Behold, the Bear Chair.
This chair holds a special place in all of our hearts.
My husband, Steve, received it as a gift when he was very young. From my mother-in-law, I understand that he loved this chair and would run to it to rock as soon as he returned from weekends up north to see family.
Once we had kids of our own, Steve’s parents had the chair recovered so a new generation could enjoy it. I don’t know if I ever saw it before it was recovered, but I think it is safe to say that the second generation took its toll on the poor old Bear Chair.
Now that our kids are getting older, I felt like it was time to give the Bear Chair a new lease on life. However, I proceeded cautiously, as my husband (and kids) is not a big fan of change and I knew that it was probably not wise for me to mess with a man’s Bear Chair.
So, I mentioned that I was thinking of recovering it a few times over a few months. Steve would look at the chair and agree that it had seen better days. Eventually, he seemed OK enough with a redo that I picked up the fabric I needed to give Mr. Bear Chair a facelift.
Since I was taking the Bear Chair to a Polar Bear Chair, I let the fabric hang out for quite a while in our office, so Steve could get used to the idea. It seemed to have worked, because I received no complaints from anyone about the idea of going polar for this change.
Now I was getting nervous, because I did not really know what I was doing. My general approach was to take everything apart, and then do it all in reverse to recover it. Can I just say that I learned two things about the Bear Chair in the dismantling process? First, 17-year-old fabric and padding are ishy. No bueno. Second, there were about 1,001 staples in that Bear Chair. I had no idea. It took a few nights to completely deconstruct the chair. Everyone was sad to see it in such a state, but I assured them it would be better than ever once I was done!
Once it was all apart, I cleaned the arms of the chair (ewww – gross with dirt; how had I missed that all of these years?) and then painted the arms and the base with Annie Sloan Off White Chalk Paint. I wanted a really durable finish, so I opted skip the wax and give it a modern finish. I covered the paint with 3 coats of Polycrylic in Satin, lightly sanding between coats.
Once that was done, I added new padding and covered the easiest part, the base. Since it is a simple square, I was able to wrap it similar to a present (folding the corners over) and secure everything with staples. Boosted by my success, I moved on to covering the arms. Once those were done, I tackled the hardest part – the head and body. I made the head separate from the body, just like the original. It worked well to get it over the head and the body was pretty straightforward. I cut some extra batting for both sides of each piece to keep it all comfy for little ones.
I was thinking that I did NOT want a collar, so I carefully sewed the head to the body. It turned out great. I was admiring my work when Steve walked by and said, “It needs a collar.” Sigh. Fine. Realizing that no polar bear is walking around with a collar, I decided on a scarf in the same color so it would not stand out too much. Because running into a polar bear with a scarf is far more likely than running into a polar bear with a collar, right? Good, glad you agree.
I loved it at this point! I was afraid I would ruin the whole thing if I attempted to put a face on it, so I left it alone.
I showed Steve and his reply was “It needs a face”. I showed Chandler and his reply was, “It needs a face”. I showed Alex, Max and Will and (unprompted) each one said “Where is his face?”. Well, OK, I guess I was making a face for the Polar Bear Chair.
Knowing it would look off (but no one would know why it looked off, it just would) if I had the face dimensions wrong, I decided to fire up my Google machine to find a realistic polar bear face. I focused in on this picture, specifically on the shapes and relative size of the eyes and nose. Using my Silhouette, I cut shapes for the eyes and nose. I ended up with an oval piece in the creamy fur and two brown fleece pieces to make up the nose. Then I cut two smaller circles out of the brown fleece for the eyes.
I held my breath and carefully glued them into place. To my relief, it looks good!
Happily, everyone is really happy with the bear chair and I love how he matches our new living room decor. Because the kids are older and can abide by the no-eating-in-the-bear-chair rule, I am feeling pretty optimistic about the lighter color.