ercol sofa

This is a long post, friends.  Please grab yourself a comfy seat and a cup of tea.  We've got a furniture restoration project on our hands!

Just last week, my husband and I made our almost yearly trek up to visit family in Canada.  This includes a stay in the wilderness known as cottage country in northern Ontario.  I'll post more about the cottage soon, but what you need to know is that one of my favourite non-nature-y activities while at the cottage is visiting antique stores and junk shops.  Some of which are quite literally junk shops.  Hello, Seguin Township dump store!

On one of these outings, my mother-in-law Sharon drove us to a favourite shop in Parry Sound, which includes a proper furniture store in addition to barns filled with all manner of antiques, knick-knacks, and old household wares.  It's probably the stuff of nightmares for a fire marshal.

In one of the barns, I spotted what I thought was a possibly mid-century style bed frame:

ercol sofa refinishing project
We asked the shop owner for a price ($100 CDN) and where it came from (England).  Then we hauled it out, checked that it was sufficiently sturdy, and decided that it was a project we could not resist.  It would be perfect as a daybed under one of the big picture windows overlooking the lake at my inlaws' cottage.  Lucky them!

Thanks to the wisdom of my Instagram friends, we learned that this is an Ercol sofa and indeed made in England.  Specifically, it's the Ercol Studio couch which was designed in the 1950s by the company's founder, Lucian Ercolani.

Look how cute:

ercol sofa
ercol sofa
ercol sofa
They're still being produced and are rather pricey.  I'm quite pleased that my eye for quality mid-century junk is in good working order!

So, back to our sofa:

ercol sofa refinishing project

We took the sofa back to the cottage with us where I gave it a rub-down with mild soap to see what sort of condition the finish was in.

The original stain is really neat.  The darkened areas accent the back and the spindles of the arm rests.  Sadly, it was badly damaged in a number of areas along the arms and back, so we decided to strip and refinish it completely.  The plan is to achieve that nice and bright honey-toned look like the sofas above.

As an aside:  I think I'm really bad at vacations.

After the cleaning, we removed the original webbing, which we learned is a very high-quality rubberized webbing made by Pirelli.  (Sound familiar?  They make tires.)  Each strap was originally held in place with wooden dowels on either end.

ercol sofa refinishing project
ercol sofa refinishing project
ercol sofa refinishing project
ercol sofa refinishing project

In its previous life, someone had tightened up the webbing by cutting it shorter and stapling it on one side.  We'll try to get a whole new set of webs and dowels so it can be restored to its proper state.

Our main accomplishment was stripping off the finish.  Pro tip:  instead of using steel wool to remove the paint stripper, we used those green scrubber pads used for washing dishes.  Their main attribute is that they're super cheap, yet effective and gentle enough to not damage wood.  The best part is that you can buy an armload and just toss them out as they fill up with gunk.

ercol sofa refinishing project

The stripper only went so far in the areas where the original finish was very dark, leaving some really dark stains.  So I started to sand:  100-grit, followed by some 'medium' grit sponge, and finally 220-grit.  I love the grain and the surf-board shape of the back rest, but it still needs a LOT of work.

Here are a few close-ups of where I sanded.  You can see the contrast between the residual stain and the bare wood. 

ercol sofa refinishing project

I did the first three spindles and half of the bottom frame (on the left) and the corresponding top of the arm rest.  The wood is so nice and bright.  The frame is solid beech and the back is a single board of elm.

ercol sofa refinishing project
ercol sofa refinishing project

And that's as far as we got.  I would have loved to have a few more weeks, even days, to work on it.

In the meantime, we'll have to make do with looking at other Ercol sofas online, restored and styled in cute ways.  Sharon and I are figuring out the webbing situation and what the seat cushion will look like, leaning toward something simple and in the neutral gray-to-greige spectrum.  I can't wait for this project to be finished.

Styled sofa photos via 1 | 2 | 3
All other photos by Karolina Buchner

fairglen eichler block party

My love for this neighbourhood is huge.  And now that we've been here for nearly four years, the block party has become a real pleasure.  I remember going to the first and not knowing anyone.  Fast forward to this past weekend:  we've made lots of friends and even took on introducing new neighbours to others (hi Ben and Rebekah, Sudarshan and Aditi!)

