Walter Alice Store Blog

  • How I Restore An Antique Chair

    This is how "I" restore an antique chair rather than how "to", purely because everyone does things differently and there are hundreds of ways to do it.  I also thought you might find it interesting to see what actually goes on in what seems like a fairly simple restoration...
    I know it doesn't look like it would take much, just a new seat cover and a bit of polish?  No... its actually a little more involved...
    WARNING: There may be the odd swear word.
     This amazing old Oak chair doesn't look that bad in this photo, but the seat was all mouldy, and the frame was covered in tiny paint splatters. 
    Why do ALL old chairs have paint splatters? 
    Also the wood was all dried out and really lackluster...
     It was so grimy with dust and 100 years worth of god knows what in every crevice... I removed the cushion seat and gave the frame a good scrub with warm water and a tiny bit of dish wash detergent (Eco Store is best) which gets rid of all the surface crap.
    A good dry with a towel then its left to air in the sun and breeze.  I never leave anything to drip dry.
    This is a great way to get to know the chair.  Check for any repairs that may need doing and to see any damage or flaws up close.  This chair is so beautiful!  Its so well made, super sturdy and is going to look amazing!  There were a few old repairs that had already been done really well a long time ago, no structural work was needed at all!
    Here are the tools I use to fight with fabric stuck to chairs... you may think its quite simple to just rip off a cover, well sometimes it is, but more often than not its a freaking nightmare... 
    Pretty much everytime I start to pull apart something it uncovers a huge amount of evil... this one is no exception...
    At the first corner I can see that the base is broken, so I know this part which should be a 5 minute job will turn into an hour (at least) with repairs... I do love good repair job though!
    This little set of pliers is actually my most valuable tool, some staples are real a-holes so they need to be extracted with pliers, if you leave them then this happens and it freaking hurts, I constantly have snagged hands!
    I always start out one staple at a time, but if it gets too tedious I just start cutting and ripping... this cover is so stuck with a million rusty old staples that keep breaking, this is the hardest part of restoration when it doesn't come apart with ease... A few swear words, a good playlist and a heap of coffee normally gets me through these tough times...
    Every chair I pull apart reveals a different way of layering, so interesting, and so dusty!!  Such a shame this old board was damaged... 
    Finally!  Stripped bare!  You may think it would have been easier to just make a new frame, but that's where I have gone wrong in the past. 
    These old frames move and warp with time and this frame will already be molded perfectly to the chair, so I always use as much of the original chair as possible, I will however make a new seat... 
    Not sure if this is helpful or not, but I pull apart things on a slippery white foamy underlay, then everything just slips off into the rubbish and I can reuse it next time... (theres always 3 million staples on the ground though!)...
    Woohoo!  Time to get the power tools out!  I normally freestyle my measurements (I know - but it works for me!) but thought I had better do it properly for you with my paint stirring ruler...
    I need more projects that allow me to use my jigsaw thingy... just saying.
    Oops, bit off the mark, will still do the job!
    whack it on with a few tacs, new seat done!
    I have tried a hundred different ways to restore old wood, including all the wood revivers, oils and waxes you can buy.  But Boiled Linseed Oil is my go to, it does the best job and is the easiest to use.
    I prefer to use both steel wool pads and actual steel wool, in different grades from 00 to 0000, it gets off all the paint splatters and grime, but leaves the natural patina that I find so gorgeous on antique furniture.
    A toothbrush gets into all those grooves.
    The oil is wiped as I go with a lint free cloth.
    Its hard to see in photos but the difference is astounding... Such a great sense of achievement at this stage... I live for this sh*t!
    I use a moving blanket to staple tightly on the base, just so if any of the tacs pop up they wont dig into your butt, and it makes it all a bit more secure.
    I use the seat as a template for the foam, I really need a new knife for cutting foam, don't use scissors, it never works out well.
    This is an important part!
    Pop the seat back into the frame to see how much allowance there is for fabric and to make sure the base hasn't warped at all with all the staple pulling and ripping.
    I measure out the dacron the same way and spray glue each layer onto each other.
    Don't buy this glue, its really shit (for this job), I normally buy a really good one from the Foam Dustributors, but trialing a cheaper option has backfired, literally.
    DO NOT use any other type of glue, it burns or disintegrates the foam.
    Foam+Superglue = Burnyourhousedown
    Working with patterns can be a bit of a bit*h, if you pull it too tight on one side it warps the design and you have to unpick the whole thing!  I have learnt to just loosely put a few staples in, check it, then secure it all over.
    Don't talk to me about how many times I have had to redo covers more than once!
    I always check it right side up to make sure the pattern is sitting in a good place...  Also not all fabric is suitable for upholstery - believe me!
    How gorgeous is this fabric chosen by the owner though!  It is so much nicer in person!
    Just a few staples!  Check and secure.
    Corners are dicks, I just keep trying until I get it.
    Two days later... (just kidding, sometimes it feels like it though)...
    I like to make dust covers, they look tidier if your chair falls over.
    I LOVE this part... the Beeswax smells devine and it polishes the wood to a gleaming like new state with some elbow grease... So satisfying!
    Below is an essential step if you have pets or kids, or messy flatmates.
    After:  Quite possibly the most beautiful chair I have ever had the pleasure of working on, all ready to go back to its awesome owner.
    There are so many different types, all with different challenges... I love what I do, especially when the end result is like this!

