Before you throw away that wobbly old stool, or that faded easy chair with Aunt Maggie’s favorite pattern on it, consider giving it a second chance at life with a good sanding, some new screws, and dazzling new fabric! We recently visited Chicago Home + Garden’s inspiring annual event, Chairs for Charity, where 15 top designers transformed the old into something breathtakingly new.

Continue reading below
Our Featured Videos

Last month a packed house at Chicago Art Source mingled among the designers and bid on their chairs, all to raise proceeds and awareness for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). Inspiring, indeed! The event strongly reaffirmed the old saying, “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”

Seen above is a piece by Karen Kalmek, green design beacon and founder of Green Home Chicago. Her submission, Barrow, was made from a piece found in disrepair outside a store in rural Michigan. Karen, along with her tinkering husband, rescued the wooden chair on wheels and stabilized it with new bolts and screws, made a seat cushion with a graphically clever, vintage fabric, and left the original paint to show its weathered history.

Annika Christensen of Midnight Sun, Ltd., an importer of Swedish home goods, created “Sour,” said the Fox… from a bergère chair found in storage. She named it after the gorgeous, contemporary Swedish cotton fabric she adorned it with.

This pouf with cabriole legs was Guerrilla Truck Show founder and champion of local design Morlen Sinoway’s submission. It was made from wooden legs of an antique chair that had seen better days, tiered cushions topped with pleather upholstery and a leather trimmed back. The chair is aptly titled, It’s a Pill, Too?

furniture design, reusing, reclaimed materials, vintage chairs, chairs for charity, better homes and garden, green charity events, green design events, recycled furniture

Frank Sinatra could have very well sat on this chair by Summer Thornton as it was culled from the legendary Chicago restaurant and Ol’ Blue Eyes haunt, The Pump Room, before undergoing renovation. Summer transformed Pump Room Redux with luxurious and colorful fabrics with geometric asymmetry cool enough for any member of the new Brat Pack to sit on.

The Eames’ would be proud of Struggle Inc.’s Cody Hudson, as his C&R Hood Slab incorporates their iconic H-base, only displacing the fiberglass shell with dumpster-found wood scraps.

Bridgette Nyman of Harrington College of Design and Leslie Jones & Associates offered an interesting conversation piece, literally, titled Conversation Over Coffee. Inspired by Ingo Maurer’s “Porca Miseria,” Bridgette’s shattered coffee-house dishes and plain white chair sculptchair explores the modern day coffee shop “as community spaces – a networking hub where people come to share ideas.”

Imelda by Suzanne Cahill of Maison Suzanne Gallery took a simple easy chair and embellished it with an antique shawl that was hand-loomed from wool from sheep raised by the Rabari tribes. The wool was tie-dyed and embroidered with mirrors to pay tribute to the exotic people who live in the barren desert of West India.

Greg Jagmin redesigned this vintage wooden chair titled The Barbara by giving it a fresh coat of paint, reupholstering the seat with Karsa Flame stitch fabric from Lee Jofa, and adding an accent pillow with Picasso Velvet in Flamingo fabric from Fishman’s Fabrics for that extra touch of élan.

HGTV host and celebrity lifestyle guru Frank Fontana took a plain, country-style dining chair and with scrap materials from past makeover projects, faux animal skins, and a little shimmer, transformed the simple into simply cool and named it Reclaimed Exotic: From Country to Couture.

Caroline Scheeler, creative director of Jayson Home, conceived Apotheosis of Ephemera with the traditional (antique oak chair) and modern (photo-printed fabric from Belgium) converging into one stunningly beautiful submission.

FoundRe Furnishings’ owner Raun Meyn only crafts furniture from “salvaged materials locally sourced from deconstruction sites,” and his Liberal Arts reading chair is a perfect example of this axiom. Reusing mahogany wood from a dilapidated farmhouse beadboard and siding, Raun also created a module shelf behind the seat’s back that is able to store books, magazines, or tablets.

Award winning Interior designer Garry Lee presented Amancalama, a whimsical spin on a mid-century classic. Using a vintage bronze wire Warren Platner arm chair, Gary Lee and his design team fabricated an intricate headdress-like adornment to not only juxtapose the softness of the leather and the hardness of the metal, but also the machine-made and the handcrafted.

Named after the Clampetts’ next door neighbors in 60’s television hit show ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’, Mr. Drysdale and Miss Hathaway are a deserving pair. Designers Jeff Harting and John Toniolo of FGH Architects took a quintessentially mid-century chair (one arm and one side) and retrofitted it to perfectly exist in any Commerce Bank of today.

Author of Found, Free & Flea, Tereasa Surratt’s ambitious submission consisted of a 1950’s leather wingback chair, a collection of 1920’s furniture tags augmented with tartan fabrics, and 8,675 hand-pruned pheasant feathers — not to mention a hard-bound companion book chronicling the making of the chair (à la vintage, of course).

+ Chicago Home + Garden

+ Chairs for Charity