deconstructed chair

Marian ParsonsFurniture Makeovers, upholstery79 Comments

There is a small furniture trend that you may or may not have tuned into – deconstructed upholstery.

Personally, I’m a fan.  Not in every single case and definitely not for every room, but for just the right old piece, it’s a way to honor the makers of it – to put the hand-tied springs, basted burlap, and wood frame on full display, in all of its half-dressed glory.

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photo via

I’ve been wanting to create this deconstructed look on a piece, but hadn’t met the right one, yet.

Well, that changed on Monday, when Kriste was stripping this pretty chair.  I looked at the muslin and burlap and realized I really liked it.  I said something to the effect of, “Stop right there!”

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The muslin is a little too far gone on this piece, sadly, but I am planning to clean up the back and the frame and reupholster the front in antique hemp sheets.  It’ll provide a comfortable place to sit, but retain that deconstructed look.

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I’m really excited about the cushion on this chair.  It’s a full down cushion, so it’s super soft and I love the relaxed look.  I will make a cover for it, to protect the old fabric and filling.

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I will most likely stain the frame, but I’m going to wait to see how it looks when it’s cleaned up.

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So, we’ll see how it goes!  The nice part is that I have to upholster the inside of a chair first, anyway, so if I get to that stage and it’s a big fail, I can just finish upholstering it properly.

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I’ll be sure to share details along the way.

How about you?  Are you a fan of the deconstructed look?

PS – Another batch of antique hemp sheets are for sale in the online shop.

PPS – Your comments on this post are cracking me up!

deconstructed chair

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79 Comments on “deconstructed chair”

  1. Hi Marian,
    I like the look, but I would not know where to start! Can’t wait until you share the details.

    I love your blog and have your book. Thanks for all the wonderful inspiration that you share.

  2. Yes Indeed i do love that deconstructed look!! I have 3 candidates right now 2 chairs and 1 sofa! I’ve been gathering my thoughts and trying to work up the umph to get going! How happy I am to wait a bit longer to see what my very favorite source of courage and inspiration has to say about the process of deconstruction! I’ll be waiting for the Mustardized version!!

  3. I am familiar with it, and like the idea, but to most it will just read as something that wasn’t finished. Will be interesting to see how it looks cleaned up.

  4. Hmmm, I find that I have a curious love/hate reaction to deconstructed furniture. I think it looks cool and artistic but at the same time I wouldn’t want it in my house. I can’t wait to see what you come up with. The chair is gorgeous.

  5. I think it just looks dirty and nasty. It would be amazing if you could make it look nice without finishing it!

  6. To me, it’s like going camping…..it’s like pretending you’re homeless. Deconstucted furniture looks like you’re decorating from the trash pile. i look at those pieces and don’t get the feeling that I want to sit in or touch it. Kind of reminds me of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

    1. Interesting analogies here. I’m not sure what I think of the deconstructed look yet. It will be fun to see what Marian does with this chair. But… I have to say, I think you’ve completely missed the point of camping.

    2. I don’t mind a few ‘flaws’ that characterize the long wear and tear on a beloved item- but I would never pay good money to produce or buy a fake..

  7. I like it from an artistic point of view and appreciate the explanation of the purpose of it – to honor the past makers. I am curious to see what you will do with it 🙂

  8. I loved looking at those Restoration Hardware catalogs filled with this new and edgy look… but it just isn’t for me…I love the well worn or chippy or reclaimed look as much as anyone, I just can’t get into this trend…. but…. I can’t wait to see how Miss Mustard Seed interprets “deconstruction”!

  9. I’m looking forward to watching the progress. I love the look and I’m alway coming across old chairs at auction that might be good candidates.

  10. Not a fan. I’d rather have it finished completely with good down cushions and nice fabrics or leather.

  11. A fan…. Know why? This process , like you say is not complete, in limbo so to speak. I would get it cleaned up, put in a setting that compliments the piece and live with it for a while. If you still hate it, just recover , which is what you were, more than likely going to do at first. Unlike other pieces that you invest time, product and money into, and end up not loving……you get to start a the beginning …again. Win Win!

  12. I absolutely love the look, but have always felt like deconstructed pieces are more like a beautiful work of art rather than a functional piece of furniture. Does anyone really want to sit in one? Especially if they are wearing their favorite white linen slacks. If one has the space though, I’m not opposed to less than totally functional furniture. But it sounds like you are going to create the perfect combination of form AND function which is awesome. Can’t wait to see what you come up with.

  13. Not a huge fan. I love what you said about honoring the makers of the piece, but to me that does the opposite. The makers intended it to be a finished piece and surely wanted to show off how nice the chair looks when they’ve completed all of their work. But at the same time, I look forward to seeing how you do this chair.

