reviving and converting a set of Møller #75 chairs

Home Anthology recently asked me to bring a set of these Møller #75 chairs back to life.  The paper cord seats were very stained and had some broken strands, and the teak had years of grimey build-up.

Some people might argue that the grime is part of the patina, but really it’s just…dirt.  It obscures the beauty of the wood.  Often it doesn’t even look that bad, especially because it builds up so slowly over such a long period that you don’t even realize it’s happening.

 

Here’s a good “before” shot of one chair back.  It’s not so bad, right?  The teak is a warm, rich color and you can see that interesting arched grain pattern, right?

 

This is actually not the same chair because I got them mixed up due to the very similar grain pattern.  But the difference between dirty and clean is the same on every chair.  Note that it doesn’t look brand new; that’s not what we’re after in cleaning these chairs–ever!  The wood has the look of old, well-care-for teak with color and grain that is not clouded by grime.  So simple and so beautiful.

 

I also converted this set from woven cord seats to black vinyl.  This model was produced with both types of seats, so this is acceptable.  It can also be easily reversed if someone wants woven seats on them again someday.

 

This entry was posted in Danish chairs, mid-century modern, Woven Danish paper cord and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to reviving and converting a set of Møller #75 chairs

  1. Jim says:

    Hello,

    Very much enjoying your reports.

    The chairs look fantastic.

    Can you tell me how you cleaned the teak and would the same process be ok for teak veneer ? Perhaps fine grade wire wool and then some kind of oil ? Would love to bring a stained and grubby teak coffee table I have ‘back to life’, but I’m a bit scared of ruining it. any tips would be most welcome.

    Regards from the UK.

    • MCR says:

      It’s generally safe to use the finest grade steel wool and teak oil on teak veneer. Let the oil loosen the dirt as much as possible. If you have ring stains from wet glasses, they may not come out with just this treatment. I would suggest you consult a professional wood refinisher about stains of this nature. Good luck!

  2. Jim says:

    Hello again,

    Many thanks for your advice and suggestion.

    Knowing how impractical I am it’s probably best if I did seek a professional !

    Once again, thanks for the excellent blog.

  3. Jane Madison says:

    How do you clean the cord seat on these chairs??

    • MCR says:

      I recommend trying plain soap flakes in water. This is how the Danes take care of their paper cord seats. Instructions can be found here. You can use that particular brand or you can make your own by grating Ivory bar soap and dissolving it in water (2 tbsp per quart). It may take several treatments to lift heavier dirt. It’s also a good way to protect the paper cord from dirt and stains that may occur later.

  4. AdamNYC says:

    These look great. I have a set and am thinking of doing the same treatment to them – from paper cord to leather/vinyl. When you recovered them, how thick a piece of foam did you use?

  5. JJSea says:

    I have a set of 7 Moeller chairs I am about to clean that are in about the same condition. If you can clarify what you used to clean these I’d greatly appreciate it. Did you use steel wool and teak oil on these? I’ve read that most “teak oil” has finishing solvents like tung oil, which does not seem like the right thing to use for cleaning. I found a Johannes Andersen table that someone used Restore-A-Finish on so I have a big project on my hands. If I can just clean up most the chairs it will help. Especially since I may try to re-cord the chairs.

    • MCR says:

      Star-Brite brand teak oil and #0000 steel wool is what I use now. Solvents are ok for cleaning, it’s added varnish that you don’t want. Many brands have varnish in them.

      • frankie says:

        Hi there,

        Thanks for your fabulous site!

        I’ve got a cabinet that was finished with MinWax Teak Oil, which seems to have a varnish in it and has left the teak to have a bit of a glossy surface – what would use to remove? Thanks in advance…

        All the best,
        Franco

        • MCR says:

          I don’t think it would hurt to try just straight teak oil with #0000 steel wool (the finest texture). If nothing else, it’ll knock the gloss back. I use Star-Brite brand, available in Ace Hardware stores and also in some marine supply stores. If that doesn’t work, I dunno—you may need to use stripper on it. I would consult someone who does a lot of furniture refinishing.

          • frankie says:

            Thanks for your feedback… and your fab site!

            I’ve got another question, I hope you don’t mind answering… I have 3 corded Moller #75s in bad shape that I’d like to upholster in fabric or vinyl and have noticed web pics of upholstered #75s with a black mesh-like fabric and not jute strapping on the underside. Is this a newer product used for re-upholstery, or a type of finishing mesh used to minimize the rough look, stringy-mess and dustiness of jute?

