The Red Bench

“This Hitchcock bench is from my paternal grandmother’s home in Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ. It came to my childhood home in the late 50’s, and my mother took it with her for five additional moves, ending up in central Pennsylvania, until 2014 when I inherited it, and brought it to Minnesota in the back seat of my car.”

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This pretty little bench came into the shop as a well-travelled and much-loved family heirloom. It was referred to in comfortable family vernacular as simply, “The Red Bench.” The existing cushion was sewn years ago by the client’s mother, a confident seamstress and DIY warrior extraordinaire. The foam and fabric were showing the years, as was the webbing underneath. If the bench would be used, it would need some TLC. As for the exquisite paint, it had its share of scars. But Maggie is a woman who appreciates family and history – if she wanted a bench with shiny new paint, I imagine she would have bought one. Instead, Maggie wanted a bench that spoke of people and places she loved. She’s of the opinion that heirlooms are beautiful BECAUSE of their “imperfections,” not in spite of them. I wholeheartedly agree.

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Maggie’s first priority was color – when your whole family calls it, “The Red Bench” you don’t reupholster it in green or purple. This heirloom had a name – who were we to change it?? After considering several options, Maggie landed on a lovely choice from Greenhouse Fabrics – a bold red with a soft, comfortable hand, a fitting homage to the old cushion.

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The first task was to deal with the deck. The 2″ rubber webbing was stretched and dried out, turning to powder, as this product does over time. My favorite replacement option for rubber webbing is a 12% stretch webbing. It creates a similar feel without the messy deterioration and is much easier to source.

I also created a deck to cover the new webbing – it needed to lay very flat and also move with the webbing. The solution was a simple flat panel created with the same red fabric as the cushion. I top stitched three sides and tack stripped the front edge, anchoring each back corner with a single decorative nail. In addition to giving the whole bench a finished look, the “deck” will help preserve the new cushion, preventing the friction of webbing on fabric.

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Once the webbing and deck were finished, we were on to the cushion! Even a seemingly simple cushion like this involves many small decisions. The foam was only 2″ thick, so it was important to use something sturdy. I recommended a 2.2# with an IFD of 45 – just a little cush, but firm enough not to bottom out and dense enough to hold up. Next there were the ties – the old ties had torn out and disappeared long ago, but no worries. Just had to figure out where they should go, how wide they should be, and how long. A little bit of trial and error (plus a fair amount of steam . . . ) produced a satisfyingly cooperative solution – upholstery weight fabrics can be tough for situations like this!!! It was good that Maggie’s selection wasn’t terribly thick! I reenforced the seams where the new straps attached – hopefully they stay put for many, many years to come!

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And so in time for Christmas, The Red Bench is headed home. What a delight that this beautiful piece has stayed with its family for generations. How wonderful that its travels included a short stay at my shop. It is a very, very good day anytime I get to work on something so loved 🙂

 

 

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