever redesigned were four Queen Anne dining room chairs that I painted and painted black. I filled the seats with horsehair and cotton and coated them with vintage java bean sacks out of South America. A customer in Texas wished to buy them, but I just couldn’t sell them, because I did not think they were good enough. I am very picky about the standard of work that I do — it needs to be perfect, or I will not sell it. I still have those Queen Anne chairs hanging on the wall in my studio to remind me of how far I’ve come.
AFTER: Now titled Paradise Punch, the chair has a brand-new look as a result of a glowing Trina Turk fabric.
Q. What sets you apart from other designers and upholsterers?
A. My techniques are earth friendly and green. I use old-world techniques, such as eight-way hand-tied coil springs, and I fill all my chairs with horsehair rather than foam. Foam is coated with flame-retardant chemicals, which are carcinogens and lead to cancer; additionally, it doesn’t last nearly as long as horsehair and sits in landfills for decades before decomposing. Though my techniques are more time consuming and expensive, I feel good about protecting people and the surroundings.
BEFORE: Mihalik fell in love with this 19th-century Eastlake armchair with an auction. Much like Paradise Punch, she knew instantly that she wanted to maintain the seat’s gorgeous frame exactly as it was.
Q. What are 3 things you’d suggest to somebody who would like to reupholster a chair themselves?
A. There are a few tricks that you could do in order to make reupholstering a chair easier if you would like to try it yourself. First get a book on upholstery or hunt online videos for a project similar to yours. Another fantastic suggestion is to photograph the chair as you take it apart so that you can observe how it was initially put together, and you can reference your photos while you work on it. Also, save the first fabric that has been on the piece — you can use it as a blueprint for your new material.
AFTER: Although it is currently covered in the same Trina Turk fabric as Paradise Punch, this stunning chair includes a black, white and yellow palette to better match the framework’s original color. Mihalik turned the pattern to better match the seat’s shape.
Q. When if someone attempt to fix up a chair for a DIY project, and when should it move into a professional?
A. People need to hire professional to reupholster their chair if the springs are coming across the base of the chair or if the seat is dented in and saggy. You want your chair to provide comfortable support when you sit in it.