I don’t know exactly HOW it happened, but we were driving to get a coffee and I spotted it; a sad-looking wingback chair covered in horrible fabric that reminded me of ‘Who’s the Boss?’, sitting in a big pile of trash and yard debris.
“Oh! Can we stop? Look at that chair!” I said to John. He kept driving. He knows if we stop, we’re taking it home, always. We continued down the street to drive through for our drinks. The chair was talking to me the whole time. I convinced him to go back so we could just look at it. I promise, if it’s horrible, we won’t bring it home. Two minutes later and the chair is loaded in the back of the VW with John wedged between the trunk and the backseats, holding the chair in place.
It was not cute. But it had an amazing shape and the wings are SOOOO deep. Is that how you explain them? They aren’t wimpy wings. They are cozy, sinkintome wings. This was not a project that I was going to take on myself. While I’m capable of DIY’ing things to a certain extent, I know my limits. I’m not an upholsterer.
I took a photo of the chair into the upholstery shop to get a quote. It would be $800 to have it reupholstered. That wasn’t including if I wanted all of the nailheads replaced WHICH I DID. Upholstery work is tedious and you have to be meticulous, so I get it, but unfortunately, my bank account does not get it. Back to the drawing board.
I had heard about a program where inmates of the Arizona Correctional Department learn to reupholster and refurbish furniture. They take classes and this becomes their daily job. I called the company and they quoted me $230 for the entire job, including nailheads, a new cushion, and a pillow. Done and done!
The next step was to pick out fabric. By now you know that things have to speak to me, so there’s no guarantee that we would find the right fabric on the first trip to the fabric store. I knew I wanted something with a pattern because both the couch and the other chair in our living room are solid. I also didn’t want something too trendy because I didn’t want to hate it in a year. We looked for probably 45 minutes and a few fabrics were contenders, but then I saw it! A gorgeous cream and black fabric that looked to be crowns on a chain link pattern. The perfect mix of class and hood! YES!! We had the fabric cut, then spent way too long deciding on nailheads. The winner was a big box of shiny gold ones (duh) that I thought would just give that extra oomph to the chair.
We made an appointment to drop off the chair at Arizona Correctional Industries, and with the help of our neighbor (and his truck), John dropped it off. Inmates work at the building too, although the actual reupholstering is done at the prison in Florence, AZ. It’s all women inmates at the ACI building and there was much text-joking about Orange is the New Black while he was there.
There is no time-frame when you drop off furniture there, so you really can’t have expectations or a firm due date for your piece being done. We were fine with that, and when we got the call that the chair was ready, it was sort of like Christmas! I wanted to see it right away, but we had to wait until we had a day off.
I had decided that I would definitely go to pick it up, mostly because I wanted to see the inmates. When we arrived, they were all signing in for their day of work, in their bright orange jumpsuits. We stood off to the side until they were done, and then were called up to the desk by the inmate who worked in the front. She took our name and paged someone to come up to meet us. After meeting with our representative, we were told that we could pull the truck around the back and into the warehouse. John and neighbor drove back and I walked around to meet them there. Our rep and an inmate were standing by the chair which was wrapped in foam and plastic. The inmate began unwrapping it and I seriously almost started crying!
No pictures are allowed at ACI, but I wish I could show you the scene! The inmate was so proud of the work that had been done, and was so excited when she saw how much we loved the chair. The work was impeccable. Other inmates watched from the side to see our reactions. They take such pride in their work and have all the time they need to do things right. I sort of wanted to stay and hang out, find out their stories, and thank them all for what they do. Back in real life though, these ladies were probably not interested in hanging out and swapping stories with me. Haha!
Can you even believe this? I sort of can’t. I have named it “The Gwen Stefani Chair” because I imagine that Gwen would have a chair like this in her home. I had the option of having the legs stained which I declined at the time. Seeing them now though, I definitely wish I would have had them done. Luckily, I’ve still got a jar of black lacquer and can totally do this part myself.
It’s so ridiculous. I can’t believe this was in the trash!!
Perfection. And all for about 1/4th the cost. Amazing.
While the time frame is definitely longer than having something reupholstered at a traditional shop, the cost, the craftsmanship, and the fact that you’re supporting a great cause totally makes it worth it. They do all different kinds of furniture work and repairs. If you’re interested in getting a quote for reupholstering or refinishing something in your house, check out the ACI website here.