How a December chair by Nikari became as good as new – carpenter Iivari Viilomaa’s tips for refurbishing a wooden chair and its leather upholstery

Refurbishing a wax-oiled wooden chair may sound difficult, but small-scale maintenance can even be carried out at home. Franckly wants to promote furniture repair and maintenance. We had the privilege of watching how a used December chair by Nikari became as good as new. Read the expert tips and check out the photos!

Pre-owned December chair by Nikari
The beautiful December chair by Nikari after the caring process.

HIGH-QUALITY DESIGN stands the test of time. Sometimes, however, heavily used furniture needs maintenance and restoration. The look of a piece of furniture can be updated by changing the upholstery, for example. This also extends the service life of the item.

Wear and tear and signs of use are part of pre-owned products, and refurbishing charmingly patinated design furniture is not even desirable. Small-scale maintenance, on the other hand, is easy to carry out by yourself – even at home!

Franckly’s team wanted to try refurbishing a December chair by Nikari that had been in office use and had a few coffee stains on it.

Carpenter Iivari Viilomaa
Iivari Viilomaa, who has worked as a carpenter at Nikari, recommends annual light maintenance for December chairs and other similar wooden furniture that has not been lacquered.

Carpenter and vintage collector Iivari Viilomaa gave practical tips, and we got to see how the December chair became like new. Both as a professional carpenter and collector, he has seen many highly-patinated old objects and restored them to their former splendor with maintenance.

“Refurbishing furniture is not at all as difficult as many people think. Of course, there are refurbishing tasks that non-professionals should not attempt, but many of them can even be carried out at home”, says Viilomaa.

Read also: Iivari Viilomaa collects colored glassware by Nuutajärvi >

Pre-owned December chair by Nikari
The December chair, which had been used in an office for a long time, had many signs of use, such as large coffee stains on the leather surfaces and scratches on the wooden legs.

The December chair by Nikari, which had been in office use for several years, was in need of refurbishment. The chair’s frame is made of oiled ash, and its upholstery is made of sturdy, naturally tanned leather. The ash frame had small signs of use, and there were larger, more distinctive stains on the leather surface.

“Even the more stubborn stains can often be faded by very simple means.”

“Particularly stains on a leather surface may seem impossible to remove at first, but often enough even the more stubborn stains can be faded by very simple means,” continues Viilomaa.

After the treatment, the December chair became like new! You can also apply these instructions to other similar wax-oiled wooden chairs and leather upholstery at your own risk.

Tools at home
Refurbishing a piece of furniture does not strain the wallet that much, as people usually already have most of the required tools in their home.

Prepare your work space

Many surface-treatment and maintenance tasks can be carried out at home. If you do not have a garage, basement or attic, you can carry out the maintenance in your living room, for example. It is advisable to choose a well-ventilated space that is not too drafty. The wooden and leather parts of the chair can be maintained on a table or on the floor, as long as you make sure that you have enough free space around you.

Protect the workspace carefully before beginning the refurbishment. You can cover the work surface with newspaper or builder’s paper available in almost any hardware store. Use tape to ensure that the protective paper stays in place throughout the maintenance.

Be sure to protect yourself, as well. Some of the materials used during the maintenance may irritate the skin, so it is advisable to wear rubber gloves just to be sure. If you need to handle lacquers or oils with a strong odor, you should also wear a respirator.

Franckly’s team used the following tools:
• Cordless drill or pliers
• Screwdriver
• Leather cleaner and conditioner
• Marseille soap
• Sponge
• Sanding sponge
• Osmo Colour wax oil
• Lint-free rags or pieces of cloth
• Rubber gloves
• Protective paper or newspaper
• Respirator

Disassembly of the chair
The leather parts are held in place by pieces of metal.

Disassembly of the chair

The leather seat and backrest of the December chair are held in place by pieces of metal on both sides, and they can be easily removed with a cordless drill or pliers. First, push the metal parts slightly out of the frame, so that you can pull them out with the pliers or cordless drill.

Leather seat
The leather seat is removed by pulling carefully.

After you have removed the metal parts, remove the leather seat by carefully pulling it toward yourself. You can remove the backrest by lifting it.