            Thank you and all the best,
            Franco

          • MCR says:

            I think that’s an elastic mesh fabric but I don’t know what the product name is or who makes it or where to get it—sorry! I use a high quality 10 oz burlap instead. I stretch it as tightly as possible and anchor it with 1/2″ pneumatic staples.

  6. Pamela Lane says:

    How can you tell if the chair can be switched out from cane to a “regular” seat? We have 4 Moller paper cord seat chairs that we bought used 35 yrs ago…The cord has just started spliting and they all seemed to split together! Would love to removed cording and replace with seat like you did with the black seated chair. Looks great! Thanks for any info.

    • MCR says:

      If they’re Mollers, they are essentially the same frame whether they have woven cord or upholstery. Just be sure that when you get them redone as upholstered seats that they are done the way the original upholstery is done—jute webbing, 1/2 foam, then fabric. The edges of the fabric underneath are usually trimmed close and covered with black adhesive fabric tape.

  7. Teresa Osborn Stupak says:

    Hello,
    I recently picked up two of these chairs at a thrift shop for $5 each. Unfortunately, someone had no idea what they were and tried to re-style them as “shabby chic”–terrible gold paint on the paper seats, white and gold crackle finish paint.
    I would like to try to bring them back to their original glory. Is it ok to take out the original tacks that held on the paper seat, or should i try to remove the paper with the tacks intact?
    Any advice would be appreciated!
    Thanks,
    Teresa

    • MCR says:

      Start by cutting the woven area out using a serrated knife and be careful not to nick the frame. Then loosen the L nails by gripping them with diagonal pliers and easing them out a bit. You don’t have to remove them and they should be saved anyway for reweaving. Then just slip the loops off them and unwind the cord from the back and front rails.

      You should consult a furniture refinisher on the best product for removing the paint from the wood. Good luck!

      • Teresa Osborn Stupak says:

        Thank You!!!
        You have a wonderful site. It is amazing that you are sharing so much knowledge. I only wish I lived closer so that I could hire you to re-weave my seats.
        Thanks again,
        Teresa

  8. Damian says:

    Hi,

    I have a set of Moller #55 and #71 and would like to have the woven seats repaired.

    Do you have a video of how I could do this myself? Also, can I just repair the broken strands of paper cord, without having to redo the whole seat (understanding of course there will be a difference in color)?

    Alternately, do you know of anyone in Montreal, Quebec, Canada who could repair these?

    Thank you!

    • MCR says:

      Damian,
      Get a copy of The Caner’s Handbook, available on Amazon, Ebay, etc. It has clear instructions on how to weave these chair seats. I learned to do it from this book. There are some photo tutorials online if you poke around (I don’t have the URLs bookmarked, sorry).

      You could replace just the broken strands but the new cord will be lighter in color and old cord will continue to break. I always just do the whole seat.

      Sorry, I don’t have a list of people who do this kind of weaving. A google search may yield results, or ask mid-century modern furniture dealers in your area.

  9. Alex says:

    Thank you for this great post MCR. I recently picked up six Moller #77 chairs at an auction and have purchased some nice leather to reupholster them with. A couple of people I have spoken with mentioned using elastic or rubber webbing instead of jute. Do you have any thoughts on that?

    Also, when I sat on a new #77 chair at Design Within Reach recently, it felt like there was more than 1/2″ of padding. Closer to 1″ I would say. They recommended using HR foam (high resilience). Do you have an opinion on what foam is best? Thanks again for the great info.

    • MCR says:

      Alex,
      The originals I’ve seen have had 10 oz burlap fabric as webbing. This is better quality burlap than you will find in the average fabric store but I’m sure you can find it online by the yard. I redo upholstered Moller chairs with this rather than jute or elastic webbing. I use 1″ high density foam and taper it around the edges. The so-called high density foam, usually green, sold in fabric chain stores is actually low density; get the real stuff online if you don’t have a local foam source.

      • Alex says:

        Thanks for the response. You answered the follow up question I was going to ask about tapering the foam. I wish you were in LA so that I could have you do the chairs! Thanks again.

  10. Shelly Morris says:

    What is the cost of replacing paper cord seats on Moller dining room chairs? Do you know anyone is Southern California that does it?

