Furniture Gifts, Reupholstery, and a Giveaway!

Here for the Spruce giveaway?  Scroll down to the end of the post to enter.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, we bought our first home.

Connecticut view

We were living in Connecticut at the time, and had scrimped and saved and searched for months before we found this pretty little white cottage perched on a hillside.  It was in a lovely farming community, and we had a glorious view of the valley beyond our front yard.  Bionic Man worked so, so hard to make that home work for our little family!  Looking back, it’s easy to forget the old septic system, wet basement, and the long driveway that was so hard to shovel during the winter.  All I remember is how pretty it was!

Connecticut Cottage

That little cottage on a hillside holds some wonderful memories for me, including a fair share of miracles.  After all, this was the home we were living in when Superkid had her first heart surgery.   So many of those stories involve people doing kind or generous things that meant a lot to us, at the time.  Looking back, I think that it’s likely that the people involved didn’t realize that what they did had such a profound and memorable effect.  They probably enjoyed the satisfactory feeling that comes with any kind act, but have no idea that we are grateful to this day for their kindness.  The story of the red room is full of such kindness.

Original couch in Connecticut

The front room in our Connecticut Cottage was one of the last rooms we worked on.  When we bought the house, almost every room was covered in layers of dated wallpaper.  Removing the paper exposed plaster lathe walls, which required lots of sanding and prep work before they could be painted.  Early on in the process, I taped a picture torn from a magazine onto the wall of the front room, for inspiration.  The room had a white trimmed window in it (just like ours), a wing back chair, and rich, red walls.  Bionic Man and I fell in love.  So, when the time came to paint the front room, the can of paint we brought home from the hardware store was Valspar’s “Cabin Red.”

Valspar cabin red

How did we choose that shade of red?  One reason:  we loved it!  Nevermind that we didn’t yet have any furnishings for this room, we thought this was the most perfect shade of red ever.  So we went for it.  And then we took the $600 cash we’d been saving and went out to look for a living room set for our red room.  Obviously, we were a little naive.  Prior to that time, the only furniture we’d actually bought was from an unfinished wood store.  We had no idea how much furniture actually cost, especially high quality furniture.  Needless to say, we came home quite discouraged after discovering that what we’d saved up would barely cover the cost of a couch, and not even one we liked very much.  And that it would cost extra to get it upholstered in something that matched our red room.  We decided to keep saving.

Months later, we found out about Superkid’s heart condition and that $600 dwindled to nothing as we racked up the medical bills.  Then one day, while visiting a friend, I happened to catch sight of a wing chair in her garage.  My reaction when she revealed it was part of an entire living room set must have made it obvious how badly I wanted something like it for my own home.  My friend had discovered this lovely set on the curb of another friend, and had brought it home because it still looked like it had lots of life in it.  Her husband wasn’t exactly thrilled with the found furniture, so it was living in their garage.  Bless Kelly’s heart, she gave me the entire set:  two wing back chairs and a matching sofa that perfectly matched my red room!

Connecticut red room

I don’t know if it was the way that perfectly matching set miraculously came into our lives, or the fact that it is such high quality furniture (practically indestructible), but we love this set so much that we’ve moved it with us to new homes three times now, and even gave up another living room set to keep this one when we downsized.  Admittedly, even though the upholstery matched our red room like we’d matched the paint to it, it’s never been a fabric I would have picked myself.  So a few years ago I tried my hand at making slipcovers out of canvas drop cloths.

slipcover before and after

I was really happy with the result, and terribly proud of myself for doing it.

slipcover front view

After all, it was THE hardest sewing project I’ve ever tackled, and I almost gave up a dozen times.

slipcovered wing chair with snowflake pillow

I nearly broke my sewing machine and a few words may or may not have crossed my lips that would have made a sailor blush.  I didn’t have the courage or stamina to repeat the job on another chair and a couch!  So one slipcover is all I’ve got.

When we moved into our California Cottage, the scale of our Red Room furniture was perfect, once again, for the new front room.  I convinced Bionic Man to let me hire someone to make slipcovers for the other two pieces…..until I found out how much that would cost: nearly $3000!!!!!  For that price, I could purchase a new set of furniture, but I don’t want a new set of furniture!  I love the one I’ve got.  Currently, they are all wearing canvas drop cloths that have been draped and tucked around them to cover the upholstery that doesn’t match.

Recently, I’ve decided that reupholstering these pieces is the way to go.  Upholstering requires way less sewing than I’d have to do for slipcovers, and none of the headaches of trying to sew to fit.  I’ve got plenty of drop cloths that I can use for fabric.

Sweet Pickins hello couch

I’d love to end up with something like this gorgeous sofa from Sweet Pickins.

Spruce book image

My plans to reupholster got a big boost when this arrived on my doorstep:  Amanda Brown’s new book, Spruce: A Step by Step Guide to Upholstery and Design.


Spruce is a beautifully photographed book explaining all the tips and tricks of upholstery.  It’s dedicated to the process of turning before into after, with complete instructions for all kinds of upholstery techniques.

bench class bigger

How much do I love that the cover of the book features a wing back chair?  So much!  The book details the steps to reupholster five pieces of furniture: a Louis chair, slipper chair, wingback, sofa, and tufted ottoman.  That covers pretty much all the techniques you will need to recover any piece of furniture.  Want to know more?  You can watch The Spruce Book Trailer.


And guess what?  I get to give away a copy of the book to one of my U.S. readers!  If you’ve considered a reupholstery project, but weren’t sure how to start, this is your chance.  Enter to win your own copy of Spruce by completing the entry form below.  (You can earn an entry for each task).
a Rafflecopter giveaway

And make sure you tell Santa to visit Amazon so he can leave one under the tree, just in case. :)  Also, if you really want to win big, upload a photo with a caption of an ugly chair that needs a redo on Storey Publishing’s Facebook sweepstakes post, and one lucky winner receive an upholstery hand tool kit ($250 value), a $200 gift certificate for fabric from Spruce, a custom design recommendations from Amanda Brown, and a signed copy of the book!  Visit The Spruce Ugliest Chair Contest on Facebook to enter.


  1. Hey, friends! I’ve been told the comment box isn’t working. I’ve tweaked a few things, so hopefully it’s working now. Sorry about any difficulty you may have had.

  2. Neat book!

  3. That sounds like a great book! I’d love to figure out how to reupholster so I can help my mom re-do our beloved living room couch and chair!

  4. I have a settee that nedds some love!

  5. Hi Ruth! Thank you for writing about Spruce! We think you can easily transition from making slipcovers to doing upholstery in no time! We hope the winner loves the book. Let us know what you think of the book by writing a review on Amazon!
    Clarisa Ramirez, Marketing + Social Media, Spruce

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