By Dawn Hoiem
It’s at least crossed your mind. That discarded item set out by the side of the road, free for the taking. You glance in your rearview mirror. You wonder what’s wrong with it. It looks like it might have some life left.
That’s how it started for me.
It was a Thonet bentwood rocker. My sister was in town and we were heading to lunch. “That’s cute,” she said. “Yeah, it will never still be there when we come back,” I replied. About two hours later and there it was. She convinced me it would make a fun project for us to work on together during her visit, so we got my husband’s truck and loaded it in the back. It had a hole in the seat but otherwise it was sturdy, which was good since my repair skills are limited.
After about 20 minutes of sanding, the fun had worn off for my sister. She returned home and the rocker sat in the garage for several months. I thought about setting it down by my curb but decided I’d get around to it eventually.
Finally, one weekend my husband was out of town, so I started to sand. Once I got going, I picked up a little momentum. I took the seat apart and went to the hardware store and bought some wood to replace the cane seating and some spray paint. I wanted a bright, fun color, and turquoise has been my go-to happy color for years. Then I headed to a craft store for some padding and fabric.
I had no need for this rocking chair and no place to put it. But it seemed like a worthy project and maybe, if I did a good enough job, I could sell it and at least get get back the $30 I had already put into it.
The coat of spray primer didn’t do much to motivate me, but I had come too far at that point. So, I soldiered on. And then it happened – those first few sprays of turquoise was all it took to convince me that this was going to turn out really cute.
It took about three coats of paint – four cans – and I had to flip the chair over and around to make sure all of the nooks, crannies and curves were covered.
I dug out an old jigsaw of my husband’s, which had belonged to his dad and hadn’t been touched in over a decade. I cut the seat out of some wood, put foam on top and covered it. A little cording, and the seat was good to go.
Figuring out how to secure the seat to the chair was my biggest issue. I headed back to the hardware store and found some L-brackets that were short enough to fit. Securing the seat to the chair by myself was a little tricky. It wasn’t perfectly centered, but by this point I knew this baby was going in my living room, so I didn’t stress over it.
In the end I was happy, not just with how fun this rocking chair turned out, but that I had managed to use some power tools and make my vision a reality.
Now, it’s my favorite piece of furniture and it’s added a lot of personality to the living room. We rarely have a visitor who doesn’t comment on what a great chair it is.
This was not a complicated project. If I can do it, so can you. If you pick something up off of the side of the road, then you’re playing with house money. You’re not out anything if you “mess it up,” so next time, don’t just drive on by. Stop. Give it a try. You might just end up with a new favorite piece of furniture.
The writer is a transportation communications specialist when she isn’t filling her garage with furniture renovation projects.