Over the years attending the block party, I've found Eichler people are actually remarkably easy to talk to.  All you need to ask is how long they've been in their house and what exactly are they fixing right now.  Because there is always, always something.  Hacks for preserving original kitchens, candid exchanges about contractors, and discussions about paint choices are shared along with food and drink here.

We have a great mix of neighbours too:  lots of newcomers and plenty of original owners.  Original owners that remember the orchards of San Jose which used to surround the tract as it was just being built in the late 1950s to early 1960s.  It's great to have that connection with the history of this place.

The party itself is now in its 14th year, and is completely organized by some very energetic and dedicated volunteers.  Similar to previous years, there were food trucks, a DJ, and tables of our local makers showing off and selling their wares.  The blocked off street is our venue, with kids running wild everywhere.  The atmosphere is wonderful.

I thought I'd share a bit of our fun with you, thanks to my talented neighbours who snapped some lovely images during the event.  (That's me and my husband, David, chatting with Tom about retrofitting kitchen sliders with china cabinet hardware.)

It's a pretty great way to close out the summer.  And a great place to get ideas for next year's projects, of course.

You can find the hand-painted Eichler signs on Etsy.  And there's more about the party on the Eichler Network's CA Modern.

Photographs by Brian Strong, Steve Allen, and me

new house colours

Those who have been following here a while may recall my earlier post about The Great Home Improvement Snowball Effect.  And my ongoing experiments with colour.  We have arrived at the culmination of the two.

I give you: our new exterior.

eichler exterior via

eichler exterior via

eichler exterior via

eichler exterior via

This started off very innocently when we looked at our siding in the front and noted that it was getting pretty soft.  We opted to replace it, and while we were at it, switch things up to satisfy my desire for a brighter look.  Which meant repainting the entire house.

We had professional painters do the work, so it happened all at once without a lot of time to change my mind a hundred times before settling.  Our guy, Mike Moody, has been super about helping pick colours and finishes, and his team is really respectful of the house as they work.  They replaced our siding, sanded everything down to bare wood, and primed like crazy.  I can't recommend him highly enough.

The feel of the house is so different with the white beams.  Super bright and airy.  We kept the trim and posts darker to keep some emphasis on the post and beam construction.  I am still scheming to restore all of our tongue-and-groove ceilings to the original bare redwood someday.  If I ever manage that, we'll have the white beams pop against the redwood.  I can dream.

The door is now a very bold yellow.

eichler atrium via

eichler atrium via

The bench in the atrium got a mini-makeover too.  Winston approves.

cinderblock bench via

I might be toning that blue and yellow combination down now that I've lived with it for a few days.  The gray and white, however, we are loving.  The house looks so crisp and new.

Here's what we used:
  • Door:  Valspar 'Gold Zinger' VR012A
  • Siding:  Benjamin Moore 'Kendall Charcoal' HC-166
  • Accent:  Benjamin Moore 'Secret' AF-710
  • White:  Benjamin Moore 'Snowfall White' OC-118

Did I mention it's bright? Yup.

eichler atrium via

We're getting the interior done this week.  Just ceilings and trim, so I can give myself ALL the time I need to select wall colours.

In the meantime, please help yourself to my album of bonus pictures on Flickr (including siding replacement process shots, details of Mike's work, and importantly, more cute pics of my dog.)

What do you think?  I'd love to hear.

All photos by Karolina Buchner

our eichler by night

Big things are happening over here.  Last week, I grabbed my camera one evening to take some pictures of our place after dark.   To capture the calm before the storm, if you will.


eichler living room at night



We're in the process of having our house repainted and I am suuuuuper excited.  One huge change is that the beams are going to be white (eek!)  I think I'll miss them, and am telling myself I can always paint them back in case of crushing regret.  And there's no time like the present to try new things.

So, I'm considering this post as a send-off to our current colours.  They've been very cozy and warm, and now it's time to brighten things up.

I realize I've been a bad blogger lately, but yes, yes, I promise I'll be back with more once the work is done.  You'll be pleased to know that our house is currently sporting an African mud cloth pattern, with random white stripes of primer over the old dark brown.  Everywhere.  Maybe I'll save a process shot or two.

All photos by Karolina Buchner
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