la Brocanteuse

Feb 7, 2012

Deconstructed French chairs

 About the deconstructed French chairs
in a previous post:
I have had inquiries by mail and comments, about where to find these chairs, is this their original state?

Very much so:
At auctions,markets, brocantes,
you will often come across a chair,settee or canape of which the upholstery has been partly removed, to reveal the original burlap, muslin or cotton on the back and seat, as proof of age ,
unless of course if the original fabric is in excellent condition.
By pressing down firmly on a seat or back of the chair,
it can be established whether the original horsehair or coconut grass  is still intact.It will have a slight "grassy" feel and if you listen real close,
you will "hear" it!

seen here in storage: after velvet was removed..

This Napoleon III bergere was found at a market on our previous trip  to France.  It was covered with a cotton velvet,( probably around 1940,) but the original chair dates back to around 1870. the velvet is still visible on the buttons.

in storage:

in storage: .
I love the original cotton muslin exposed,but in reality they don't work in my decor
I use them as props at events

Although I found the two bergere's from the same dealer, they did not come from the same household.

 Here they are just after purchasing, pushed together , ready for collection by me. I remember when I returned they had disappeared and I was quite anxious, but soon discovered the very kind dealer had put them away in his truck protecting them from  drizzling rain.

 at the market where found

 This chair below is part of a set of 4 and came with a matching settee, all were  covered in red velvet.
 The settee and two chairs were sold ,  two chairs remained.
Once the velvet was removed, the original woven silk was revealed on the backs. I loved it so much in it's deconstructed state, that I decided to keep them "exposed" for a while ,  It has been 4 years and I still can not get myself to have them upholstered.
One chair  is in a guest bathroom..

 guest bathroom:

the other is used daily in the back kitchen /scullery. 

original burlap on seat...

Another exciting find was this French salon settee that I found as part of a set of three.
It was upholstered in the original  woven silk,  very badly worn. I bought it originally  to have it upholstered with french vintage linen and ready for an Brocante event in 2010 

 When I visited the workshop after the fabric was removed , I could not get myself to have it covered and used it as is on my show. It had a price tag on, and my good fortune was only discovered after a gentleman   promptly asked me to remove the price tag. Thinking that he was interested in purchasing the piece,I did so  but  he turned out to be a curator of French furniture and specifically sourcing pieces from the era 1840 -1870 and informed me that he would not be able to live with himself if he bought this from me at the marked price.  This particular piece  turned out to be worth at least four  time's the price tag!
He could date it to 1860 and was most informative about the maker .
He pointed out that he could date the piece by the way the burlap was sewn on, the type thread used and stitches that was used to do so, the way the nails had been hammered in at the bottom, and named the artisan he believed that worked in that era and his  style of carving.. It turned out to be a most interesting and exhilarating discovery!
He kindly left all his particulars with me,(which of course I had confirmed by a well known dealer from Johannesburg) should I ever consider selling to one of his collectors that he travels to France for on occasion to source. I will be forever great full for this curator's honesty.

Below is one of two chairs photographed in the dealers shop that  where found together with the above settee. I have kept the chairs as is with the beautiful woven silk , now in our bedroom.

 at the workshop

 the un even sized hand forged pins with their long  flat bent tops that was used when upholstered before a brocade trim was added- visible at the top of the back seat. Similar to how it is done today with a staple gun.

I have no intention to sell these of course,
and the settee is at rest in our home
    I have to admit, stored out of sight since as beautiful as it is, it does not work with the rest of our decor,... I should take them to our beach house...I miss not using and  seeing them more.
they would fit in perfectly (here) and (here)
  I use them as props at events, or have  on occasion paired them with other deconstructed beauties outside under a tree, alongside  a over the top white floor length tablecloth,chandelier hanging from the tree..totally unexpected elements that work.

I think pieces like these need to "breath", be open   and in "empty" spaces to make a statement, otherwise they can easily look wrong..
I also prefer not to use them as a complete set, but that is just my personal choice.
I have had a few of these gems recovered, using old grain bags,or french monogrammed linen which seem to be the nearest to what I believe they feel "comfortable" with if the original fabric is no longer a possibility... 
I imagine I can hear a sigh of relieve to deconstruct and expose these furniture pieces, leaving them in their "underwear" does it make  sense? .. 

In our guest bedroom:

photographed for a linen shoot, 
hence the white backdrop on the floor and wall..
to allow for image to be deep etched for a magazine

more chairs:

 original cotton muslin on back and seat, horse hair still intact.

Both chairs now recovered in matching grain bags  dated 1887 with couronne on back 

This is the salon settee that came with the above  chairs as a upholstered in black/off white  mattress ticking,  in our orangery..

Paired with :
Extra large Belgium chairs ,all so re upholstered with old Grain bags, over sized and spaced studs - 
lovingly referred to by Dd as
"Kasteel stoele"  ( translated as "castle chairs")

My firm favourite still remains the honest exposed 
....even if  I keep my own deconstructed chairs in storage,used on occasion at events for props, as gorgeous as they are, they don't fit in with our decor. 




French said...

Col, beautiful and informative post with most excellent photos! I love the carving details!

Mélanie A. said...

Gorgeous , I was raised surrounded by old fashioned upholstery , I'm in love with this kind of work .

Nika Vintage said...


Veronica said...

What a great story about your honest gentleman! What a wonderful surprise, it must have been Christmas all over agian! Love your collection of chairs, each one an absolute treasure!


LaPouyette said...

Hi Colette,
I'm very pleased to see the chairs with the German grain sacks!!!!!
They look just fabulous!!!!
You did a very good job on the design!

Hope you're well,
greetings, karin

LaPouyette said...

left earlier on a comment to make you a compliment on thechairs.
It looks like my comment disappeared. anything wrong with it?

Acquired Objects said...

I love seeing furniture in its "underwear". I have two chairs still in their original burlap and can't bring myself to upholster, the husband so doesn't understand why. Love this post!


Nella Miller said...

Colette, beautiful posts, both, my personal choice is the white linen monogrammed settee in your guest room. I admire the deconstructed look, but only for purely aesthetic reasons. I am usually a form over function girl, but beauty is, as they say, in the eyes of the beholder. N.xo

Carole said...

Oh my I'm's all too lovely!


Rosaria Williams said...

What an interesting lesson in deconstruction! It certainly highlighted the historical materials and techniques in these pieces. The updated look is most appealing!

Blooming Rose Musings said...

This and your previous post just take my breath away. Stunning. I adore the deconstructed look and also what you have done with the chairs and settee. Beautiful. And what a wonderful story about the honest gentleman. Each and every piece a true treasure. Fabulous posts...I have read both more than once! Thank you so much, Colette.

SUE said...

I love your chairs, Colette! I would love pillows like the ruffle ones with black and white images. Where might I find them? Sue

ann said...

Aaahhh more stunning chairs-just so gorgeous-love love!!

Bohemian said...

Your Collection of Fabulous Deconstructed Chairs is Amazing! I prefer my Chairs to look this way too... though it is not practical with a house full of people... but if I ever end up all alone one day or just decorating a Studio Space for Art I would most definitely fill it with such Treasures! Thank You for Sharing your Beautiful Collection and so much Information about how the construction helps to date the pieces.

Blessings from the Arizona Desert... Dawn... The Bohemian