Upcycling Henri II chairs

You may have noticed the top of my fancy chairs in some of the pictures you can see on this blog. These are chairs I upcycled a while back, and I’ve been meaning for so long to talk about them, because, well, I think they are pretty!

Henri II chairs upcycled

Henry II Style

Henry II was a French king who reigned from 1547 until his death in 1559. His wife is probably even more famous than he was as she was Catherine de Medici. But this is irrelevant here.

The Henry II style was an important furniture style evolution which lasted far beyond Henry II reign. However, today, when referring to Henry II furniture style, people mostly refer to the renaissance revival period of the 19th century. Well, because 16th century furniture is rare now and probably belongs to castles and museums.

Just like with many other trends, renaissance style was revived in the 19th century for our greatest pleasure today!

How old are these chairs?

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you precisely. They could have been created in 1840 but just as likely, in 1914, as the Henry II style production lasted quite a while.

Experts could probably answer such question by examining the wood used, looking for clues in the carving and in the leather work. However considering what I’ve done with them, I’m not really bothered by their exact age. I just like them.

Upcycling Henri II chairs - back detail
The red fabric is actually darker than on the pictures and I love it!

I kind of feel that I’ve destroyed them!

By upcycling them the way I did, I kind of feel that I’ve destroyed them. The gold paint could be fairly easily removed if necessary but the leather is mostly gone as it was way too damaged to be salvaged. And I’ve sold the original nails – I didn’t know I still had them and found them a couple months back at my dad’s place, way after I did what I did.

Well what is done is done and this kind of chair has little value anyway, since they were ‘mass’ produced at the time.

Generally now, I do prefer things that are restored rather than up-cycled.

The one thing I particularly like about them

There are a couple things I really like about them, but the one very specific thing that I appreciate most is that these are slightly higher than modern chairs!

My table is, for some reasons, slightly higher than a standard table. It might be because of the thickness of the wood. It might be a deliberate choice from the creator. I don’t know. Never-the-less, when I sat on a regular chair and tried to sit at the table, I was way too low. A bit like a 5 years old without their cushion!

With those chairs, I look like an adult! Hooray!

Yes, they are a conversation starter! They are not uncommon and yet most people have never seen chairs like those, and notice them right away!

Indeed I like the mismatch around my solid wood table. The table is made of old recycled timbers and has a kind of ‘old farm house’ look. The UK company who creates those, also does the chairs but that would have been too much for me.

My dad gave them to me, so that’s just one more reason to like them.

The up-cycling process

The bad up-cycling process actually started years ago! When my dad gave me such chairs, we removed the seating parts which were way too damaged and nailed a wood board in their place.

Yes I know! Terrible idea! It looked pretty bad too.

So the chairs ended up in my basement in apartment 1, 2, 3 and 4! I moved a lot and these chairs moved too. For some reasons, I never wanted to part with them, despite the fact that I never sat on them or even saw them, expect when moving.

Then the table came and eventually apartment 5 came, with more room and the need of new chairs.

I was actually going to buy new chairs but because of the height of the table, was unable to. One day I got one of those Henry II chairs from the basement and realized they solve the issue. So on to continuing the up-cycling work!

Let me first confirm it isn’t a mind blowing process!

So I first painted 2 of the chairs in gold. Not too much, as I didn’t want to make them look like solid gold.

Then I started on the cushion by cutting a heavy cotton sheet way too big. I nailed it lightly to the back and the side, the best I could and left the front open to insert the cushioning material.

Upcycling Henri II chairs - work in progress
bad picture of the underlining! It’s the only picture I have when you can still see some of the leather at the top.

Once I understood how the fabric needed to behave, especially in the angles, I took it off and cut it to the appropriate size (I cut 2 to have a model for the next chair) and then proceeded to nail it properly.

The one think I made sure of is that most of the tension was going to be on this layer of fabric. Not only the top layer fabric is not as strong (especially the jungle theme one!) but the upholstery nails are a bit more delicate and, in my opinion and in these circumstances, should only hold the top layer.

I cut the top layer fabric the same shape as the bottom layer and nailed it with the upholstery nails. Respecting the distance between nails and correct height placement was the hardest part. So not super difficult even if one or 2 nails went a bit astray.

Upcycling Henri II chairs - nails placement is the hardest part
Nail placing is the hardest!

And that’s it. And you know what? They are surprisingly comfortable despite the wooden board and all!!

The mismatch chairs and fabric

I didn’t have enough of the tiger print fabric to do 3 chairs. I was a bit annoyed to not be able to finish the last chair. So I didn’t even paint it.

Later, I realized I didn’t want all 3 to be the same! When I found the red fabric, I knew. And just a bit later I found 2 more chairs! Heaven!!

Upcycled Henri II chairs
A mix of prints, red, gold and original wood!

Yes, I only have 5 chairs now as I wanted to find a Henry II armchair to preside at the table. At last, I let the best possible opportunity pass and didn’t get the one I wanted.

Oh well, I’m sure it will come with appartement 6!

The cost of such up-cycling

Since I had no clue of what I was doing I didn’t want to spend money on expensive fabric. So I didn’t and mostly used what I had.

The tiger printed fabric came from a costume made for a ‘jungle’ party. Sooo not appropriate for chairs! It has proven to be far more durable than I had expected.

The red fabric came from my parents’ house, I think.

As for the white fabric I used underneath, it was an old table cloth or something like that.

The cushioning material is old pillow fluff and some scrap fabric.

And finally the gold paint was in my stash of paint. It’s not even specifically for wood.

Did I buy something? Yes the upholstery nails! So I think I spent something like 6 euros in total.

Upcycling Henri II chairs

The take out

Well, clearly, I wasn’t making a tutorial here!

The most important thing to take out here, is maybe to not be afraid to try things out.

There were no specific challenge here. The stakes were not very high either. If I had completely ruined these inexpensive chairs, I would have find other chairs to fit around my table. I would have been a little disappointed but that is it really.

The other thing to point out is that such project gave me the courage to start other projects. You may not like the outcome and you are completely allowed to not like the tiger fabric, the gold or else. But for me, the result is ok, more than ok! I like my chairs, at least for now. And indeed this gave me further ideas, this gave me courage.

And realizing that everything doesn’t have to be perfect, everything doesn’t have to be complicated, that rules can be bended, was an important lesson. One that served me well, in other projects including the renovation of my Indian, obviously!!

So go ahead! Renovate or up-cycle this piece of junk you have in your garage and have been meaning to handle for quite sometimes. You might be pleasantly surprised!