    Thank you.

    • MCR says:

      I’ve heard of rates ranging from $100 to $350 per chair in my very limited knowledge of the market. I don’t know of anyone in southern CA though I’m sure there are people who do it. You could ask the local mid-century modern dealers who they use. Good luck.

  11. Shelly Morris says:

    Thank you so much for your prompt response. That is a good idea. Great website!

  12. Jessica says:

    Hi-
    I’m debating on purchasing Moller 71 dining chairs that are only a few years old. What I noticed is that it has these stains like they cleaned it with something they shouldn’t have so some parts of the chair are lighter in teak color and others are much darker in color…

    Could I revive it by using Star Brite teak oil?
    I also noticed it sells three bottles differentiated by steps: cleaning, brightening, and oil. Should I buy all three?
    For the steel wool, do I rub or use a circular motion? Any instructions on how to use that would be great!

    Thanks in advance

    • MCR says:

      I don’t know what caused the stains so I can’t tell you if teak oil will fix the problem. You might want to check if the chairs have a lacquer finish. Old Moller chairs were not lacquered but I don’t know about newer ones–i have see newer teak, with lacquer, from other manufacturers. Y

      You don’t need Star-Brite Teak Cleaner, only the one labeled Teak Oil. Either the black label or white label is ok. Rub with the grain on the wood for the most part but circular is ok with light pressure and plenty of oil.

  13. Jessie says:

    I am fascinated by the conversations. I have 1 Moller 75 and want to properly clean it up and put a new seat into it. I have woven seats before but not Danish cord! I will gently take it apart and decide what I will do. It did come with 2 pounds of cord. Someone else bought the other chair at the thrift store. I wish I could find it. I love chair repairs!

    • MCR says:

      Make sure it’s paper cord and not fiber rush! They look really similar but fiber rush doesn’t work for the Danish weave. I don’t think it wears as well, either. Read about the differences in this post.

  14. Cathie says:

    Thank you for your great information & advice.
    We have just bought a set of 8 Moller #71 chairs. Half of the chairs have the 2 labels underneath (JL Moller & Danish quality control) different serial numbers & different handwritten initials on them such as RK, but the other 4 chairs don’t have the labels & only have the handwritten initials ( most of them same as the other chair set with labels) & similar numbers to each other like a model number.
    Is the second set replicas or new chairs do you think?
    They look like someone tried to restore them badly by inserting new cane then nailing it in with staples to hold it all together. The wood does seem glossy as though someone put rosewood varnish on but we were told they are teak.
    I plan to buy the Danish cord & redo the seats as we love the rustic feel of the chairs.
    Thanks!

    • MCR says:

      Cathie, as far as I know, there aren’t any exact copies of Moller chairs out there, at least not like Wishbones and some others. But you’re welcome to send me a few photos if you want– closeups of the nails, the stapled parts, and a good clear one of the wood grain would help as well as an overall shot of the whole chair. Send to info@modernchairrestoration.com. Thanks!

  15. Kieran says:

    Hi there, thank you so much for such a useful post!

    I’ve just bought 5 Model 75s that need recording and a good clean. I’ve got the wire wool and teak oil you suggested. A daft question, but how vigorous I should be with cleaning? Worried if I scrub too hard I will scratch the wood?

    Many thanks,

    Kieran

    • MCR says:

      The oil does three things: it lubricates the steel wool so that scratches are minimized (but also use the finest texture wool available); it helps to break down grime, latex paint scuffs, and other crud; and it soaks into dry wood and makes it pretty again.

      Apply the oil with a light hand on the steel wool, then just let it sit for 5 minutes or so to loosen the grime and old oil. Then go over it a bit more vigorously with more oil. Also work with plenty of oil. Wipe that off after a few minutes and see how the wood looks. That may be all you need, or you may need to go over it again. Several lighter passes are always better than one very vigorous pass!

      When you’re satisfied with the results, give it 20 minutes to dry (give or take a bit) and then do a final buffing with clean rags or paper towels. If any gumminess remains, buff it again or unstick it with fresh oil and a immediate rubdown.

      • Kieran says:

        Thanks so much for this! I’m now one chair down, old cord stripped and frame oiled, ready for the new cord. Really can’t thank you enough, the frame looks great I can’t wait to do the others!

  16. Kieran says:

    Hi, Kieran again!

