Restored Leather Highback Chair

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Leather highback chair needed two leather patches on the seat. After the repair was completed and new metal gliders added. Photo 1 by Don Tai

Leather highback chair needed two leather patches on the seat. After the repair was completed and new metal gliders added. Photo 1 by Don Tai

This leather chair was cast aside, but it beaconed me to come closer. It took little time to determine that it was leather covered and in need of a major repair. Once done, however, the chair was returned to service, and comfortable it is.

Glaringly obvious was the huge gash 6.5″/17cm gash in the seat, as well as a smaller 1″/3cm cut, also in the seat. After I determined that the backing material was actually the very reassuringly natural matte fibers of real leather, I knew the repair could be done.

Vinyl covering, or more poshly called “pleather”, is a travesty of material for indoor furniture. Sticky in the summer, over time it will crack and need to be replaced. Leather, on the other hand, can be repaired and will last a very long time, perhaps decades if taken care of.

Leather highback chair needed two leather patches on the seat. After the repair was completed and new metal gliders added. Photo 1 by Don Tai

Leather highback chair needed two leather patches on the seat. After the repair was completed and new metal gliders added. Photo 1 by Don Tai

This highback chair’s leather was upholstery leather and somewhat thin. I opted to do the two leather patches in thin cowhide and also of upholstery thickness. The chair has a metal base which can be easily removed, held in by 3 philips screws per side. Philips, and not Robertson, so perhaps not made in Canada. You see, there are no labels on this chair, so I have no idea of its origin. I can only look at material and workmanship for clues. The metal frame is inset into a wooden frame that is the perimeter of the seat. Covering this perimeter and the chair seat bottom center was some thin upholstery fabric, used to keep out the dust.

Leather highback chair repair. Legs attached to the seat with a metal frame, using 3 screws per side. Photo 2 by Don Tai

Leather highback chair repair. Legs attached to the seat with a metal frame, using 3 screws per side. Photo 2 by Don Tai

The staples of the front and sides of the seat were removed, and there were a lot. The wood of the frame is stout and hardwood. As the repair was only to the seat there was no need to remove the staples of the back nor the complete leather back cover. If I could only expose the seat leather backing I could successfully do the repair.

Once the front and sides were freed I was able to pull up the leather seat. The seat back was still intact. Underneath the chair seemed new. Stout springs gave the seat cushioning. The foam was fresh.

I slathered contact cement on the back of the two cuts as well as on the back of my patches, and let dry. A thin and flat piece of plywood was used to temporarily back the patch area, as I was sure the seat cushioning was too flexible to get a proper and accurate bond. The large cut was somewhat stretched and would not easily mate back together. I carefully set the left side of the cut to my patch, after stretching taught while protecting the right side from the patch with a piece of cardboard. Slowly I was able to position a portion of the right side close to the left, move the protective cardboard, and the finally make the bond. Overall it was not too difficult but takes patience and perseverance. The small patch was very simple.

Leather highback chair repair, large 6.5 in / 17cm gash required a leather patch from the inside. Photo 3 by Don Tai

Leather highback chair repair, large 6.5 in / 17cm gash required a leather patch from the inside. Photo 3 by Don Tai

Leather highback chair repair, smaller 1 in / 3cm gash required a smaller leather patch from the inside. Photo 4 by Don Tai

Leather highback chair repair, smaller 1 in / 3cm gash required a smaller leather patch from the inside. Photo 4 by Don Tai

I had thought about both gluing and stitching the patch, but that would have meant having to completely remove the leather from the frame. As well the stitching would have been a more obvious indicator of the patch. Instead I opted for the glue only method, which should be sufficiently strong. After all, this is not a horse saddle but a highback leather chair.

The inside out turning of the the seat cover had unraveled the front corners, where the seat meet the sides. They were not sewn very tightly in the first place. These seams had to be restitched by hand and carefully knotted.

And now the stretching began. Stretch, reposition, jiggle the leather to slide over the foam, and finally staple back to he frame.

Overall the repair was not that difficult. While it did turn out fine, you can still see the cut in the seat, though now it is repaired with a layer of bonded leather below. Attempting to replace the complete seat leather would have meant unstitching the seat top, cutting a new piece and then restitching. There was also the issue of matching the original colour. I thought that would have been too much work.

Once together I noticed that the chair legs had metal inserts for floor protectors. This is a mark of higher end furniture. Luckily the thread was a standard 1/4″ 20tpi shank. I spent $5 at Home Depot and purchased replacement metal floor protectors. They also allow for leveling the chair. Now the chair glides very well on hardwood floor.

Leather highback chair repair, replacement metal cushioned gliders on 1/4 in 20 tpi studs, which also level. Photo 5 by Don Tai

Leather highback chair repair, replacement metal cushioned gliders on 1/4 in 20 tpi studs, which also level. Photo 5 by Don Tai

There are no labels of origin on this chair, so can only guess at the quality. An internet search has revealed similar chairs such as this RV-014 High Back Black Leather Dining Chair. On further viewing of the photos this Artefac chair back is made of three long seams of leather, while my chair has double rear panels.

This Fan Back N High Back Comfortable Parsons Leather Dining Chair, Black seems similar, but the photo is not sufficiently detailed to say for sure. At $359US per chair I would have expected a better photo.

Overall this leather highback chair is very comfortable and feels really nice. While sitting I do not notice the large patch at all. Maybe if you sat sans pantaloons you would feel something. I am happy I did the repair and saved this chair from the landfill. Overall the chair is of high quality, easily repairable and should last many decades.

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