Barrel chairs are incredibly comfortable little chairs that are generally used in a bedroom or as a comfortable to chair to read in. They have been made for over a hundred years and the design is still incredibly popular. Unfortunately anyone who owns one and loves it dearly will know that because it is used so much, at some point you will consider having it reupholstered or purchase a barrel chair slipcover.
After many years in the antiques trade, I learned how to do my own reupholstery reasonably well, but sadly when it came to barrel chairs, I would usually pass on them when I saw them for sale, and I would always refuse to recover them for clients – they are just too difficult even for a reasonably experienced upholsterer. Straight back and sides I could manage, but many of the older chairs had tufted or ribbed backs, which involves an incredible amount of work, and if the fabric is patterned, they can look like a dog’s dinner when you’ve finished.
It is a shame to pass up a barrel chair if you see one for sale though, the ones made in the 1930s and 1940s are sturdily built and have springs that make them so very comfortable, but at 70 or 80 years old they do need to be recovered. The solution is a barrel chair slip cover. You can actually purchase these online now, either made to your specifications or ready made.
The secret to purchasing any slipcover – especially online – is the measuring. If you are looking for a ready made slip cover, make sure you understand the measurements and get the right one for your chair. Problem is, so many didn’t come in standard sizes, so you may have to adapt a ready made barrel chair cover to fit your beloved chair. If you’re handy with a machine, then taking in a ready made barrel chair slip cover is not too difficult – but again the secret is in the measuring. Always measure twice and cut once.
I’m a fabric freak and I detest cheap fabrics. If you are going to get many more years service from your barrel chair and its new cover, I wouldn’t recommend buying the cheapest cover you can find on the internet. Best to go to a department store and feel the quality of the fabric before you buy. Computer monitors can also distort the colors of fabric, so what you thought was bright red may arrive as a dull as dishwater red.
I know of upholstery classes where you can take your project along with you and work on it once a week over a number of months. I’m afraid I would not be patient enough to do that. So consider buying a ready made barrel chair slipcover from a department store. If you do buy one online, check to see that you can return it for a refund or at least an exchange, and there are no penalties for doing so, like a restocking charge.