Frugal House 2013 – Fundraiser for the North State Symphony

My latest project has had to have been the quickest, most complex, stressful, and thoroughly enjoyed project in a long time. I have made seat covers before but that was simply covering a seat, not draping and drafting seat covers for six chairs from the 1970s. But hey, if I can dress myself and other people in historical garments, why not a chair?

The Frugal House is a fantastic fundraiser for the North State Symphony. It brings together designers and crafters in a collaborative effort to fill an empty house with refurbished, renewed, recycled, donated and DIY items. Each room of the house is selected by a team of designers or crafters who decorate their chosen room in a style of choice with the intension of every single item being available for sale. I had known about the event from inception but had never participated until this year when I was approached by the designers working on the dinning room. Well, approached is maybe too formal, I was basically sucked in, and happily so.

It started with six donated chairs that looked better suited for a boudoir than a dinning room. They were big and white, heavily padded with scrolling seat backs, skirting, and bullion trim. Not at all designed for the theme of industrial chic. I took one look at them and decided they would be much more of a hassle to rip apart than a chair with bare bones – and I knew where to find a set of six. Enter the chairs, circa 1970. This set was part of my parent’s dinette set when they were first married. They had been living in the barn attic for roughly thirteen years, collecting tons of dirt and being completely wasted. They were screaming to get out, to be used, remade into something spectacular. Bonus that my parent’s gave their blessing.

Totted out of the barn, they were cleaned off for assessment. Terribly dirty, they were still in perfect condition to be reused and I have to say, I felt no regrets in ripping into those suckers. Literally. Armed with my trusty box cutter, pliers, and goggles I went to work demolishing the first dining room chairs I had ever known. A pile of chair skin later, I found the bones and began reconstruction. The legs were steel wooled and painted, and the batting for the seats and seat-backs were folded and stapled on. There was even a time when I was wrestling to staple the batting to the backs where I actually dislodged one of my back right ribs. Thought I had tweaked a muscle really bad, nope, just a rib. My god-send chiropractor fixed that problem (bless her!).

Not exactly a standard square back, I found myself draping the fabric of the seat covers over the trapezoid backs to get a nice, snug fit. And repeated for the rest since each chair was slightly different. Though the batting thickness was the same for each chair, folding and pulling and stapling made slight changes to measurements. Easy to work with and quickly adjusted, the draping was merely a simple aspect of the project. Getting a pattern to fit the seats that would connect smoothly to the seat backs, slightly trickier. My intention was to have enough excess fabric to tuck between the seat and back so it would not pull out but remain snug and smooth along the seat back and around the sides. It was a challenge to get right and a lot of finagling occurred, but finally it all came together. Attaching the matching piping and 4 yards of pleated skirting to each chair seat was an added challenge that completed the look, taking a drab 1970s chair to a whole new level of sophistication. But that was not enough. To completely, complete the look and add that bit of industrial chic-quality, I numbered each chair with antique numbers, transferring the images using the CitraSolv method.

But that’s not all, I also sewed double-sided napkins, burlap napkin rings, and burlap placemats to finish the linens for the fantastic amazing table the team designed. They used an old door, stripped it, repainted it, created a little scene with people where the lock used to be, and covered it with tempered glass. The end result was an awesome combination of vintage and whimsy.

So really, our room took on the spirit of frugality where most of everything was DIY using what was donated. Even the light fixture, another item snatched from the barn, was painted and remade into a fabulous chandelier using mason jars. Side-note, the light had once belonged to Lily, my great-grandmother and had graced her small living room way before I was born. My grandmother said Lily would have been very happy to see it refurbished into something totally new and inventive. She was a DIY, frugal gal herself.

The room was a great success at the event. The chairs were sold for $300, the linens were all sold, as well as the table and light. The plate sets that had been specially etched by a team member were also sold, along with the chalkboard chargers, curtains, painted children’s chairs, artwork, and much more. The room was awesome and well received and the whole event was a smashing success with the entire house looking superb.

Take a look and see what our team accomplished in roughly two and a half weeks:

Chairs and Table - Frugal House 2013

Chairs and Table – Frugal House 2013


Chair with napkin and napkin ring. The plates were etched by another designer and the black charger is actually a chalkboard.

Chair No. 4 - a little wrinkled but still looking great
Chair No. 4 – a little wrinkled but still looking great

If you would like more information on this event here is a link to their page:


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