While it is still practice in certain circles to commission original portraits of one’s illustrious family members, and hang them in ye hallowed halls of one’s illustrious family estate, the practice is surely not as common now as in the days of yore. And yet hanging portraiture remains as popular as ever. The good news for anyone without a photogenic aunt (or without the budget to commission original art) is that it’s arguably trendier to hang a portrait of a complete stranger rather than to commission one yourself. They crop up all the time at auctions and estate sales and fleas, where they can be snatched up by any passing hipster with a shallow shelf to lean it on.
Pretty? Definitely. Weird? Yeah a little. (A.k.a. the perfect mix.) Here are some examples of portraiture from our archives—by both famous artists and artists unknown—to inspire the placement of your new stranger friend. And if you want to tell everyone it’s a distant relative, be our guest.
Put down the needle and thread; back away from your sewing machine. DIY upholstery, a simple technique that will have you re-covering chairs, benches, headboards, and even box springs with your own two hands, requires only one tool, and it’s a staple gun. The method is not unlike wrapping a present, and the results are more professional-looking than you can imagine. We spoke with Ana Verdi, the designer at Thompson Fine Home Renovation, to learn what crafty beginners should know before tackling their first DIY upholstery project.
Verdi’s rule of thumb: “Anything with straight lines” can probably be upholstered successfully by a beginner. (Side note: Here’s how to know if you’re out of your league.) “Once you get into any sort of curved arm, the process can be trickier if you’re not confident making a pleat,” she explains. The square seat of a dining room chair or a rectangular bench top are the obvious contenders for a first project, but Verdi says bigger isn’t necessarily more complex: “You can upholster a box spring and screw legs onto it so it looks like an upholstered bed.”
What Tools Will I Need?
Fabric: Upholstery-weight will work best for any high-wear situations like seating, though Verdi says that you can get around that by having a less durable fabric backed by a seamstress, or by laying down a piece of canvas or muslin underneath it.
Batting: Inexpensive, puffy sheets of cotton wadding that create the cushy puff under the fabric.
Staple Gun: A hand staple gun will get the job done, though investing in a pneumatic model (not too much pricier) will save you quite a bit of labor.
Hammer: For tapping in flourishes like nailheads or grommets. “An easy trick is to wrap your hammer with batting and secure that with a rubber band,” says Verdi, which will protect those accents you’re hammering in from scratching.
Upholstery Tack Strip: Essentially a long, skinny strip of double-stick cardboard, tack strip is used to create a clean finished seam on straight-edged upholstery. Here’s how you use it.