  14. UMM. Well, I know Restoration Hardware has some deconstructed pieces. But that piece in the picture? I agree with another reader that it doesn’t look like something I’d want to sit on. Maybe after you’re done because you have a remarkable way of making a treasure out of trash. But on the surface I’d say it’s the Apocalypse meets home decorating !

  15. Hmmmm, I think I love photos of deconstructed furniture but wouldn’t necessarily want one or want to sit on one. LOL Can’t wait to see how it turns out!!

    My husband would probably tell you that I love this look due to all of the half-done projects I have around the house!!

  16. Thanks for letting us in on along the the deconstruction trend in upholstery. I had not heard of it, but I like it. As a bonus, it elevates the vice of people like me who *occasionally* don’t finish a project.

  17. Umm, no. I can respect those that like the look, but I think if looks creepy. I guess I’m thinking about the stains and wondering if a mouse lives somewhere in there??

  18. I WAS intrigued when it first came upon the scene a few years ago. But it’s worn off for me. Also have friend who has a chair in a gorgeous mostly white perfectly styled little house. People don’t want to sit there.
    But…I think when you want to try something different, whether it’s leaving some burlap on a chair, buying a hot pink Kilim, hanging macramé, or doing seriously chipped paint on a piece, as long as YOU are up to the re-do if it’s not wonderful–do it!
    (…says the girl who gets 50% of a room painted and will absolutely start over if the color isn’t “just right”. My time. My $$. My Do-over)

    Red in ca

  19. I have seen the “deconstruct.”, look before, and was intrigued by the idea of seeing the inside. I think what I like about this chair, is that it has”age colors.” By that I mean from the old ivory to the tobacco stain, colors that are hard to duplicate. I’m looking forward to seeing how you keep that look without it feeling dirty.

  20. When I first saw the look at Restoration Hardware years ago, I had visions of their design team cooking up a plan to save money on fabric by bamboozling customers into thinking that an unfinished chair was the “new in thing” by taking artsy photos of it. Ha! Marian may be just talented enough to pull this off. Jury still out for me.

  21. Not really a fan of the deconstructed look but would love to learn how to do upholstery. Love the look you get with the antique hemp sheets.

  22. I would not use or have in my house. I never buy reupholstered hand me down furniture unless I know it has been completely redone with new foam or fabric. Wood or metal frames I can handle but have no idea what is under or behind new fabric used if not stripped to the frame.

  23. Love reading the responses from all. It’s a 50/50 gamble. Your chair, your time, your materials.

    BUT ….here’s a reality check!!
    I cleaned out my childhood home of 50 yrs when I moved my Mom. We had bedrooms on the 3rd floor but it was not fun, nor easy for my Mom to climb another set of stairs to check on the 2 bedrooms “up there”. The mice had a total field day + free roam for heaven knows how long. I believe they invited the neighborhood inside. They made nests in the pillows, chairs, and under the covers. They tore apart books for nesting materials. Mice droppings to my Mom, just seemed to be a little dirt to her. : ( It took me a good two weeks to trap and oust all mice from the house with all kinds of health friendly ways. Peppermint oil does wonders for a house in mouseville.

    Upon move day, my Mom could NOT believe I had put all “cloth or leather” furniture pieces + mattresses out for trash. I can still hear her – ” Sue, they are fine, we can just sponge them off.”
    Oh my! Out to the trash they went. That is the issue with finding older material pieces that you or relatives have not owned personally or have owned and you know just what went on! You just don’t know how often dear old Aunt Doris’ pee’d ( to comment nicely) or the mice had parties on the piece.

    Make it old + deconstructed – use newer, cleaner material to pull it off! You have wonderful old hemp sheets to use. Old wood – yes. Old chair + couch material – think twice. My haunted thoughts of yore. : )

  24. Ugh. No. Casual, imperfect, comfortable… Yes. Stained and raggedy? No. This is a case of the emperor’s new clothes to me. The trend is cra-zy.

  25. Don’t assume that the stains are from something nasty. They can be from past steam cleaning, actually. And, when the burlap is cleaned, it will look different. I don’t imagine that MMS would have taken on any chair that stunk or looked like it had been through something (ahem!) yucky. I have reupholstered many pieces over the years and the underbelly parts are what most never see. So, you may have pieces in your or your family’s homes that actually have similar stains, but you can’t see them.
    I love this look. My son and daughter-in-law have some RH deconstructed pieces in their home and they look great. You don’t sit on the burlap as it’s on the back of the pieces. It’s a look and if you like it and have a place for it, it’s worth doing and having. I can’t wait to see how this project turns out!

  26. I really love the look of deconstructed furniture, but it feels too trendy to me to last. Therefore, I wouldn’t ever invite it into my home. Hard choice because I really do like the look.