    So I have just finished cording my first chair, a series of busy weekends meant I had to wait! It went ok, this was my practice chair anyway and I think I realise how I could get a neater finish on the sides the next time around.

    But anyway, I was wondering if its normal for these chairs to vary greatly in colour? My practice chair is a a rich browny red colour, where as the set of 4 I bought are much more of a golden/amber colour. Its not so different (I don’t think) for it to be different woods but its noticeable when lined up next to one another.

    • MCR says:

      Yes, teak and other woods change color as they age so your chairs may be from different eras. Some wood, like teak, can also get bleached by sun. I have heard that oiling regularly will darken some woods but I’m not sure about that. And lastly, there is a commercial furniture polish sold in the US (“Old English”) that is essentially oil with added color and it will turn wood dark but it comes off when regular teak oil is applied. Some color stays in the wood but a lot of it will wipe off. I don’t know if there’s a similar product in the UK.

      On the weaving—get into the habit of checking your work after every pass for twists, crossovers, and other mistakes. It’s easy to fix problems if you find them immediately; not so easy if you notice them after weaving another 4-5″ or more! I do this because I still make the occasional mistake even after having woven 100++ chairs.

      • Kieran says:

        Yes I realised that a bit too late, the thought of undoing half of the weave was too much.

        The front to back cord and wrapping stages went ok, it was the horizontal weave that caught me out. I’m still not sure exactly how I should wrap the two passes around each hook. Mine started to go off on a bit of an angle which caused them to slip over one another slightly. I corrected it as best I could but the result is the sides are not perfectly vertical and some of the cord is raised. It’s not horrendous but it lets the finish down.

        Is there any particular way/technique to hook onto the nails or is it juts a case of getting them sat tight and making sure they are straight? Do you always hook two passes over each nail?

        Sorry for all the questions! Despite not quite getting it right, I’m having massive fun finishing and reweaving these chairs!

        • MCR says:

          First, make sure your front-to-back strands are all about the same tension. It’s best if they are fairly taut, no slack, though a little bit is ok.

          Next, when you pull the double weft strand through (that’s the side-to-side weaving), pull it taut, then push it towards the starting rail of the seat (some people start at the front rail, others at the rear—either is ok). Then pull it taut again and loop it as snugly as possible over the nail. Pull it taut again and loop over the nail on the other side. You need a bit of slack in the weft, but only enough to allow you to push the new strand into place against the others. If it’s too taut, it will slide away from them right away. Keep going this way, always maintaining the same tension.

          Most nails will get two loops. If the second one is snug enough, it will stay in place next to the previous on the rail. Sounds like yours are just a little too loose. See my photos HERE of a chair with that problem. You can’t tell it from the outside so much but the inside of the seat is a mess.

          Keep the woven strands pushed snugly towards the beginning of the weaving and then watch to make sure you don’t get too far ahead or behind when you are looping over a nail. You should pack the wraps on the rail as tightly as possible every few inches. It’s much harder to to that at the very end. If your loops get ahead of the nails, then just do 3 loops on a nail to get the count back on track. If behind, do one loop on one nail and two on the next. I always have to do this once or twice per side, especially at the very end.

          It’s really not much harder to do this well once you understand how it works. A lot of it is just a matter of the right amount of tension holding the cord in place.

  17. Tim Fisher says:

    I’m about to upholster 4 Moller chairs per your instructions above. Would you recommend removing the nails that hold the paper cord in place after I remove the paper cord? Not sure if they should be left alone in case we want to have the chairs re-corded someday. Also not sure if a cushion can be secured properly with those nails in the way. Thanks for your help!

    • MCR says:

      Yes, save the nails! They’re kind of expensive to buy new. The easiest way I’ve found to remove them is to grip the the shaft with a pair of diagonal pliers and ease the nail out by rocking the pliers against the chair rail. Just don’t grip any harder than necessary or you may might bite through the nail.

      Do not pry the head of the nail up with a screwdriver or chisel. The head tends to break off when you do this.

  18. Mary Baxter says:

    Any suggestions for repairing a cracked and split leg on my moller 75. We bought them in 1964. Do you fix broken legs too. How about broken hearts. I love these chairs.

