*2018 update: I’ve written a new post on this same subject with some updated information!
I know butterfly chairs are a contentious issue but I am a shameless super fan. Some people say they look too dorm, but loads of Julius Schulman photos say otherwise. Plus, The Parker. Who you gonna believe?
I nabbed these rusty and pitted vintage butterfly chair frames off Craigslist recently and, continuing with backyard rehab projects, cleaned them up with a little sanding (60 grit, 150 grit, steel wool, then tack cloth), priming, and spray painting in matte black. Pretty straight forward.
But sourcing replacement covers proved to be a challenge. I took the long road there and ended up purchasing 2 different sets, first in canvas and then in outdoor vinyl fabric. This was a costly dumb move caused by indecision on where the chairs would go – on the covered patio vs out in the yard – mixed with unfounded resistance to “outdoor fabric”. A bummer for me, but hopefully my fumbles can be helpful to someone. So without further mumbling, here is everything I now know about butterfly chair covers and where to source them…
Unique Contemporary Solutions – Canvas covers only, one size only, many colors. The first stop on my chair cover journey because they have one of the best prices for cotton duck replacement covers. They’ll be sending you an Algoma brand replacement cover, a one size only deal which fit kind of awkwardly on my awkwardly shaped vintage frames (below right; frame is 29″ across top, 27.5″ across bottom, 34″ from seat back to seat bottom).Canvas covers are designed for indoor or sheltered outdoor use only, so they are a no go for many yard applications – including mine once I decided to move my butterflies into the open yard. However, I can speak to the quality of Algoma’s cotton duck covers because we’ve used a pair of the smaller Algoma folding butterfly chairs for years on camping trips in the old trailer and, more recently, as a stand in for vintage chairs on the patio. (If you are thinking about buying folding frames to throw in your car and take to the beach, you should know that they are really heavy and hard to collapse and can put a strain on a marriage.) Algoma’s canvas covers look and feel great and will stay that way if you take care of them. Covered, canvas will stay decently clean with occasional washings. (Uncovered, they quickly become a dirty mess and will hold rain water puddles for long enough to mildew, ewww.) Getting dirt out of them can be tough but pressure washing works wonders. The next best thing is soap and water and a scrub with a hard brush. They will shrink minimally in the washer with a hang dry and substantially in the washer with a dryer dry (I did that whoops).
But if your space and use can accommodate the fabric, they are beauties. Here is what I got from Unique Contemporary Solutions, in natural color:
D&J Patio – *2018 update – these didn’t stand the test of time. See this post for more info. Canvas and outdoor covers, one size only, many colors. D&J sells heavy duck canvas covers as well as outdoor “Space Weave” covers and their outdoor fabric prices are very good. For purchase #2, I went with their white vinyl covers, designed for uncovered outdoor use. These are also a one-size only deal that seems to run on the bigger side, but still work on my smallish vintage frames (frames are 29″ across top, 27″ across bottom, 34″ from seat back to seat bottom).My take on them so far is that they are really comfortable, durable, wonderfully easy to clean, airy, look surprisingly great in the yard and are definitely the way to go if your chairs will be exposed to the elements or slobs. Cleaning is as simple as rinsing off with a hose. They are nothing like the cheap camp chair fabric that my aesthetically snobby self originally imagined and dismissed.
But with those good things comes 2 design flaws. The edge banding is not white vinyl, but instead “natural” canvas, which in real life looks a lot like tan to me. This is stated on their website but I didn’t really grasp how problematic it could be until after I owned them. The color difference is not ideal but not a deal breaker because once they are out in the yard it isn’t very noticeable. However, the canvas edge is proving iffy for heavy outdoor use. A bird dumped on one of mine and while the space weave cleaned as futuristically as you would think space fabric should, I can’t get the dump stain out of the canvas! To add to the issue, the cool folks over at Fogmodern reported sun fading on the canvas edging of their black outdoor D&J covers.
(Sidenote: SERIOUSLY CHECK OUT FOGMODERN LIKE RIGHT NOW! How amazing is their DIY yard and their awesome Eichler?!)
If you can live with those issues, then D&J is a good option. For additional info on the covers, you should check out this helpful post from ModFrugal. This is what a D&J Space Weave purchase looks like (no clue why the label says 2 pieces, it’s not): Circa50 – *2018 update: I bought these and love them. More info here! Canvas and outdoor covers, four sizes, many colors. The most widely known but priciest place to source replacement covers, but for good reason. They offer covers in heavyweight canvas or outdoor vinyl weave.
I think I should have saved myself the trouble and bought from here to begin with. While I can’t personally speak to the quality of Circa50’s outdoor covers, just the fact that they 100% vinyl puts them way ahead of D&J. Circa50 seems to be the choice of well-designed hotels (The Parker and The San Jose, to name a few), speaking volumes about their appearance and durability. I’m guessing their canvas is tops too and they even sell reproduction butterfly frames. I like that they have different sized covers, especially since my frames seem to be dimensional odd ballers. The unconfirmed word on the street is to order up because they run small.
This post from The Brick House is informative if you are considering buying from Circa50.
Amazon – If you are willing to do a little digging, I think the same larger canvas Algoma covers I talked about from Unique Contemporary Solutions (what a terrible name) are sold on Amazon and for prices better than anywhere else. Though not immediately evident, if you read some of the reviews, many people report having success fitting some of these covers on their vintage frames (for example, on this black replacement cover) so I thought I’d throw it out there for another option.The end. And now I’ll address the elephants in the room: The weird paint swatches on my fence. You may be secretly hoping that I’m going to paint the entire fence bright turquoise, chartreuse, or crazy orange so you can watch the whole train wreck unfold on the internet. I’m not, but hang in there because I’m working out a bonkers retaining wall design and, with any luck, it will crash and burn even brighter than an entire hot orange fence and you’ll be able to do eye rolls from the comfort of your own home. Thanks for reading! xoxo Jenny