2018 Swan Settee Pt. 1

It wouldn’t be an Ugly Duckling show without a big upholstery makeover!

Last year, I took on the project of the Swan Settee and when I finished it I thought…

“Yeah… I won’t be doing this again for awhile.”


Partly because I started on it the week of my first spring show so I was in such in a RUSH to get it done that was hard to enjoy the process, but also because of how physically draining it was to work on.

What you didn’t see behind the scenes was that…

Rush + physical work = crashing immune system.

I have no medical experience but I know my body well enough to know why I went from “perfectly healthy” to “super sick and bed ridden” within hours.

So… Lesson learned: The more involved makeovers need more time to be worked on so necessary breaks can be had.

That being said, I’ve been working on the Swan Settee ’18 little by little over the past couple of months. I’m not quite finished but far enough along to get out at least a part 1. blog post on the progress.

My pre-appologies, I did not do a great job at documenting the process. Sometimes I forget to take pictures of everything.

This piece was found in a historic home in downtown Staunton, Virginia. The homeowner wanted some furniture cleaned out to make room for their new renters and I was more than happy to get it down those steep historic steps.


It is bigger than last year’s settee and has a TON more tuffs and buttons.


And cushions to be sewn.


Ya know… Every time I accept the challenge of taking these projects on they don’t seem like a challenge until its too late and I’ve ripped off all of the old fabrics or sanded down half of the finish. Oh well, Can’t stop now!

Because the weather was still pretty finicky at the point I began the makeover process, I wasn’t able to do work outside that need to be done so I started by prepping the fabric I was going to use, making buttons (53 to be exact), and sewing the cushions.

I used the same button making process that I had done before with the first settee. If you would like to learn how to make your own upholstery buttons you can check out my DIY blog post on the subject here.

The fabric I used for this project, including the buttons, is just several simple painters’ drop cloths that I had purchased from our local Lowes. I had original wanted to use a linen but as I was pricing it out I realized that if wanted to keep this piece at an affordable price for Lucketts, I couldn’t sink a ton of money into fabric alone.

I had seen bleached drop cloths before and they look and feel very similar to nubby antique linen.


I loved how it turned out. Bleaching the fabric took the light taupe colored drop cloth and gave it soft bone white look.


The next step was making the cushions. In the before picture of the settee you can see where the original fabric had been warped from years of use so I didn’t want use it as a pattern for the new cushion covers. I ended up using the original cushion shape itself for the new covering and cording.



I also made a overlapping flap on the back of both of the cushions, attaching the flaps to each other with several buttons so that the cushion covers can be easily removed for washing.

Before completely removing all of the fabric from the settee I wanted to get the sanding on the frame done, along with the putting on the new finish. Best to do it when the inners have on that old fabric for protection, and when the fabric is ready to come off so will all of the dust from sanding.

I was really hoping for a weathered wood looked or a white washed look on the exposed frame of the settee but wasn’t 100% sure on how to accomplish the look.

I started with just doing a white wash. Quickly brushing on a lightly watered down white paint, letting it sit for a second, and than wiping off excess with a cloth. This gave a variety of opaque-ness with the white paint around the frame.

However, Ehhh I wasn’t really liking the look for this project. The fabric was already a lighter color and I didn’t want a white frame to wash out the whole piece.

I let the paint dry over night before trying the weathered technique.

To accomplish this look I layered Dark Walnut stain and Jacobean stain over the white-wash until I got the finish I was wanting.



BAM! Perfect!

The two stains layered over the slightly haphazardly applied white-wash produced this really awesome weathered look that turned out better than I had hoped!

To complete this step all I needed to do was top it off with a couple layers of Minwax Matte Protective finish.


Okay, now on to the meat of the project. The upholstery.

When tearing off fabric from a chair or settee with tufting… It’s kinda like deconstructing a puzzle.

The most efficient way to do it is to start by taking off all the trim and cording around the edges and saving it! You’ll need that later.

The back portion’s fabric would need to come off next because you’ll need to snip all of the button strings to then take off the front portion.

The seat fabric can be removed at just about any point

It’s hard to tell in this picture but I mark all of the button holes with a red marker before I cut the strings so I know exactly when to push the needle through for the new buttons.


When the time came to attach the new fabric I had had bleached and washed one full 9×12 drop cloth.

I stapled on the seat first and then began the careful processes for tufting.



Lots of folding and manipulating of fabric. Definitely more than Swan Settee numero uno, but so satisfyingly beautiful when all set into place and pulled tight.


So there you have it! Part 1 of the Swan Settee 2018. We are about half way done with this project but we definitely all down hill from here. Keep a look out for Part 2!

ps. I cracked my phone screen Friday morning and its kinda backed up my picture editing for future blog post so hopefully that will be fixed soon!

– Amanda