Friday, October 12, 2012

Faux-ny Baloney Week, Day 5: Faux Rush Seats

About 25 years ago when we were living in Florida, we bought four oak chairs with rush seats to go with our antique oak kitchen table.  I've always liked the idea of giving the kitchen a farmhouse feel (like the rustic one in the movie "Baby Boom," a gem which you must watch if you haven't already!), so I liked the way the rush seats gave our chairs a country look.

The problem with rush seats, however, is that--like cane seats--they tend to get saggy over the years, and then the rush strands begin to break.  When this started to happen, I put cushions on the chairs to hide the breakage; and as a Band-Aid fix, I would try to control the damage with the help of Aileen's Tacky Glue.

About ten years ago, I finally decided that it was time to get the seats replaced.  But when I looked into that, I found to my dismay that it was going to be prohibitively expensive to have them professionally done.  (And I don't even want to talk about the disastrous outcome of my DIY attempt at it.)  With real rush replacements out of the question,  I did the next best thing: I made faux rush seats that are actually way more durable and much easier to keep clean than the real thing.  These rush seat imitators will last forever, and they were actually pretty easy (although time-consuming) to make.  If you have rush seats that are in need of repair, like I did, you might want to try this inexpensive trompe l'oiel treatment.

First of all, it helps if you have a handy husband who has a workshop full of different types of electric saws and other furniture-building tools--which I do. (If you don't, you may need to hire someone for part of the job.)

Once my husband was on board with this project, I unscrewed the seats and removed the rush strands from one so that he could use the wooden frame around which the rush had been wound as a template.  On durable medium-density fiberboard, or MDF (a great wood substitute, especially if you're going to paint it anyway), he traced around the frame and cut out four solid seats that could be screwed back on the chair frames from underneath.
One of the old dilapidated rush seats, and the template for the new ones.
I began by painting each MDF seat brown (figuring that as I added lines of a lighter golden color to simulate the rush strands, the brown base coat would become the "spaces" between those lines), then I used a yardstick to mark the basic "X" design in pencil.  As I said on Wednesday, if I'd been a blogger back then, I could have taken pictures of the step-by-step process I used to accomplish this.  But in the absence of photos, I'll just tell you that it was done in layers: first, a layer of golden lines of "rush" painted over the brown; then some highlighting in a lighter color followed by some shading in a darker color.  I just played around with them until I liked how they looked, and to finish them off, I gave the seats a couple of coats of polyurethane as a sealer.
I still keep cushions on these chairs, because the flat wooden seats don't have any give and aren't as comfortable to sit on as the real rush seats were--which means that a lot of that painstaking faux finishing work I did remains hidden.  So I suppose if you don't feel confident about doing the rush effect, you could just paint your wooden seats a golden-brown color and top them with cushions.  Your chairs would last forever, and no one would be the wiser!

Well, that's it for "Faux-ny Baloney Week."  From now on, I'm just going to be keepin' it real here at "String of Pearls."

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