    If you decide to tackle something after reading this I would love to see your before and afters, tag @walteralicestore on Instagram or Facebook...
    Also if you start something but can't be arsed finishing it, get in touch for a quote, I will happily do it for you.

  • Are you a Mid Century Minimalist or a Bohemian Jungalow Maximalist?

    Did you jump on The Minimalists or KonMari bandwagon?  How are you feeling about it now?  Is more stuff coming into your life to replace what you got rid of?  Or are you actually sticking to a clearer, tidier, less materialistic life...  Hows it working out for you?
    Just as the Minimalist trend started, I discovered hashtags such as  #boldbohemians and #jungalowstyle on Instagram.  Its the total opposite of minimal, shopping at all the op shops to take home what you just dropped off. 
    I just can't get enough of velvet upholstery, big cushions, snuggly throws, persian rugs, millions of plants, op shop knick knacks, vintage art, books, a mix of antique and mid century modern... its an all-over-the-place style and I love it!
    Give me all the stuff, Retro Bohemian and Vintage!
    This room!  From the Instagram page of whatever_happened_to_miss_wolf 
    Check out this article on Lifehack, it will help you decide if you are a Minimalist or a Maximalist... 
    "Minimalism is all about clean lines, empty spaces, plain colors and patterns, the ridding of clutter, the clearing of surfaces and the simplicity of having only what is necessary. It is about minimizing visual noise so that the focus is drawn to only a handful of items that are useful and practical. Minimalist decor embraces storage. It doesn’t mean you don’t have things; it just means they are organized and put away so that they are not constantly accessible and seen."
    "Maximalism, while being completely the opposite to the minimalist style, isn’t necessarily about clutter or excess. It is however visually and spatially busier. Maximalist style is about bold colors, patterns and creativity. It fills a room with interest and variety. A space is brimming with life and history; it tells a story and gives priority to diversity of  functionality. -  for Lifehack
    From The Workshop
    Restoring furniture has made me really appreciate good workmanship, and I do love the great clean lines of mid century design, the wood is best sanded back and oiled/waxed, it is normally soft and easy to work with, and always comes up like new. 
    This fireside chair was destined for the dump but I have restored the wood and recovered it in a cosy wool/alpaca fabric, it sold within an hour of hitting the website!
    There is something extra special in the wear and tear of an antique chair. though... These ones below for example, are in my "to do" pile, however I cant stop admiring them just as they are.  They have a wonderful air about them, so historic and vintagey.  I never strip back the wood in  old chairs like this, instead I use a very fine steel wool and boiled linseed oil to polish it up, this is without disturbing the beautiful natural patina that has come about over what could be 100 years!
    If you have been following me on Instagram or Facebook, you would have seen the last few items I have completed... including this Queen Anne Couch... by far the most difficult but also rewarding item I have ever completed... and
    it is has been marked down by 20%! 
    I have been doing a lot of commission work too, so while there may not be that many items available for sale, I am busy working on loads of other stuff.  (The only reason I am not in the workshop right now is because it is bloody freezing in Wellington today!)
    Heres what I have been up to:
    Click through the photos below to go to the full before and after gallery.
     New Stuff!  BOOKS!!
    So for ages and ages I have been thinking of other things I can offer you from my website, while I am restoring, you may remember me talking about Vintage linen and textiles, home wares etc etc...
    Well I have decided to trial  books... Interior design inspo, you know the type of books you love to flick through for ideas over a coffee, well now you can buy them from me!
    These awesome titles are available for preorder now!  This is just a start, it is a trial though, so if it goes well I will expand this section! 
    Use the code "PREORDER" at the checkout to get 10% off!  this is just until Sunday 15 April 2018 only.
    Stay Warm!
  • Getting Lost In Inspiration

