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06 Feb. 1975

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The second installment of Treasure Hunting tackles something a bit larger than keys, but as someone with an incredible weakness for chairs, I couldn’t resist.
If you find a chair you love with some damage, don’t worry — there are many ways to utilize all or part of the chair so that you can still enjoy it in your home. After months of tossing my clothing, bags and mail onto the nearest empty chair, I realized that the furniture designed to hold our bodies is also quite well designed for holding our stuff. To secure the chair to the wall without placing screws directly into the chair, purchase two wall hooks that extend far enough to hang the chair by its back.
There are few collections that achieve a chic, thrown-together look better than a set of mismatched chairs.
Find chairs that suit your needs — they should be suitable to fit around your dining table and should be roughly the same height and size, but beyond that, there are no limitations! To unify chairs in some way or to refurbish damaged chairs, try sanding them down and staining or painting the frames all the same color. Find solid wood chairs with features you like, such as interesting backs, sturdy bases or anything that strikes your fancy.
For the chair-back hangers, simply use a ruler and a marker to mark a straight line along the chair’s back frame and use a regular handsaw or circular saw to make clean, straight cuts. Chairs make great side tables for the same reason that they make great shelves and great, well, chairs — they have four legs and a nice big seat! If you need more storage, purchase a small, attractive box that tucks neatly underneath or sits on top of the chair, to keep things nice and tidy. To disguise the hooks and give the appearance that the chair is floating, you can paint the hooks to match your wall color, or you can use wire or fishing line to tie the chair to several long screws and eye hooks that you’ve screwed into the wall.
If your design tastes trend toward the adventurous, then this style of display might be the perfect way to show off your chair collection. To hang chairs, use ceiling anchors or screw in ceiling eye hooks with a weight-bearing limit that is well above the weight of your chair (most hooks will support around 25 to 50 lbs., so this is fairly easy to do).
Where not to look may be a more appropriate question: there are chairs of all shapes and sizes to be found everywhere.
One of my favorite treasures is a funky old office chair I found at Mission Thrift in SF for 5 bucks. When I think of a gorgeous eclectic collection of mismatched chairs, I immediately think of Monica’s dining room table on Friends.


Whenever I visit thrift stores or yard sales, I inevitably come across a chair that captures my attention.
If your chair collection begins to grow, consider displaying them in a more vertical fashion, such as hanging them on a wall or suspending them from the ceiling for a sculptural look. Chairs with large seats and straight, rigid backs can be perfect candidates for modular shelving, as seen above in the interior of the Reed Space.
Use a level to mark the wall where the hooks should be placed, then simply secure the hooks to the wall using screws and then hang the chair. If all of your chairs have removable cushion seats, you could try unifying them with matching or complementary upholstery fabric. If you have a modern, minimalist table, try bringing in a few decorative, antique-style chair shapes for contrast, or vice versa — pair an industrial metal chair with a rustic wood farm table. Using a lovely little chair for a bedside table, end table or any kind of table can be an easy way to display both the chair and the items it holds, and with a quick removal of those items, the chair can double as extra seating in a pinch. If you have a lovely treasured chair but no place to keep it, consider utilizing the vertical space in your home and make it a focal point on a wall. If you don’t want to damage the chair, you can use hooks or brackets to hang the chair.
Whether it’s a small collection suspended in a corner or a few chairs stacked in a sculptural composition on top of a dresser, chairs in unconventional places can become a great statement-making element in a room.
If you want to create a sculptural stack of chairs, try creating the composition first to test out the stability, and it helps to have a friend around to provide an extra pair of hands.
Install the hook, and then use strong fishing line or thin-gauge wire to suspend the chair. I always find chairs at the thrift store that I want to buy, but never know what to do with – thanks for all the ideas! One set found in a flea market which are old wooden slat folding chairs and another set of small Tulip Lawn chairs in bright red . There are various design details to lose yourself in when looking at a chair, and for one of the most utilitarian objects in our lives, chairs can also be the most beautiful.
I hope this post provides some inspiration for chair lovers and anyone with a newly acquired piece that needs some love. But even unusually shaped chairs have the potential to make great shelves; all you need is a way to secure them to a wall and ensure their seats hang level.


If the chair can sit flush against the wall, or if it needs to jut out from the wall less than 8″, you should be able to create a stable shelf out of the chair using screws or brackets. Depending on the weight of the chair, you may also want to use wall anchors for added stability. You can also further stabilize the chair shelf by using wire or zip-ties to wrap around the chair and the hooks to prevent the chair from shifting around. Also try to avoid having one chair stand out above all the rest; you want each one to serve its role in the mix. I love the clever ways in which people have found uses for old chairs, and if it brings happiness and utility to their homes, then hooray! Drill a tiny pilot hole into the top center of the chair back, and twist a metal coat hanger into the hole with your hands until it seems secure. Create a configuration of wooden crates on the wall, and secure them into the wall with wood screws. Once you settle on a composition you like, use clear zip-ties to secure the chairs to each other where they come in contact. I once incorporated some lovely chairs into an extravagant table arrangement for a fundraising event, and it was a HIT! Keep the items limited (a few books, a vase, etc.), and style them a bit to create a lovely little vignette that complements but does overwhelm the chair.
If you find chairs that have a wonderful shape but aren’t in the best condition, you can still create an elegant, eclectic set with a quick-and-easy makeover of matching paint and upholstery, like the gorgeous houndstooth set seen above. If you have a specific chair design in mind, then Craigslist, eBay and vintage-furniture sellers are the best places to look.
If you find chairs in less-than-prime condition, you can follow some of Barb’s tutorials for how to refinish and fix up wood.


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