Friday, May 31, 2013

Mid-Century Salvation: Refurbished Banker's Chairs

A couple of years ago I was at an estate sale at a mansion in Midtown and saw the chair on the right. I thought it would be too much trouble to get it down the street and into my friend's car, which was pretty packed already with treasures collected from the several stops we'd already made. Still, she knew that it was something I would later be sorry if I passed on and she insisted that we'd "find a way." I purchased it for $15.00 and a burly guy offered to carry it to the car for me. Let's face it, the real attractiveness about men is their ability to lift heavy things and kill bugs. But let's don't tell them. Things were rearranged and into the trunk it went. Last year my elderly neighbor passed away and his family placed the chair on the left in the garage amongst things to be given away. They had reached that point I"m familiar with. I'm done. Take it away. I'll PAY you to take it.  It's been on my carport ever since. But this, this is the spring of fresh starts, so in it came.

The chunky mid-century hardware that would now fall into the Steampunk category was a rusty dusty mess, but it was my favorite thing about both chairs. I like a challenge. As long as it's not too challenging.

 I used a soybean based product to clean up the hardware, scrubbing it with a toothbrush. There were plenty of places too small even for that to be much of a help so I relied on a handy tool I love for tiny cracks and crevices. I use canned compressed air that is made for computers to clean all kinds of things around the house besides electronics. Intricate carving on furniture or picture frames and tops of books are a couple of places I use it all the time. I've used it on silk flowers, topographical maps, and anything delicate in nature that I don't want to handle much when cleaning. Which, once I have the can in my hand, I find is pretty much everything.

Sanding, sanding, sanding. I'm making it sound hard so you'll think I'm some kind of hard core wood restoration purist. I think by now we both know I'm lazy.  In reality each chair took less than 15 minutes.

 I am a violent decorator. In my zeal to get the chair out of the house I crashed it into the threshold of the back door and knocked off a wheel...part of the leg came with it.

Luckily it came off with a little groove left in the leg and was easily repaired with some wood glue.

Disaster averted. Now for a finish...

What to do? What to do? I thought they would have looked fierce painted butter yellow, tangerine orange, or lime green, but in the end the lines and wood grain won out. I decided to punch them up with the darkest stain I could find. I used Minwax Ebony. I felt like staining them and returning them to their natural beauty was the way to go now.

refinishing a vintage bankers chair

 The chairs were very similar, but there were slight detail differences like the lines and hardware.

It's a little humid here today so I'll have to put off adding a coat of polyurethane until a dryer day. But I love how chic the dark finish looks without them being painted black.

Mission accomplished!


  1. is this bankers
    chair for sale? if yes, how much please?

    1. Sorry, Maria. They are not for sale but keep on the watch for them at estate sales. They are fairly common.

  2. Hi Michelle:

    I just bought an antique swivel desk chair. The knob to tighten the tension of the back of the chair has the letters "SMC" or even "OSMCO" on it. Any idea what that stands for, or how I could find out. I bought it in Canada.