Blog by Beebe Cline

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Bet Your Bottom Dollar on Cane Chairs for Stylish Seating

Pull up a chair at the dining table of a family member or friend these days, and there's a strong possibility it will be a cane or Chippendale-style chair. The two styles are hot commodities on the flea market and thrift store scene, highly sought after to add a touch of whimsy or old-school flair to a room.

The Chippendales of today are inspired by the chairs made by Thomas Chippendale, a London furniture designer and cabinetmaker in the 1700s. It was a popular century for these chair designs, with cane-bottom chairs emerging in China too. The chairs became popular in America around 1820, with the advent of factory-built furniture.

Now ubiquitous at thrift shops and online bargain sites, used chairs like these can be especially easy on the wallet — I recently scored four for a client for just $60 — and are insanely easy to update. And unlike most dining chairs, their seat cushions are usually affixed with just a few screws, which makes it easy to add new fabric. They also look fabulous in just about every color.

Let's take a look at these classic chair styles and how they can help your home look brand new, whether you're on a budget or ready to splurge.
These cane chairs were given new life with red paint and inexpensive fabric to dress up the seating. If you're afraid of red overload, pair it with black and white to tame the powerful effects of red.

Tip: When sourcing cane chairs, be sure the woven back and bottom are in good condition. If the cane weaving is worn or torn, it will cost you to have it repaired, meaning it may no longer be as budget friendly as you thought.
Red isn't the only bold color that works for these chairs. These yellow Chippendale chairs add a bit of pop to this very staid room. A pricier version of these can be scored from Jonathan Adler. But if you don't have that kind of money to burn, then put in some elbow grease and find some at your local flea market or on Craigslist. Once you've bartered your way to a steal, haul the chairs home and give them a light sanding and some primer, then spray paint them an electric hue.
If yellow and red feel too bright for you, try high-gloss black. the graphic stripes of this rug add contrast, as do the beige and white chair cushions.

Tip: Since the backs of these chairs make such a stunning statement, you can save a lot by using inexpensive fabric to upholster the cushions. Search for $1-a-yard fabric in the clearance bin at your local fabric store or use fabric remnants from past projects to update the seats inexpensively. Each cushion will take about 1/2 yard of fabric, so you can update six chairs for $3 bucks. Translation: a steal.
Equally fab in white, Chippendales serve as extra seating in this banquette area. To update the cushions of a Chippendale-style chair, simply unscrew them from underneath, cut your fabric to size, wrap the new fabric tightly around the cushion and staple it in place with a staple gun. Screw the cushion back in place, and a new chair is born. I do this often with chairs; changing out the fabric once or twice a year is an easy way to spruce up decor.

Step-by-step instructions to reupholster a chair seat
Cane chair backs come in many forms — high, low, straight, curved. These curved whitewashed chairs scream feminine chic in this country chic dining space.

Not in the mood for a cushion fabric DIY? Add a cushion on top of the existing chair and tie it in place. Consider putting two upholstered chairs at the ends of the table or throw a slipcover on two of your existing chairs for a little contrast.
I love the formal curves of this robust cane chair. These are fitting in a traditional dining room — proof that these chairs are a versatile bunch. Notice the addition of the lumbar pillows for additional back support. This homeowner also added color to the chairs with new cushions that didn't need to be stapled or screwed in place.

Tip: Decide early on which lines you want highlighted in your cane chair. Do you want a curved back for a fun and flirty room; a rounded top, which is versatile enough for any decor; or a straight back for a more formal setting?
This room is layered with color and texture — in the fabrics, wallpaper and pillows — and the Chippendale chairs were not to be outdone. These were painted white to offset the varied colors in the space and were adorned with two different fabrics.

Tip: Spray painting is usually much easier than brushing or rolling paint on chairs. It should give you a cleaner finish, too.
These glossy black cane chairs get a pop of modern fun paired with a chevron fabric. They get even more flair by being paired with another classic, the Tulip Table.

Tip: Any sturdy upholstery fabric will work well on these chairs. Remember you'll need to pull firmly on the edges when stretching the fabric to staple it underneath, so be certain you've chosen a fabric that can handle being stretched. Silks and thin cotton fabric are not well suited for most dining chairs, since they see a lot of wear.