How to Rescue a Smelly Soft Chair



Reupholstered chair, photo by Kristi Nebel

This is a story of two curbside cast-offs, and a tale of two pink chairs.  Now I should precede this episode with my own hypocrisy on the topic of furniture left on curbsides.  I’ve got a whole high-minded, judgemental rant about it.  I’ve long held a firm belief that people who do this cling to the foolish notion that there is such a thing as a garbage fairy who magically picks up their unwanted furniture.  Furthermore, they are: a) too lazy to take it to the dump, and b) contributing to my neighborhood blight.  Sadly, they ignore the all-too-frequent disassembly of sofas by homeless people taking away the cushions for bedding.  And lastly, in a very wet climate such as mine, they somehow think padded furniture will disappear before being ruined by rain and subsequent mildew. 

But a few days ago, all that changed for me.  I had a pink winged, tufted Queen Anne chair covered in vinyl which had been my favored reading chair for 33 years.  It was purchased for $100 and not from a well-respected source of fine furniture.  I got bored one day and decided to rearrange the books on my shelf beside it, without moving it first.  I kneeled on the vinyl to do the job, and when I was done looked down at the vinyl to find that my knees had split the vinyl in numerous places.  I wasn’t broken-hearted.  I just made up my mind that it had served me well and it was time for a replacement.

Chair Rescue

So, I began shopping on-line for a used chair as similar to it as I could find.  A few days went by of searching with no luck.  In fact, I wasn’t even seeing new chairs like it, nor anything that appealed to me.  Then two days ago while driving home after a performance, we dropped off the third member of our folk trio in our neighborhood, and my eyes fell on a pink winged, tufted Queen Anne chair on a curbside.  My very compliant, patient husband backed up our car so I could give it a better look.  I sniffed the cushions and looked closely at the upholstery for cat-scratch damage.  All looked good, in fact, considerably better than the one I ruined.  The upholstery was heavy velour and the woodwork had more detail; it was bigger as well.  This was clearly no cheap $100 chair.   I was delighted.  Here comes the hypocritical part of the story.  We first went home and put our beat-up vinyl chair on the curbside in front of our house.  Then we went back in hopes the other (most-wonderful) chair was still on the curb.  We were in luck!   We put it in the car and headed home.  Just as we were about to turn into our driveway, we spotted a young woman in shorts and high heels trotting happily down the street with our old chair in her arms.

Malodorous Mystery

We lugged our “new” find into our living room and began to notice a smell.  Don’t ask me how I missed it at first.  It seemed to get stronger and stronger by the minute.  I couldn’t quite place the origin of the offensive stink, and in retrospect suspect I believe were several; possibly a leaky baby, an old man, and without a doubt a dog.   After washing the foam in the bath tub, I found a surprising amount of soot residue that I think could only have been left by a dog. 

8/30/2021 4:39:46 PM

I am right there with you, I offered to take chair to the bin for an older friend but thought actually maybe the dogs could have it, having taken a good look at it realised the covers were removable, the chair underneath was in perfect condition, I took out the hollow fibre stuffing from the pillows and gave it a really good wash, having new loose covers made by a friend, should then have a really nice, clean and comfy chair, looking forward to some comfy evenings by the fireside!

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