Vintage Bent Plywood Chair

While a good part of my job in the furniture makeover itself, I also spend a lot of time finding cool furniture.  Now I get to go to thrift stores and garage sales and call it work.  I also have a lot of helpers who are friends and family that give me a call if they find something they think I might like.

My Aunt Sharon spotted a chair that was on the way to the landfill and looked pretty bad.   She sent me a picture text and I told her to grab it.  I really liked the clean lines and curves.  Here is the before:

Please note the lovely, grungy and scratched finish.  And that upholstery is just gross.

Step one, dismantle.  A word of advice when faced with a chair built like a jigsaw puzzle that has 6 separate wood parts and 30 screws – take pictures before you take it apart.  That way you will know where everything goes when you put it back together.  Don’t tell yourself that you will remember.  You won’t.  Instead you will curse and put things together and take them apart a bunch of times before it all works.  I took pictures and I still had a problem.  Each set of legs looks identical but they each bend a certain way.  And that upside down “u” piece that goes between them only works in one direction.  16 screws in and then out, legs switched and then back in.

Here we have were not one but two layers of gross upholstery.  One layer even has old upholstery tacks instead of staples.


Once everything was apart I stripped off the finish with Soygel.  Next I sanded all the parts to get a clean slate.

Then all work halted.  I had no idea what to do with this one.  Usually I see something and know exactly what I want to do with it but this one had me stumped.  Before it was stripped, I wanted to paint it cobalt blue but once I saw how pretty the wood was  I couldn’t do it.  This is a bent plywood chair and the layers of wood are such a great detail.  Thonet was a famous maker of these chairs but I there are no markings to tell if this is one of his.  There is a sliver of the original tag underneath but it’s not much help.

I have stained a bunch of things walnut lately and wanted to branch out. While I was making a bunch of samples of stain on small boards to use as samples, I really liked the oak.  I thought it was a nice light brown.

Well here is another word of advice – stain looks different on different wood.  My sample board is birch and very white.  This chair is not.  While the chair looked beautiful it really didn’t match the upholstery I was going to use.  I finished the stain and covered it with PolyWhey in semigloss.  And then work halted.

I had now been working on this chair since the beginning of April.  And then one day I looked at  SwankySwell’s shop on Etsy.  There you will find original designs on organic fabric.  I saw one that was perfect.  And work resumed.

So here is the after.



A close up of the bent plywood legs.


And here is a shot of the back.  You can see a little better how all the parts get connected.  The chair is available in our shop which you can check out here.


Linked up to:

Miss Mustard Seed

Redoux Interiors

My Repurposed Life


  1. joann

    nice save!

  2. denise

    I love the chair, it is perfect. I am a huge fan of mid-century pieces myself..I had no luck lately in finding some that are affordable, but I am always on the look. The fabric is perfect, thank you so much for the link, I might use it in the near future.
    Great work!

    1. The Ridiculous Redhead (Post author)

      Thanks Denise! It took me a long time to figure out what fabric was going to work. I’m not sure how it is where you are but I have seen a lot of mid century on craigslist. Good luck!

  3. Karen

    This is just a gorgeous makeover. Thank you so much for sharing. I am featuring tomorrow at my party. -K

    1. The Ridiculous Redhead (Post author)

      Yay!!! Thank you so much for stopping by and for the feature!

  4. cassie

    it’s gorgeous! i love the fabric- it totally suits the chair!

    1. The Ridiculous Redhead (Post author)

      Thank you so much!

  5. Athena at Minerva's Garden

    Hi Kelly: What a lovely chair transformation–I like the shade of stain that you selected, and the fabric is so pretty!


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