  27. I like the look, but would not use it in my house. I would get to many questions like, couldn’t afford a finished chair,? Was this free? When are you going to finish the chair? Any upholstered second hand furniture sold in antique stores in Pennsylvania need to be disinfected and a tag applied. I believe Marian can do a great job on the chair, I do agree with some comments about new materials being used, the down cushion is a great plus.I hope we get to see it soon!

  28. I am sure most of you would not want it in your home’s if you could see what is living and was living in and on the chair microscopically! I am thinking …
    Roach droppings, mouse droppings, fleas, bed bugs dead and alive along with their droppings as well as pet or human urine and feces. As an antique dealer I have seen many pieces in old unkept homes that are drug out of the house and sold that I would not dream of touching or bringing into my home! YUCK! If you have allergies or asthma these things can make you feel very ill!

  29. I’m gonna sound crazy but I suggest either freezing the pillow or washing the loose cushion, maybe inside a pillow case or cover so you can kill the mites. I do this to my bed pillows every 3 months or so. Helps so much with allergies.

  30. I really like the deconstructed look. I DO NOT like the stained burlap-extra yucko! Deconstructed-yes. Dirty and stained-NO!

  31. I do love the deconstructed pair of chairs and the trend. Not my whole house, but just in a vignette. The art of the frame work is not done in today’s modern machine mass produced furniture. So showing the skill and talent of the maker in another time of life that we never lived in, is showing respect and being able to touch and run your hands over the awesome craftsmanship is like touching a piece of time in history to me.

    Can’t wait to see the results of this chair. If this one does not work out, there will be one that Miss Marian will no doubt put her skill and talent to and bring the beauty back to life for us to feast our eyes on and maybe fret over who get to buy it if she decides to sell it.

  32. I can’t quite figure out if I like the deconstructed look or not. I think if the new upholstery has clean lines and the deconstructed part is still tidy “ish”, it’s a fun look. Can’t wait to see what you do!

    1. My jury still has not returned from deliberation on this topic. I like the look, it has a bit of a nostalgic appeal to it, but the old and musty upholstery bits,as much as I love old stuff, just gives me the shivers — and *not* in the good way. Reading some of the other comments about what could possibly be lurking in the furniture innards, and how those stains *might* have come to be, has me suppressing my gag reflex a bit!

      And I do somewhat agree with the commenter who felt that RH may have indeed cooked up a plan to bamboozle (my goodness, when was the last time anyone’s heard the word “bamboozled”?! It’s so perfectly descriptive!) unsuspecting customers with this new “trend.”

      All that said, I think I could live with this look if it were only one or two pieces, perhaps in a sitting area, using old vintage or antique furniture frames, but new, yet traditional, materials were used to finish off the small bit of upholstery. I think all of us ladies who love that old farmhouse/ cottage/ beach-house look really do, in our hearts, love old furniture and the nostalgic feelings it evokes.

  33. ok Marian, since you asked, no not a fan.
    …’living with’ the deconstructed look, never would.
    it can have it’s place in ‘some’ photo shoot applications, or artistically somehow, or okay for stage props/halloween, scary movies…yeah ok for that.
    it’s gross and a grunge look I don’t like… won’t want that in my home ever….it’s toooo rough.
    there’s just something about uncovered upholstery that doesn’t hold alot of beauty in my opinion, having experienced the real thing first hand at auctions,in barns, garages, yard sales, the curb.. and touched the ‘real’ deconstructed thing, old uphostery, raw wood, rusty old nails exposed with upholstery and stuffing remnants that are stuck underneath them in shreds..water stains…etc…brings to mind the usual dusty, mouse poop, and stains ….kind of like nails on a chalk board feeling…to me.
    I like the clean look and feel of a FINISHED piece done the traditional way, not 1/2 way done or made to look 1/2 way done.
    I think that your settee was beautiful that you did with hemp sheets, the tufted back, etc…. if you are into deconstructing to expose the bones of the furniture, and use beautiful finishes, then that’s a style that is a cottage-like look that could take off, or the abandoned castle or chateau look that could be pulled off, minus the grunge like shreds and rough wood or nails of course…. please. …(or mouse pooh ) LOLLL yuck

  34. So interesting to read the comments. I understand your appreciation for the quality of the workmanship of the past and recognizing that the “bones” of the chair have a certain beauty due to their functionality.
    What irks me is how something becomes a trend and how some people just follow because they have no creativity of their own. Darn old copy cats. However, some people are creative and innovative and others have different skills.
    My final reaction is to offer my large male cat, Boo and his furniture deconstruction skills to any and everyone. Even though he has many, many different types of scratching posts, he also LOVES to attack certain pieces of upholstered furniture. He will happily deconstruct furniture. Thank goodness I adore him, he is a very sweet boy.

  35. HEHEh, ohhh myyy,
    Dear Susan,
    I also offer my large male cat L’il Monster, better known as Sir Fluffington to accompany your cat Boo, and as a team they could accomplish DOUBLE deconstruction.
    Our cat LOVES to deconstruct also, and does so HAPPILY and stealthily !!!
    Yes we adore him too, oh Sir Fluffington.