  19. Mary Baxter says:

    Any help with repairing a broken heart. I fell and split and cracked the leg of my teak moller75 chair. We bought a set of 6 in 1964. Do you fix? Can you recommend someone in tori state area? Can it be shipped to you? I live in CT ‘

    • MCR says:

      I don’t do those kind of repairs but any good furniture repair person can probably do it—depends somewhat on where the break is, I think. You don’t have to get someone who specializes in mid-century modern furniture. The technique is the same no matter what the style. I don’t have a directory of repair people but I’m sure you can find someone by asking antique dealers in your area who they use, and/or consulting Angie’s List. Always ask to see the person’s work or at least a gallery of before and after photos (with closeups). Good luck!

  20. John says:

    Hi,

    Great post. Thank you for sharing the info.

    I’m restoring a pair of vintage Moller #56 arm chairs and am going to convert them from the original vinyl to Danish cord. Would you or any of your readers be able to tell me the number of nails on both the front rail and side rail? I have original side chairs and could extrapolate the number from those by measuring the distance between the nails and then adding extras to account for the greater width of the arm chairs, but it would be great if I could get an actual count from an original arm chair.

    Thanks in advance,

    John

    • MCR says:

      I don’t have any sitting around at the moment and it could be awhile before anyone else sees this who has the info. I can tell you that the nails are about 1″ apart on front rails on all Møller chairs and about 1/2″ apart on side rails. You must have an odd number on the front and back rails and it must be the same number on each rail (they are closer together on the back rail because it’s shorter). The first and last nails on each rail will be a little more than an inch (or the approx. 7/8″ on the back rail) from the ends.

      The nails can be driven in with a hammer if you hold them in place with needlenose pliers as you pound. The heads will break off very easily if you don’t have anything under them to support them. You can pre-drill if you want to make it a bit easier. Stagger the nail placement on the side rails to lessen the risk of the wood splitting along the grain line—about 1/2″ up and down is fine.

      I see you’ve already posted a query on the Design Addict board. I’m sure someone with a chair on hand will post there pretty quickly.

  21. John says:

    Thank you for your prompt response. I spent some time today doing additional removal of the original tacks and staples from the vinyl seats. I have some gluing of the joints to do and then refinishing of the chairs themselves, prior to doing anything further.

  22. John says:

    Quick update: I found this great photo online and it looks like there are 26 nails on the sides and 19 on the back, if I’m counting correctly. I’ll search for some more photos to confirm this is accurate.

    https://www.1stdibs.com/furniture/seating/dining-room-chairs/1950s-teak-armchair-model-56-designed-niels-moller-jl-moller/id-f_2585952/

  23. Stephen says:

    Thank you for the tips on restoring teak. I will try this on a vintage 60’s coffee table of my grandfather’s.
    Can you recommend a safe & eco friendly method of conditioning vintage Danish vinyl chairs (to protect & prevent drying & cracking) and also cleaning them? Is beeswax conditioner safe on vinyl? I have a wonderful set of “club chairs” that I believe are all vinyl but I’ve read that they could be a combination of leather/vinyl. I’m not sure if this inserted photo will work on the post. Do you have any idea of the designer? No markings.
    IMG_1606.JPG

    • MCR says:

      I’ve never read about any special method for cleaning vinyl other than avoiding solvents and harsh cleaners. Murphy’s Oil Soap is probably ok as long as you rinse it off completely right away. I doubt beeswax would do much. I don’t know that there’s anything you can do to keep the vinyl from eventually cracking. Plastics are better now but 40-50 years ago they were still a relatively young thing and not perfected yet.

      I don’t know of any upholstery material that will look great forever, and reupholstering doesn’t destroy the value of the piece. Just stuff to consider.

      It’s not possible to insert images here and I’m not great at identifying manufacturers and designers anyway. Try posting photos on the forum at DesignAddict.com. Someone there may be able to help.

      • Stephen says:

        Thank you for the quick reply.
        Do you think there is any point to conditioning the vinyl chairs or any decent product you know of to do this?
        They are in great condition already and a gorgeous design with nice white stitching on black vinyl. My main concern is preserving them. I will try design addict for identification. thanks

        • MCR says:

          See my first paragraph above in answer to your questions above the vinyl. I really don’t have anything to add to that. There’s no harm in asking on Design Addict about that too, if you want. Good luck!

  24. wai ting chung says:

    Hi,

    I would love to know how you upholstered the chairs in vinyl. I have two niels moller chairs that need repairing and would love help on this.

    Thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *