*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
14 thoughts on “Vintage Butterfly Chair Covers”
Man, what a great roundup. Wish I’d read this before our own cover search. And thanks SO much for the fogmodern love –wasn’t expecting that. And now we’re blushing. Seriously though, thank you! Back in butterfly land, we’ve solved our fading issue (temporarily, I’m thinking) by coloring the edges with a fabric pen. Truth be told, we’ve only done one side of one cover so far. It takes AGES! But good to know there’s a solution. On reflection, perhaps the cheap price was false economy.
I wish I’d read it too before my search :) Glad to hear there’s a fix for the fading but such a bummer that it’s so much work! I’m thinking the same thing about the cheaper prices. Fogmodern, to know you is to love you, haha! That house of yours is a beaut and your restoration work is top notch and I sincerely love following along so thanks goes to you! Happy butterflying!
Really enjoyed your tutelage on butterfly chairs/covers.
You are a fun, intelligent and knowledgeable writer.
So refreshing to find!
You’ve got a new fan.
This is such a nice comment, THANK YOU!!!!!!!!
Enjoyable and helpful. I did use Circa50 twice. The first time for indoor covers and they were great. Then when those wore out, I ordered blue mesh covers. The blue just crumbled right off after one summer outdoors in Phoenix. I am going to order new covers from them again but this time, I’m bringing the chairs inside for good. I have original 1952 chairs that my mother (now 91) bought new. These chairs have been family treasures over the years and welded a few times as well. Glad to hear they are back in style and I love them as much as you do! Thanks again. Bobbi
Great info Bobbi, that you for sharing!! Those Phoenix summers are no joke yikes! I love that your family chairs are still being loved and used :)
so helpful! thank you!
Thanks for reading :)
What color are the covers?
White or natural?
I bought the white space weave from D + J, but not sure if you saw the updated post I linked to…those ripped 2 years later and I replaced them with white Circa50 covers. Better quality for sure!
I’m looking for butterfly chair cover which is made only outside from mesh fabric, the best white/ cream , beige color. I have a vintage not foldable made out of iron. The original cover was made from mesh and so easy to clean. I would be very happy if you can help to find something like this. Thank you.
Try Circa50…they have the best outdoor mesh covers in bright white though, not cream. I’ve found they last the longest of any brands, are so easy to clean, and come in various sizes to fit vintage frames. Hope that helps!
Hi Jenny – I am in the SF Bay Area. I have 5 frames (and 4 new-in-package covers), but I am not able to take on the project myself….Do you have any idea the value of the frames? I didn’t find any on Craigslist.
Here in SLO I would probably sell for $150-300/chair. $150 for beat up and rusty frames with no covers, $300 for great condition with cover – but you may be able to do better in SF! (original Hardoy frames for Knoll are much more valuable but those aren’t common). Hope that helps!