New John Widdicomb Louis-Style Chairs

I’ve been having the best luck with thrift stores and vintage furniture shop finds since we moved here! I won’t lie, it feels like a super-sweet consolation prize for leaving New York’s great vintage shopping scene (which I had been really sad about). It might take a little more work to find the great pieces…

I’ve been having the best luck with thrift stores and vintage furniture shop finds since we moved here! I won’t lie, it feels like a super-sweet consolation prize for leaving New York’s great vintage shopping scene (which I had been really sad about). It might take a little more work to find the great pieces here – but they do exist and they are cheap. It feels a lot like Delaware did, where people either don’t know what they have or they know and don’t like it so are willing to part with things for a song. Which is still weird to me because, you know, the internet exists! Why not sell the stuff online? Not that I’m complaining about getting deals!

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I’ve lived in lots of different cities at this point and I think the best way to find new sources is to be willing to stop your car everywhere you go. Whenever you’re driving, be watching for signs for thrift stores, used furniture and junk shops and even consignment stores. Don’t ever judge a book (shop) by its cover (window displays/signage) either. Often times the weird new stuff will be  prominently displayed in the front and the great vintage finds will be tucked in the way back. This exact scenario played out for me a couple of days ago when I was driving around Scottsdale, waiting for my cracked iPhone screen to get repaired (why I don’t have any real-time photos of the experience). I saw a consignment store had banners and balloons out front saying they were closing down, so I decided to pop in even though the place looked like it was going to be a major flop in the finds department.

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I nearly turned right around about three steps into the store. It was almost completely empty except for a handful of oversized Tuscan stuff that is (was??) so popular here. But I kept walking around and found a back room area that had a pretty good selection of vintage things. The owners were moving things out of the room. Apparently they had officially closed down the day before. I did a quick once over and the only thing that really caught my eye was a dining set in the very back corner of the store. Six chairs and a table.

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I asked how much for the set even though I thought I wouldn’t take it. Only $50. It was a steal. I went over to take a closer look at the set. The more I looked at the chairs, the more I wanted them. The proportions were perfect and I loved the elongated oval shape of the backs. The tight caning was in perfect condition and I really liked the style of the weave. So simple.

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Then I flipped one of the chairs over and saw a flash of a gold name plate. That was a good sign.

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No wonder the shape was just perfect and they weighed about a million pounds each. So solid.

I told the sellers I would love to buy the set and asked if they were sure that $50 was enough. While I was asking that, my mind was racing with Do I or Don’t I ethical questions about needing to tell them about what I figured was the real value of the set. And then the owner completely put me to ease by saying “Oh, aren’t they great? Did you see they’re by Widdicomb? I wish more people cared about great mid-century design here. I’d be happy to give them to you for $50 just so I don’t have another set to load up on the truck.”

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I still felt a little guilty, but I was also so excited. Find of the century for me! I’ve been wanting Louis chairs for a long time, but I’ve been too picky up until now to spend a ton of cash on brand new chairs. I’m so glad I waited. I gave Ali, my sister, the table already since I think we’re going to use the old Drexel table like I mentioned before. I think the two styles will pair really nicely together!

The same day I found this cute pair of swivel arm chairs for $30! I love the shape of the arms. They need to get reupholstered, but I think they’re going to look amazing in a new fabric. I’m thinking maybe the library?

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Since my luck was running so high that day, I also swung into Home Fabrics to look for a vinyl for the Louis chairs. BINGO.

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Dark gray. Buttery soft. So much like leather in look and feel. Not thin, squeaky or sweaty like most vinyls. And is was only $6.99 a yard!

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Most anything would be an improvement on the current fabric though. Looks like these chairs got a little face lift in the 80s. Time for some new clothes, ladies!
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Now to figure out what color I should paint the frames. My mom and I were talking about it and she suggested considering leaving them mostly as-is, just a good cleaning and brightening. I like the idea a lot and it might look good to have something a little more antique-y looking in the room, but I don’t want them looking too vintage in the bad way. You know? If I go bright white though, they might look too new and cheap-looking. Black would be a similar result I think, unless I did a chalky, matte paint. But then, fingerprints! I could do a bright color, but I want to paint the lanterns red, so that would be overkill. I was also thinking about stripping the frames and doing sort of a limewash look… Lots to figure out!

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62 thoughts on “New John Widdicomb Louis-Style Chairs

  1. Hah! Looks like there aren't a lot of vinyl fans here! :) Never fear, friends – the deed is not yet done. Still figuring it out. Vinyl is just so dang family-friendly. This one really doesn't feel like vinyl either. It's a dead ringer for leather, which would be my first choice for these special chairs. I'm going to call my leather guy in Brooklyn to see if he has two matching hides of any good leather that would be stain and water resistant – maybe even a patent like my Greek key chairs. I've also thought about getting some patterned fabric laminated or teflon-coated, but we'll see what happens.

    Definitely planning on keeping the old paint finish if I can. I'll probably brighten up the white a little and maybe gray up the green a tad (hello, Christmas dining room with the red lanterns!).

    Thanks for your input guys!

  2. My 2 cents: sand and whitewash, or do the lime thing. Or just scrub and leave it. I think you're right that painting would not bring them up. (If you do paint, I vote creamy white).

    And – it's hard to say, without seeing your full vision, but vinyl doesn't usually bring up a look either. Have you considered a sunbrella type fabric? they have so many good ones these days.

    Congrats on the score. :)

  3. Another vote for keeping the original finish – glad you're headed in that direction, with a touch of grey to tone down the green. And can't believe you paid $50 for a Widdicomb set, so you absolutely deserve to splurge and get those matched hides! Can't wait to see how these turn out.

  4. Amazing find! Though I am as envious of the pair of swivel chairs. I am a marriage therapist and swivel chairs are ideal so couples can fully turn and face eachother in opportune moments. I do believe every home should have a swivel chair here and there so those sitting in a conversation can position them selves for a bit more connection. Wish I could find a pair for $30.

  5. Do you have any tips for picking chairs? We scored a great deal on an antique dining table this week, so now I'm on the hunt for new chairs. I'm just trying to figure out what will work. The table is a dark wood and somewhat formal looking. The fluted legs on your chairs actually match very well. I don't want a matchy-matchy look, but figuring out the mix is challenging. My style is pretty traditional, so I don't gravitate to modern designs. We live on a farm so something a little rustic would work. I've been considering woven/wicker parsons chairs or something painted white. I really appreciate your advice.

  6. I love seeing beautiful Grand Rapids furniture around the blogosphere. I drive past the old Widdicomb building all the time! Good pick!

  7. Jenny- look at page 104 of the new House Beautiful – your chairs look just like them! I know they are slightly different, but fun to see! Immediately thought of your chairs.

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