By Karen Parr-Moody
While antique fans appreciate the authenticity of a pristine find, some aren't above transporting an antique into the present by reupholstering it in a hip, new print. And several antique dealers at GasLamp have repurposed antique items in just such a way, promoting the idea that freshening up an antique simply lets it get reborn with a new persona.
Jessica Boudinot, of Booth B-101, took this steel pair of Mid-century Modern chairs in the photo, right, and reupholstered them in a graphic black-and-white Greek keyhole print (pair, $345).
"I just thought they had a nice clean industrial look that's so popular right now," Boudinot says. "So I put that on there. That made all the difference, because black-and-white graphic fabric is popular now. I'm keeping up with the times."
She says she likes the Greek keyhole print in upholstery, even if it isn't her personal taste for her own home decorating. "It's very appealing to the eye," she says. "It's striking. It gives a room a focal point and catches your eye."
When Stone Soup dealer Lynn Harris found the set of four Mid-century Modern table chairs in the photo, left, they were covered in a 1970s-style, blue-and-pink floral pattern (two sidechairs still available for $95; Booth B-116). She reupholstered them herself in a new, heavily woven fabric in an abstract geometric print.
"I liked the colors of yellow and gray," Harris says. "I thought those chairs needed a contemporary pattern that would be something that might have been used back then for the Mid-century Modern style."
Harris says that to find a fine antique still in its original upholstery rarely happens. "That's a real gem," she says. But when it comes to reupholstering most other items, one needs to find fabrics that speak to the elegance and the style of the chair, but for modern times.
"I just think that's an intelligence that you can bring to refurbishing vintage and antique pieces to still make them relevant," she says.
The desire for personalized home design is a popular one today, in this era of mass customization. And for those seeking vintage pieces re-done in unique ways, GasLamp dealer Caroline West approaches the topic with an unerring eye. Her playful fabrics create a pop Palm Beach aesthetic to her booth, A Flair for Vintage. Take the club chair in the photo, right, for example. During the Victorian era, the club chair was the popular choice for the gentleman's clubs of England. There, a fellow could get away from his household, sink into a well-upholstered leather chair, and relax with a cocktail and a cigar. As companion pieces to the Chesterfield sofa, the club chair was utterly traditional.
But what a change West has made with this particular club chair, by having it professionally reupholstered in a fabulous black-and-white animal print. Paired with a modified bamboo print pillow, it would be more at home in a Kelly Wearstler boutique hotel than in The Carlton Club (club chair, $510; pillow, $75; Booth B-112.).
Rusti Greene, who co-owns the GasLamp booth HomeStuff with her husband, is currently displaying this set of four chairs, left, each covered with a pink cheetah print seat ($200). "The combination of a whimsical fabric and a traditional wood gives both a new look," Greene says.
This old-school rocking chair, right, is like a homespun version of a suggestion from the late Diana Vreeland's column for Harper's Bazaar called "Why Don't You?" She would write such bon mots as, "Why don't you ... upholster your car seats in fine camel's hair? Hermes of Paris will do this for you." For this, the line would be: "Why don't you ... upholster your rocking chair in vivid pink fabric?" While a rocking chair may not be for everyone, this one would be perfectly at home in a hip nursery for a new mom (chair, $99; Booth B-114).
When a vintage chair or sofa has a great shape, changing the fabric can change the feeling of the whole piece ... and the room in which it ultimately sits. The home decorator can personalize a space with such a statement piece, rather than going for a matchy-matchy room. Choosing a reupholstered vintage piece in a striking fabric allows one the creativity to go outside the comfort zone and orchestrate an energetic, fresh look.