Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Uncle's Armchairs

Warning: Take heart, this is going to be a super long post, since it combines the chairs and their cushion covers.

Painting the Chairs
I went a little paintbrush crazy towards the later half of my mission "Refurbish Uncle's furniture" (Uncle being the dude who sold this apartment to us at a super exorbitant price, thus turning us overnight from Yuppies to Paupies). So far I had painted a rattan chair yellow (regret, should have just thrown it away, they were too oversized for the apartment. What a waste of paint, and given that 5 persons had different approaches to painting that chair, resulted in a patchy end result -.-"). my table legs green, and a chandelier blue. I am keeping my fingers crossed that it will all come together in the end.

B1 and I became fairly traumatized by the entire painting episode, me more so, because I did the bulk of the painting and the sanding, being the fussy one who wants the damn things to be painted JUST SO. I now cannot finish my painting of the lime, lemon, orange and tangerine, because the sight of a paintbrush makes my hands tingle.

Chair in its original state. You can't see the deep scratches here.
Some of the furniture left behind were these late 1980's style one-seater armchairs (they look like Teak, but they are not). There was a three-seater armchair as well, but two of the wood panels were repaired ones, and I don't think I want to risk our butts. I am not even sure how heavy was the person who broke them in the first place? Those poor chairs were put through some major abuse, scratch marks and grooves, did those people do some humping there or something? I could be sitting on the aftermath of some porno movie set.

So given my observation on how strong these panels are, I decided to take the three-seater apart, and keep them in the storeroom as backup for the two one-seaters when theirs break. Much to B1's chagrin, of course. 

I thought about it. Did I want to keep the chairs in their original color, i.e. just sand down to remove the nasty scratches on them and do a mahogany finish? Or stick to my theme, and turn them white. Lesson No 1. Think of the future. First idea was better. But since I had leftover wallpaint, I did the chairs white and thus a great disservice.

Sanded down. Well, sort of, I was sick of the sander by the time I reached the armchairs
Lesson No 2. I am not a patient painter, just dollops of paint, which kept seeping into the chair. I am now despairing on how to get the paint out and do a nice coat of furniture paint. But I will think about that when the time comes.

Chair Cushion Seats
So the arm chairs came with some cushions (10 of them). I went about checking on how much it would cost to tailor made cushions, like Mutter did for our own furniture (it cost her $1500 back in 2008). The most friendly price was the default sized cushions from this Toa Payoh shop, they had four grades, and I chose the most expensive ones @$20. The ones I wanted to get were S$60 a custom-cut cushion (not including cushion covers), which of course helped to influence my decision to take apart the three-seater.

The Toa Payoh auntie was a cow, she kept forgetting my order (she said that the cushions were not available and were specially made in Malaysia), that one month had passed, and I had come back from Hanoi, and the bloody cushions were still not ready. I had to make several calls and visits before she finally got someone to deliver to our doorstep. The cushion covers were ready before the cushions were.

Cushion Covers - Verbal Tussle with Vietnamese Upholsterers
While waiting for the paint to dry on the long suffering chairs, I flew to Hanoi for a holiday. After reading how expert sewers the Vietnamese were, I decided to bring one of the old cushion covers with me. I had tried the cushion cover on the default sized cushions at the Toa Payoh shop and discovered they were a perfect fit.

Before I left, I decided to translate my orders into Vietnamese using Google Translate. Not a great success,  in the end I had to rely on the Vietnamese-English dictionary I won from the library three years ago, and I only made the default cushion covers (I had also wanted to make cushion covers for those hideous rattan chairs).

I had interrogated poor Ductuan like mad in CoH and via email on how to get around in Hanoi, and most importantly where to find tailors in Vietnam (I had also wanted to make a dress, and naively thought that tailors/seamstresses could also make cushion covers, if the price was right). Ductuan bought his stuff ready-made, as he admitted, so he hazarded a guess and told me to try Quang Trung.

So the first day when we reached Hanoi, I cajoled one of my companions to go with me to Quang Trung. Well, when we got there, there was not a single tailor in sight, so I popped into a bank and asked them for help (figuring they could probably speak English). One of the ladies did speak some English, and she told us that there was no tailor shop along the street. When we walked out, she sent the policeman after us to call us back, and she then gave me a number to a seamstress shop in Lo Su. Like I mentioned in the other entry (highlighted url), the lady's son gave us directions to Cua Dong, where the upholsterers were. I believe now that he also mentioned Hang Dieu, but because there were so many Hangs, we kind of missed it the first time.

The Cua Dong upholsterers were aggressive. They refused my business because they couldn't speak English nor read my written Vietnamese very well. Just an abrasive wave away like we were flies. Crestfallen, we decided to make our way back to the hotel, where we got lost and passed through Hang Dieu, which was the other road with Upholsterers. Since I was stubborn, I decided to try my luck again, and went into the shop. I passed the lady a sample, and she quoted me 18,000 dong each cushion cover (which was kind of bullshit). I wanted to order 8 cushion covers from her, but decided since it was the first day (not sure if I had enough USD and Dong to cover my trip expenses), and I wasn't sure on how well she understood me, that I should withhold 4 from the order. But that is after I negotiated her down to 16000 dong (I suck at negotiations and her poker face dealt me a fatal blow), which is about S$10 a cushion cover. Btw I came back and discovered that cushion covers are about S$39 to S$59 each in a Woodlands Upholsterer's.  I was a bit irritated at the time, because I had anticipated that they would cost about US$5 each at most.
The red line signifies the path we took from our lunch place and the red dots, the bank and shops we stopped at
So five days later when I returned to Hanoi, I went to collect the cushion covers, ready to make the additional 4. The Upholsterers made the cushion covers too narrow. I could see it the minute I laid eyes on them. I was rather annoyed, and pointed out the mistake to the girl, who didn't believe me. I made her hold out the sample I gave her against one completed cushion. And it was pretty darn obvious, that the cushion covers can only cover a Japanese Zaisu cushion. Embarrassed, the lady told me to come back later in the afternoon. 

She did them correctly the second time around, but she refused to give me the leftover cloth samples that were also in the bag. Stingy. I decided against doing the other 4 covers.

At S$10 a pop, you would think I could have gotten something better? But the material is admittedly not bad. Lasting.
So after two months of effort, here is my chair. Lesson no 3. Don't cut off your nose to spite your face. Now my cushions will be naked whenever I wash my cushion covers. Another trip to Hanoi is NECESSARY.
Rilakkuma in the UFO machine, I am coming for you. I want the one in ze Blue Pyjamas.

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