    What, wait, where is the time going?
    Where did January go!  I am one of those people who think there are never enough hours in the day and plan to get up with the birds but never quite make it.  I also plan to go to bed hours earlier than I do, but that never happens either!   Lets not even talk about time to exercise who has time for that!  If I go for a walk my mind is telling me to go back as there is sanding to be done.  I know I know I've heard it all before "I must make time", well I don't want to... thanks anyway... I am more of a Sunday stroller than a weekday walker. (past the shops on the way to the Cafe).
    Photo Cred: Les Anderson
    Colour Inspirations
    Right now in my ever changing office space I have two lush velvet chairs, one is Emerald green Art Deco style (this one is my own), and the other is a bright yellow mid century rocking chair (sold - awaiting pickup)
    green velvet chair, yellow velvet chair
    Everytime I walk into or even past the room I am hit with the colour of these pieces of furniture I have reworked and my  mind wanders off to the far far reaching places of possibility.  They are not deliberately put together as this is a temporary holding space but I think they look so incredibly beautiful side by side.
    Just in case you haven't seen enough of the Rocking chair I recently completed on social media yet, (yeah right) here it is again...  I just loved this restoration!

    Set Style
    You think you have a "certain style" until you start scrolling through pages of "Green Velvet Chairs" on Pinterest, then all of a sudden your mind is opened up to other imaginations and huge injections of inspiration.
    Below are two rooms I came across out of hundreds, and while sunlight is an absolute priority for me in a home, I couldn't help but be mesmerised by the dark hues in the first living room.  Maybe it is the very small detail of a bright yellow coffee table that just says "sunny" that makes it appealing to me.  isn't it completely amazing how the mind works...
    This light and airy room below however is definitely more "my style"; Vintage mixed with Mid Century and new.
    Photo Cred: The Spruce
    Current Project
    I always love to visualise a piece of furniture in a room before I choose the fabric... I am restoring a big beautiful Queen Anne sofa at the moment, this is my inspiration for it here:  Mustard Velvet... eeeek!  Its going to be so lush, with green cushions! 
    You can see just by looking at the green and yellow together above, I have been totally inspired to recreate the colours in a different way.  My own sofa at home is a lush green velvet with deep mustard cushions, so I am reversing this look in the current restoration. 
    I love this process, it feeds my soul!
    Left: Current WIP, Right: One corner of My living room
    To follow the progress of this restoration, make sure you are following on Instagram or Facebook (Instagram is better though!)
    Here's a couple of links to show you what can happen when you simply type Velvet furniture living room or Retro Living Room into Pinterest, the possibilities truly are endless...
    For more inspiration I was going to show you a couple of my favourite Instagram Accounts, but it was too hard!  so here is this months absolute stand out... (mustard velvet!!) and look at all her Tretchikoff prints!  
    Oh ok here are just a couple of others - seriously check them out:
    Craftykin_ and her gorgeous craftykin_shop,
    unearthedvintageandretro (a fave on Cuba St Welly),
    the very styley Mr Cigar 
    and just look at the hastag #jungalow its freaking awesome
    oh and one more!  No Brand New  and the hashtag #recyclerestyle
    Blog posts and emails will be few and far between as I get in more workshop time, so Instagram really is the best place to follow me...

    Right, first Coffee...
  • My Little Restoration Workshop is Humming (Literally)

    Walter Alice Store Update...
    I am in full swing restoration mode and I now have a buying ban, I am not allowed to go near any op shops, garage sales, buy and sell pages or Trademe!  Just yesterday I went to pick up my new Tretchikoft vintage mirror (Ai Know!!) That I bought off Trademe and the gorgeous woman in her beautiful home (my dream house in Petone) said to me - oh you are the furniture lady, and just gave me a little antique stool!  Of course I had to take it!
    Full House!
    My little studio workshop at the end of the garden is FULL of furniture to restore!   I actually have to pull everything out onto the lawn before I can start work each day!  
    The work is humming along quite nicely when I am not at Mitre10 Mega, but the workshop also literally "hums"... I thought that some type of animal has decided to crawl underneath and take its forever nap, which is not pleasant on the nose...  I will be happily working away when all of a sudden I get a whiff of something naaaaasty!   HOWEVER the smell is actually coming from Penguins living under my studio! 
    Thankfully the weather here in Wellington has been so amazing (touch wood - haha - I have plenty of it!) so thank goodness I am able to work outside.
    What is this?  I thought you sold clothes!
    If you aren't up to date with what I have been up to, here is the link to my last blog post about why I am no longer selling Vintage Clothing.
    Constantly SOLD OUT!
    I have been so blown away by every single furniture item I have restored selling, some within minutes of posting on social media!  I can't work fast enough as items sometimes take weeks to complete with having to wait for stripper/putty/glue/paint drying times, so items for sale are few and far between! 
    Take a peek here at what I have been up to in my Before and After Gallery