  36. First, I would just like to give a PA shout-out; I am writing from Reading 🙂
    I have followed the MMS blog for years, but never posted a comment!

    However, some of the feedback has gotten the wheels in my brain turning.. I was just curious, in reference to all of the comments regarding dirt, stink, stains, bugs, etc.- wouldn’t that be the case for any reupholstered piece of furniture? I mean, assuming that the “guts” weren’t redone as so many are suggesting? It would just not be evident because it’d be upholstered over in new fabric… So, basically, it would be like “sweeping it under the rug”. Same insides, just newer clothes!

  37. Interesting, arty look but I had a dog that did this to by best chair once. Sorry, not for me.

  38. Not a fan, but sure does make for great photo opportunity. I think I like the idea of it, don’t want it for me, fun to look at as long as it’s not my house. Again, superior photo opportunity on that piece, as always, great job. Truly great eye for all the picky details that make all of your finds wonderful to stare at in photos.

  39. Well, I have to say, the appeal of this trend is lost on me. I love patina and all, but I just don’t think I can get with a ripped up chair in my living room! Of course, I wouldn’t have to worry about the grandsons wrecking it! Oh, my, the ideas and trends that come and go–fascinating!

    I’ll be along for the ride, though. Interested in seeing how your project works out. You do keep my attention!

  40. I am looking forward to seeing the unfinished-finished product! I like the deconstructed look 🙂 I have wondered about the “cleanliness” of second hand pieces… I have several second hand chairs in my home. Most of them sat out in the cold for a few months in my shed until I could get around to working on them- so -30 C. I then either recover or clean them… but someone recently said they never buy used upholstered anything- and I wondered your thoughts on this, and if you have a certain process for prepping or cleaning items. I usually do the sniff test…. and that about does it for me!

  41. As a piece of art, yes. As an actual piece of furniture to be used in the home, no. Kinda reminds me of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations for some reason…will withhold final judgement until after the unveiling.

    1. That is so hilarious! Every time I see dead schrivled up dried flowers I think of Miss Havisham. Yep, I can see the correlation !

  42. I was about to say absolutely not, then I remembered I recently deconstructed my drawer divan. I read a feng shui book whilst awake with insomnia and decided to ditch the 4 drawers and their contents. Then I looked at the aging damask and 2 hours later the bed was down to 6 rough wood legs and the unplaned frame. But it’s all covered up with a bed skirt! Have been sleeping really well since … Love this blog ♥

  43. I like looking at it. THe process in intriguing. I had an upholsterer in TX who told me she started to rip a chair apart for a client and found a one# bag of marijuana in the depths!

  44. Oh I want to be a fan but I have issues with beige towels! I’m always trying to get them “clean” aka- white! Is it okay not to be a fan but still love what you do and show us? Good! I’ll keep liking what you do!

  45. I too like the look and photo ops, but don’t think I could have it in my house or even y work shop or chicken coop!! I would look at it as an unfinished project and think, hmmm…I really need to finish that! But as always, I love to watch your work and I’m sure it will turn out amazing as all your other projects have. Enjoy your weekend!

  46. I mean…like…do you actually sit on that? Ha ha…just messing with ya. But truthfully…not for me. Nope. Never. But it’s interesting to learn what sparks one’s joy , isn’t it?

  47. A grey washed or pickled stain on the wood. Fresh new white linen material on the front side and seat. New burlap exposed on the sides and back and all held together with brand new cut tacks. MMMHMMM, I see it, I get it and I LOVE it!

  48. I love love this look. I have been drooling over some of the $$$ deconstructed furniture from Restoration Hardware and I thought, I hope MMS will create some pieces! It is furniture and art at the same time. Rustic but elegant in my book.

  49. I love those from RH but too expensive. I have not found the appropriate piece for DIY. ?

  50. I’m a huge fan of the deconstructed look! Maybe because I personally sport a “deconstructed look” since I’m showing all my 68 years of life. I’ve been a fan since first seeing this look in Paris a few years ago. It just caught my heart.

  51. I think I’ve been living with some partially deconstructed furniture for a while . . .

    We had them recovered earlier this year, after waiting to have them done for years. I am SO glad. Ours are batting over foam, and it hurt to sit on them with foam gone and wood showing on the arms.

    I’m now ready to tackle two chairs that also are tearing at the seams for that deconstructed look 🙂 They’ve got batting coming out of the seats.

    I am looking to restain them; they’re pecan colored and I have dark woods. I’ve been looking at stains and I’m not sure what to use. Do you have a preferred brand?

  52. I’m starting to work on my own deconstructed wingback! I love this look! I find it to be such a conversation piece (atleast I think it will be!) please do a tutorial video on your chair we would love to watch!

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