Lively Chairs


We like our dining room chairs.  Even Jack seems to appreciate the design of the chair — the gently splayed back leg, the upturned ear of the backrest.

Of the set of six chairs, there isn’t one that feels safe to sit on anymore.  The best ones wobble, and the worst ones have loose or broken spindles.  But we decided to invest in the repair and makeover of the chairs rather than throw them out and buy new.  It’s the least I could do for the half dozen chairs that have been my loyal dining companions for 26 years.

I called Richard at E. Polarolo & Sons Upholstery to help with the transformation. We discovered our upholsterer a few years ago when we had my old sofa redone.  Richard did a great job, and we enjoyed the experience of working with him and visiting his workshop in north Harlem.


After seeing our beautifully reupholstered sofa, a neighbor used Polarolo to restore an antique chair.  She has trouble remembering the name Polarolo and instead calls him the ‘Paranormal Upholsterer.’  I guess it’s appropriate for someone who claims to be immortal; the tagline on Richard’s business card reads:  “Upholsterers Never Die. They Just Recover.”
Today we visited Richard’s shop to test the sturdiness of a pair of our chairs.  The chairs were in bad shape when I brought them in to him a few weeks ago.  Richard lead us down the aisle to the rear of the shop.
Our chairs had been stripped down, re-glued, and freshly turned spindles replaced the broken ones.
John and I were satisfied that he could bring our dilapidated chairs back to life, and agreed to bring in the remaining four chairs.

Richard asked if we had selected fabric for the seats.  We hadn’t.  He thought he might have something we would like and led us to the middle of the shop.


He climbed a mountain of fabrics,
and eventually produced a bolt of boldly patterned and very mod fabric.
John and I looked at each other… we both liked it.

I asked for a swatch.


We could definitely see this lively pattern giving our chairs a mod update.


It seems about every 13 years my chairs desperately need rejuvenation.  I bought the six chairs at a yard sale in Oak Park, IL in 1986.  I was working in Chicago and living by myself in a rental apartment for the first time.  I liked the shape of the chairs, but not the pale wood they were originally; I spray painted the chairs gloss black and covered the seats in a light grey fabric.

After accommodating me and my dinner guests in various apartments in Chicago, Boston, and Cambridge, the chairs were again overdue for an update.  I think it was around 2000 that John reinforced the wobbly ones, touched up the black paint, and recovered the seats in the current fabric of colorful squares (see photo at top).

Once again the chairs are in need of repair and a fresh look — just in time to coincide with our house renovations.  It will be fun to enjoy our chairs anew, again.


live. enjoy. repeat.

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