    Restored vintage white cane chair
    Media Mentions!
    I was so chuffed to see my little "scavenging" Instagram post was featured in Stuff's Interior Inspiration Of The Week!  That was such a buzz for me!
    Even my amazing retro vacuum was gifted to me when I went to pick up a table!
    The Axminster carpet was definitely a dream score! 

    Axminster garden bloom carpet

    Right, better get back to it, lots to do!  I have little to no computer time anymore and was waiting for the next rainy day to do this update but it looks like that's not going to happen anytime soon - woohoo summer!!

  • Where's All the Vintage??

    Where's all the Vintage you may be asking?  If you are new to Walter Alice you might wonder what I am talking about. 
    For the last 2 years Walter Alice Store has gone from selling preloved clothing on Consignment to Importing Vintage and now to Restoring furniture.
    Why the big change?
    When I first started thinking about starting my own business, the first idea was to restore furniture, I knew how to do it, I absolutely love doing it... but the fear and anxiety of not being good enough got in the way... what if my work wasn't good enough?  What if people didn't like my style?... at least with preloved and Vintage clothing it wasn't about my sense of style it was about yours!
    However I have decided to get over myself and take the plunge... while selling vintage was so fun it was getting harder and harder to source the really good stuff as bigger than me companies started buying up large and vintage just got younger and cooler.
    A little look back...
    Since I started Walter Alice back in June 2015 so much has happened!  I read a book that changed my way of thinking and went to London which inspired me to no end...I've cleaned, steamed, photographed and uploaded thousands of items to the website, attended so many markets as a stall holder (never again), ran competitions,  moved house/studio - twice!  And took a million photos!...
    (All the best ones are here on the Walter Alice Instagram)
    I love looking back at how things have changed. 
    There have been a billion and 5 other things all in my personal life and in business... Its incredible what you can fit into two point five years!
    My poor husband Pat and boys have seen me stay up way past midnight finishing things, watch me fluster one minute and brim with excitement the next, they have been such amazing support throughout my journey, especially when I was (and still am) too busy to go to the supermarket or cook dinner - eeek, bad mum alert...  Will I get worse - probably!!
    I want to thank Georgia for being the beautiful face of Walter Alice!!,   Thank you Georgia!  xx
    We have had some great laughs and some great photo shoots!  Remember the gorgeous dresses from my neighbour Rosemarys Closet?
     Click through to view the galleries
    The decision to stop selling preloved on consignment and to start importing Vintage from the UK was the best thing!
    I was so so excited when I got my first delivery from the UK - it was better than I ever hoped for and you all went nuts over it!
    (And listened to me go on and on!)
    I gave Lenaire - Personal Stylist some very challenging vintage knitwear from one delivery,  I didn't know what to do with it!   She totally nailed it with the styling and came back and did it again with the next delivery!  - Thank you Lenaire! xx
    What the future holds
    I am excited to give this restoration a go for a living instead of for love... I have always loved doing up bits and pieces I find and I am excited in this change in direction to furniture instead of fashion...
    This will be me, covered in dust everyday....
    I am so grateful to the amazing Tamsyn at @clashnmatch for giving me such a versatile logo which means no change is needed!  Thanks Tamsyn!!
    However!  these were my final two... I love my round one, but maybe possibly I could change to the second one for furniture?  What do you think? 
    Not right now - maybe later!  
    I'm going to be a lot quieter...
    Updates to the website will be only when I finish a piece of furniture, there will be so much less computer time!, emails will be less frequent as I spend more time hands on restoring.
    But please do keep following me on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest!
    Theres still so much to do behind the scenes, there are lots of places Walter Alice is listed as clothing - so next rainy day is a big sort out of all that stuff!
    Final MASSIVE Thanks!
    I want to thank all my amazing loyal returnee customers - you know who you are!  these gorgeous woman kept coming back and have been my main supporters for the last two years... I know you will carry on being extremely styley without buying clothes from Walter Alice and I want to thank you ALL for your amazing support!!
    (not my actual customers but the coolest girl squad I could find)
    Shontelle Xx

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