{Mid-century} remake

I just finished the third load of pool towels and I smile as I think about chairs filled around the big table and a great afternoon celebrating dads and summer’s arrival.  Indeed, it was a happy Father’s Day.

The last car headed out of the woods this morning and at least I didn’t weep or at most, blubber.  I’m finally getting the hang of these kids who swoop in and out bringing delight and days with a new kitten.  Three hours north or three hours south is not a bad deal.  I’ll take it.

I do, however, leave good-sized projects on tap for days such as this, when I need a distraction from the suddenly empty house where just yesterday little girls learned how to dive and we ate way too many popsicles.  It was an excellent first day of summer with my people.  And you know who you are…Kathy, Don, Tif, Clay, Cameron, June, Tracy, Joel, Matt, Nellie and Eddy.

Now back to Monday…

Chief and I recently enjoyed the Old Town Market and came home with many treasures.  Some of my favorites include these Evansville pints by Steadfast Media,


and my new Evansville Brewing Association Shirts by Evansville Design Group.  If you’re from Evansville or you live here, you need these things too, take it from me.

We also picked up two mid-century, white leather and chrome chairs which we are in serious love with.  I just ended that sentence with a preposition but I don’t care.

They were in decent shape when we bought them but in desperate need of a good wash.  I saved their cleanup and restoration for today, when I needed that fore-mentioned distraction from the empty nest.  That, and Chief wants to use them as props in the studio.  Tomorrow.

Here’s how it went down:

First, always, ALWAYS test your cleaning products on a spot that is hidden (bottom is best) to make sure that what you are using will not bleach, fade, or damage the fabric, leather, or metal you are cleaning.  While these particular products worked well for me on these particular chairs, you need to test them or other cleaners yourself on the exact item you are attempting to clean.

Tip #1:  It’s easy to get overwhelmed with cleaning and restoration projects on antiques and vintage treasures.  Divide the job into subtasks so you’ll feel success and progress from the get-go.  For example, these chairs had leather cushions that were tufted into sections.  It was easy to divide the cleaning job for each cushion into sections and move on from there.  Yay!  Section 1 is done!  Yay!  Section 2 is done!  I require constant reinforcement.  Maybe you do, too.  It really helps.

Pass #1:  Using 1 cup of Windex to 1 gallon of water, I lightly wiped the sectioned area I was going to clean with a soft wash cloth that had been wrung out well.


Just like she told you in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” this stuff fixes everything.  This wipe got the surface dirt and prepared the leather for the next step.

Pass #2:  I sprayed each sectioned area with this magical elixir:


See, it even says, “foam lifts dirt and grime” right there on the front of the bottle.  That’s just what I needed. Grime.  Lots of grime here.


Believe it or not, I use Scrubbing Bubbles for a whole lot of cleaning chores.  What I especially like about this product is the fact that it sprays kind-of-foamy so it sticks where I put it.  Once again, I tested this product on the underneath side of the cushion to make sure that there would be no issues.

I sprayed the Scrubbing Bubbles on quite liberally and then took God’s greatest tool, fingers, and worked that bubbling scrubber into every crack and crevice of those pipe-edged sections, working it good into the seams and around each covered button.


If you are squeamish or have an expensive manicure, wear plastic gloves while doing this part.  I’m in garden dirt all summer so my fingernails are wrecked anyway, and besides, I need to FEEL that surface so I go with bare hands.  With lots of moisturizer later.

Now, sit for just a minute, reaching for your favorite cold beverage, while that stuff does the work.

Pass #3:  Again with the wrung-out Windex washcloth, I removed most of the cleaner and dirt, working the seams and corners really well.  Rinse and wring often on this step.

Pass #4:  Using Bounty paper towels, because they are the most absorbant and lint-free, I did a final trip around each section, again working under and around the piping and buttons.


Hopefully you you can see the difference between the unwashed square in the foreground and the two cleaned sections directly behind it.  Grime gone and clean enough to to eat on.  Not really.  But pretty clean and shiny.

Tip #2, also related to motivation because we all need motivation:  I cleaned one complete chair, reassembled it, and sat it in front of me so that I could be inspired by its beauty while cleaning the second one.  Whatever works for you.  Keep going.  Don’t give up.


With eight sections done, I moved onto the next eight sections, then the sides, then the solid back, following the same sequence each time.  Bam.  Before I knew it, cushion one was done.

Tip #3:  Do the biggest, most difficult parts first.  Save the easier sections as rewards.  After cleaning the tufted sections with all the nooks and crummy crannies, I got a break with the ease of the smooth sides and back.

Pass #5:  Using a clean, soft washcloth, I gently buffed the leather with this:


Bick 4 is a great leather cleaner and conditioner.  We discovered it at Boot City near Terre Haute.  Have you been to Boot City?  You really should check it out.

There were four cushion sections in all (back and seat x 2) and then the frames with leather strapping that were easily cleaned using the same sequence.  All in all, the process took a little over an hour and some elbow grease.  Chief will remove the little bit of rust on the bottom of the frame and shine it up with some of his Harley chrome polish.



Just in time for his 10:00 am on Tuesday.

And don’t you just love the fact that mid-century, vintage furniture is all the rage right now?  Mid-century, which is my CHILDHOOD.  Yikes.  But I feel so much better now.


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