As a teenager, I hate hate hated science and especially dreaded dissection day in biology class. But when it comes to furniture, I kind of enjoy ripping stuff open and digging around in its guts.
Even so, this mid-century loveseat was hiding a few surprises I definitely was not expecting.
We found the loveseat at a garage sale. We’d been looking for a small couch for our TV room, but most loveseats we found were either too large and overstuffed or outside our price range. I loved this one for its classic lines and small size. But, the host of the garage sale wasn’t sure she could let it go, so we left our phone number and asked her to give us a call if she changed her mind. And bingo–we got the call that very evening to pick up the loveseat AND a matching pair of mid-century chairs. Victory!
The woman who sold us the couch told us it had been living in her garage, but sometimes the thrill of the find temporarily suspends my powers of reasoning, so it didn’t really penetrate what conditions it had been subject to or what might have had access to it.
Soon after we got the couch home, Justin tore the dust cover off the bottom to find this:
THAT IS A SNAKESKIN, PEOPLE.
And that was just the beginning. Also in the process of stripping this couch, I found a more than generous amount of mouse poop, and no fewer than 7 LIVE brown recluses + a few additional dead ones. For a while I was pretty sure I had also found some snake eggs, but they turned out to be acorns (hence the poop):
Let’s just say I was extremely relieved when the couch was down to the frame and I could finally be fairly sure nothing else poisonous was going to crawl out of it.
Now, on to the actual stripping! Have you ever stopped to consider what’s keeping the cover on your couch? Before I started working on furniture, I really never had. But now I can tell you–it’s staples. Lots of them. For this particular couch, about this many of them:
AND you have to remove them all pretty much by hand, so stripping upholstered furniture is a labor intensive process that can be quite time consuming.
Here are the tools and supplies I used:
1. Staple remover – This grabs and pries out the staples. If you don’t have a staple remover, you can use a small flat head screwdriver, but be very careful. Prying out stuck staples sometimes takes a lot of force, and if your tool loses purchase on the staple, the screwdriver can come back flying toward your eyeball. I speak from experience here and feel very lucky to be typing this still with two good eyes.
2. Pliers – Removes staples after you have pried them up with the staple remover.
3. Leather gloves – Protects your hands from scrapes and cuts. These are really important. Especially if you’re working on older furniture, staples can break in half, leaving them hidden in fabric or padding. On one of my first projects, I was pretty sure I was going to have to get a tetanus shot after I got a splinter from a shard of rusty staple (figured out later that my last shot was still good–whew!).
4. Dust mask or particulate respirator – Keeps your lungs feeling good. Ripping furniture and digging out padding releases tons of dust, fibers, and other unknown stuff that you don’t really want to inhale. I hadn’t thought about this too much until I talked to a retiring upholsterer who said he had developed respiratory problems from years of exposure to dust and the chemicals in fabrics. Now I play it safe.
5. Goggles – Like a dust mask for your eyes! All that floating stuff you block out of your nose and mouth can still make it up to your eyeballs, and it can be ridiculously painful. Again, play it safe.
When you start removing fabric, you want to work in the reverse order from how it was attached. That’s why you’ll notice I begin with the back of the couch and work my way forward.
Now comes the fun part! This little lady is free of creepy-crawlies and ready for some new threads.