How the art deco armchair skeletons were brought back to life


Last year, Huisraad posted a picture of a dilapidated, rusted, dust-covered and what seemed to be a rotten Art Deco couch and asked followers: What do you think, shall we do it?

Razor sharp, rusty springs stuck out of the disintegrated hessian seat covers. The side panels and seats were completely missing. Any sane person would recoil at the image. But of course, Huisraad and their followers did not. Comments streamed in, from suggestions for which fabric to use to those who were already excited for the ‘after’ pics.

But first, they had to get their hands on the couches. Magriet and her mother took a break from December holidaying and drove to Port Elizabeth with an empty trailer in the hope of visiting the shop, aptly called “The Shop”. But it was closed, rubbish bags adorning the sign outside.

Several attempts to reach the owner on that Friday afternoon failed – including asking the neighbouring businesses and another second-hand shop owner about The Shop. Last mentioned called Mr. Owner Of The Couches Of Promise on his cell phone to no avail.

Luckily, Mr. Owner Of The Couches Of Promise returned from holiday a couple of days later and then returned his messages. On top of that, he knew someone who could give the couches a lift to Cape Town, since the Huisraad trailer had long since returned (filled to the brim with other finds, of course). And that’s how five very sad-looking couches arrived at the doorstep of the Huisraad chair hospital one Sunday night in January. They’d made it through quite an adventure, catching a lift in a converted trailer belonging to an Eastern Cape chicken farmer and his wife on a mission to fetch some day-old chicks.

At this point it still wasn’t clear if the frames - a two armchairs and a matching two seater couch and two more armchairs were worth the effort, so it was quite a risk. But a quick inspection proved them worthy: the frames were made of solid wood, and they weren’t rotten.

Huisraad handyman Owen Fatch and Magriet then tackled them. Even Owen, who’s sanded a good share of Huisraad finds, admits he had his doubts. It took them about two days to remove a myriad of nails from the frames, strengthen weak spots, fill any holes with a paste of sawdust and wood glue and sand the armrests.

What emerged was a slick two-tone wood with only a few nicks and scrapes on the set of three and a very solid, dark, wood on the other two armchairs They were checked for wood borers and given a first coat of gloss varnish.


The two armchairs then went to upholsterer, Henry Fortune, to work his magic.

Henry cleaned and refastened the springs, fleshed out the skeletal frames with new foam and then expertly covered them. A last lick of varnish. And now it’s time to finally reveal the first two of the five couches.

Behold! The deep red vinyl of the outside panels. The bare grey of the seats. Like a fifties diner, but better.

Magriet says it was the art deco arm rests and the stripped down, squarish shape of these post-WWII couches that caught her eye. But we say she has x-ray eyes.

  • Dalena Theron

To buy these two chairs, click here.


  • Carien Liebenberg

    She cErtainly has! Respect!

  • Lynette Hough


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