Maintenance tools
Next up: maintenance of the leather seat and backrest.

Maintenance of leather parts

You can maintain the leather parts with leather cleaner and detergent sold at shoe repair shops and specialty stores. In this instance, we used Collonil’s Carbon Complete, which is suitable for the cleaning, protection and care of various leather surfaces.

Leather maintenance
Apply the leather conditioner evenly with a sponge.

Start the refurbishment of the leather parts from the backrest. First, try applying a small amount of the product to an inconspicuous spot. Spread an approximately one-centimeter-thick layer of the product on the sponge, and apply the product evenly to the smooth side of the backrest in a strong, circular motion. Clean the larger stains first, and then the rest of the area.

When you are finished, make sure that you have applied the product evenly to the entire backrest. Then, set the backrest aside to dry and repeat the process for the seat. Once you have treated both the backrest and the seat, place them on a flat surface to dry.

Wooden frame
The final step is the maintenance of the chair’s wooden frame.

Maintenance of the wooden frame

If there are stains or dust on the surface of the wood, you can wipe the frame with a damp cloth or sponge. You can use Marseille soap to help remove stubborn stains. Before proceeding, make sure that the frame is dry.

The wooden frame is to be maintained with Osmo wax oil. It is an easy-to-use, non-toxic and more eco-friendly alternative to lacquer. Because the frame of the December chair is made of oiled ash, it is to be refurbished with white-oak Osmo, which keeps the color of the wood light and prevents the wood from yellowing. Clear Osmo wax oil is recommended for oak products.

Osmo Color wax
A small can of Osmo wax oil contains enough product for treating 2–3 chairs depending on their size.

Before starting, make sure that you have all the required accessories close by, since you must act quickly when using Osmo. The wax oil dries quickly, which is why different parts should be treated in stages depending on the size and number of the wooden parts. You can, for example, first treat the legs and then the backrest part of the frame.

Protect your hands with rubber gloves and pour a generous amount of Osmo onto your palm. First, use your hand to spread the product over the entire surface. When using your hand, you can access even the smallest dents and corners and apply the wax oil evenly.

Osmo Color wax
Go through the wooden frame with a sanding sponge.

After Osmo has been applied onto the entire frame, it is to be sanded with the sanding sponge. Use the sponge to lightly spread and rub all excess wax oil into the frame.

Osmo Color wax
You can use old rags, T-shirts or sheets for drying the frame.

Once the Osmo wax oil has been spread, dry the frame thoroughly with rags or pieces of cloth – down to the last nook and corner to ensure that no excess Osmo is left anywhere. Make sure you have enough lint-free rags or pieces of cloth for this purpose. Cotton is a good material for the purpose, as it absorbs the wax oil effectively. Once the Osmo wax oil has been spread, do not touch the chair with your bare hands to avoid getting fingerprints on it. Lift the chair using rags, instead.

Note! The Osmo wax oil is flammable, which is why the rags, sanding sponge and all other accessories used with the product must be wetted and disposed of after use. First, wet the items thoroughly and place them in a plastic bag. If you wish, you can also pour some additional water into the bag. Then, dispose of the bag and its contents.

Let the frame of the chair dry for 24 hours. In the summer, when the weather is dry, you can let the chair dry on the balcony or patio, for example. In other cases, you can let the chair dry indoors in a place that is not damp or drafty. Do not attach the leather parts before the wooden frame and leather parts have dried for 24 hours.

Nikari December chair
Before and after – light maintenance gave the December chair a new look!
Nikari December chair
As a result of the maintenance, the stains on the leather parts disappeared and the color of the leather became richer and more even.

And it's ready! After 24 hours, both the wooden and leather parts look significantly different from what they used to. The stains on the leather surface faded and the color of the leather became richer. This kind of maintenance can be carried out once or twice a year, or whenever necessary, to keep the chair in good condition. Maintenance guarantees a long life for your beloved design item.

Favorites from Franckly

Shanghai chair
Classic stool
Eve dining chair
Marfa stool
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Classic stool
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See also:

More pre-loved design treasures at Franckly >
Nikari's December chair at Franckly >

Text: Design Stories Images: Tuomas Pajuniemi & Jenna Kiuru Styling: Jenna Kiuru

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