MY GREAT GRANDMOTHER’S COUCHES

vintage-couches-in-corner

My office has gone through a bit of a rearrangement — the huge wooden drafting table that used to take up a large part of the office has been sent to live in the basement to make room for the two newest additions to my vintage furniture collection.

how-many-do-you-have-now

Ummm…let’s not count them right now, okay Leo?

Let’s just say these couches — like so much of my furniture — have family history. These cute little 1950s era couches were my great-grandmother’s. I never got the chance to meet my great grandmother — so the couches didn’t come directly from her — and they weren’t “living” at my Grandmother’s house either. Here’s the story:

short-vintage-couch-with-one-arm-1950s

When my Great-Grandmother passed away (sometime in the 70s maybe) my Uncle had just built his house. Being a bachelor, he didn’t have much in the way of furniture and he ended up inheriting these couches to help him furnish his place. Since then, they have been sitting in my Uncle’s living room (with slip covers over them). Recently, I found out that my Uncle and Aunt were planning to get new couches and thus were getting rid of these two. When they discovered my love for retro furnishings, they asked if I’d like Great-Grandma’s couches. Since I thought they were cute — and it is nearly impossible for me to turn down free awesome retro furniture — I agreed to adopt them. Now they live at the Retro Ranch.

short-vintage-sofa

The couches themselves are still very sturdy and strong — it is the upholstery that has seen better days. The material is stained and in some spots even completely worn down to the threads from years of daily use.

worn-out-and-icky-couch

f you couldn’t tell from the other photos — the one above will confirm — there is no saving this upholstery. Blech.

Vintage-upholstery-fabric

On the backs of the sofa, the material is not as worn and actually look nearly new. See the bits of gold thread woven through the texture of the fabric? If only the whole couch were in this good of shape, then I wouldn’t have to recover them.

long-vintage-couch-no-arms

Bottom line — these will need to be recovered. They also won’t be living in the office forever. Jim and I someday want to finish the basement to include a rec room (maybe with a tiki theme!) and I’m sure after spending money to properly finish the now completely empty area, we will have little left to purchase furniture for the space. In the meantime, I’m keeping my eye out for new or vintage discount upholstery fabric in a color/texture that is appealing as well as wallet friendly. Once the fabric is found, it will be time to teach myself (or find a class)Β how to use my Nana’s 1939 sewing machine (that’s hiding in the garage) to reupholster these couches. Wish me luck!

Probably one of the reasons that I have so much vintage furniture with family history — like these couches — is because I come from a long line of thrifty people. I wonder what my Great-Grandmother would think of me using her couches? I can’t really venture a guess since I’ve never met her — but I’d hope that she’s looking down from heaven and saying, “That’s my girl.”

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22 thoughts on “MY GREAT GRANDMOTHER’S COUCHES

  1. Absolutely love these! My grandparents had a “sectional” sofa they purchased new in about 1958 that looked very similar to this for a house they built. The original upholstery was PINK with some black! I LOVED that original upholstery! Needless to say I still love that 1950’s pink! When my grandmother passed I was able to get the “sectional” sofa which had been recovered in the late 60s/early 70s in a shade of green and made into one L-O-N-G sofa. My plan had been to have it recovered in a fabric similar to the original and also turned back into the original “sectional” design, but unfortunately we couldn’t afford it at the time. Then a series of moves took place so we ended up donating it to a charity. 😦 We now live in a house built in 1956 (the year I was born) :). I am watching estate sales hoping to find some 1950’s furnishings to restore our home to it’s original 1950s look. I would LOVE to find a sectional sofa similar to this (even if it required new upholstery) for my family room/den. A lovely flamingo pink would be gorgeous upholstery in that room in combination with my “green” side chairs that are new, but have that 1950’s modern look.

    • Very cool Shamira!

      I can also arrange this sofa to be one LOOOOONG sofa! It is nice to have the options. Best of luck in your search for a 1950’s couch for your house! I also love 1950s pink! The pink and black upholstery from your grandparent’s couch sounds awesome…

      • Yes, it’s one couch in two pieces. I acquired one for free on Craigslist, and it’s the same, except the no-armrest end is rounded. The dark, midnight blue fabric (with turquoise accents) on the back is like new, but the seat cushions are rotted.

  2. Looks great. I love finding treasures like this. I myself has quite the collection too, but I’m trying to come up for air. “Donation” is pumping through my blood! I would say, however, if I found these out and about, I would have to buy these. Good work!

    • thanks thatmidcenturyfella! They were headed for the thrift store if I didn’t want them…but how could I pass up such cute retro couches? Luckily my adorable husband Jim was ok with adopting more furniture — and they were able to come live with us!

  3. Kate, I do not envy your dilemma. Or maybe it’s just a dilemma to me. On one hand there is “no saving this upholstery” and on the other there is no replacing that upholstery.

    If the vintage reupholstering gods would just send a 20 yard bolt of frieze or even a modern substitute that didn’t cost $100 per yard – problem solved. Oh, if only it were possible.

    Dave

    • Dave, I understand that there is no replacing the frieze on these sofas — but that is ok with me. While I can appreciate it for what it is, it really isn’t my taste — and since the fabric is pretty much shot on these sofas, I will not feel bad about recovering them. Had they been in pristine condition, I would have kept them as is, but that is sadly not the case.

      A friend of mine inherited a huge vintage couch from one of her relatives and she looked for quite a while before finding someone who used to have an upholstery shop in their house was trying to sell off their stock in fabric. She ended up getting a whole roll of quality upholstery fabric (30+ yards or so) for less than $100. It wasn’t vintage frieze, but she loves it and it worked great for her couch. I’m hoping if I am patient, that I can eventually find a similar deal for my couches.

  4. Your sofas are great forms with special provenance. I’ve purchased a LOAD of upholstery fabric from this eBay dealer over the years, and never been disappointed: “designerfabrics*rr”.

    Great values, lots of fabrics with an MCM vibe, and always a bunch of listings with yardage amounts that would cover your pieces. Worth a look!

  5. You’re lucky that your family saved such cool Mid century furniture. These sectionals remind me of the ones on my fave t.v. show, “The Dick Van Dyke Show”. I bet you will eventually find the right fabric and they will look super. You should see the sorry looking couches I have that I need to find the right fabric for. Probably will have to get myself down to the fabric district and search for some retro-y upholstery material.

  6. Wow, your great-grandmother’s couches, your grandmother’s orange chair! How lucky you are to have all of these family mid-century furnishings! I’d just like to still have my parent’s mid-century couch!

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  8. Me again – I just wanted to comment on DIY upholstery. There are a LOT of great “how to” sites online where people have done a great job and managed to take great photos of each step. I also recommend Singer’s Upholstery books. There are two editions (at least) out there, but I’d go with this one – http://www.amazon.com/Upholstery-Basics-Singer-Reference-Library/dp/0865733198
    I have this one, and I think it’s more detailed than the newer version of the book. Good luck with your projects, Kate! I, too, am sitting on one of the two MCM chairs my mom managed to keep and now I have – well, not “sitting” on it right now, just “sitting” on the idea of re-upholstering it. I have the book, I have some good fabric that will work well with a mid-century look – now I just need to do it!

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