How to Recover a Barwa Chair

Recovering your Barwa chair is totally possible and we’ll help you do it!

Barwa chairs are amazing. It’s a mid-century modern chair that features two sitting positions; both are incredibly relaxing and comfortable IMO. The design is incredibly smart yet simple and elegant in the execution. The chair pictured here belonged to my father’s family and is approximately 70 years old. In April of 2021, Amanda and I restored it and documented a fair amount of the work here on youtube. Covers are incredibly difficult to come by, but the good news is you can make your own! Start by watching the videos and I’ll detail as much of the process as possible here. Also, please leave comments with your tips, suggestions, etc. I’ll keep this page updated based on feedback, and hope that it becomes a valuable resource to help others maintain these wonderful chairs.

Update 7-5-2021 – Due to the response we’ve had from this post, Amanda and I are going to make a small run of covers for anyone who’s interested. This will probably take us a month or two to complete as we want to source a fabric that’s closer to the original. I’ve also been unable to find decent replacement springs and am looking into getting them custom made. Finally we’re acquiring a couple more Barwas so we’ll have extra frames to fit the covers to and ensure they’re done right before shipping. We’re looking forward to this and will continue updating this post so anyone can still make their own. If you’re interested please leave a comment below or send an email to barwachair@gmail.com. Thanks!

Update 7-20-2021 – We have a website now! …granted there’s not much to see at the moment, but the content will improve as we get further along and have our suppliers and materials sorted out. https://barwarchair.com is where we’ll be in the future. I’ve slightly adapted this blog post to fit on the new site as well as a new one for How to Polish a Barwa Frame. If anyone else wants to get on the waiting list for covers and/or springs, please reach out to us here. -Ben

The Materials

While researching this chair, I found this article by Marisa Bartolucci, the daughter of one of the designers of the Barwa. I reached out and she was kind enough to respond regarding the type of fabric used on the cover. In summary, she says her father wasn’t a purist about the chair and recommends to “go with whatever pleases you and works technically.”

The Fabric

We chose a water resistant, indoor/outdoor upholstery canvas we found at Joann’s. This fabric works really well, although it’s softer and has more give than the original cover. This has pros and cons, but ultimately is a great option. You will need at least 2.5 yards of fabric, but we went with 3 yards just to be safe. (please comment below if you find more good fabric options and we’ll add them)

Optimum Performance Multi Purpose Decor Fabric 54'' Imperial
Barwa colors ranged from bright, vivid colors to calm earthy tones.

Grommets

The cover requires a total of 18 grommets. We found that 3/8″ ones here work really well and include the tools needed to crimp them with a hammer.

Springs

There are a total of 12 extension springs. The originals are 1/2″ thick, core wire measures 1/16″, and I believe they’re made of stainless steel. They were made with a slight extended hook that’s difficult to match from “off-the-shelf” springs. I’ve contacted ten or more vendors asking for replacements and I’m unable to find a decent alternative.

Sash Chain

The original chain is 166.5″ in length with a 1″ S Hook (clamped), which gives a 53.3 inch circumference. Once sewn into the cover the chain should be snug when fitting over the frame. Be as precise as you can on the length.

I checked with several vendors and this looks like a good replacement that’s weighted at 150lbs. The links are slightly longer than the original, but I don’t believe it’s long enough to cause an issue. (unverified)

S-Hook – I haven’t found a good source for this yet, but I suspect they’re readily available at hardware stores. I would very much appreciate a link if someone can verify a good fit.

Washers

Qty 2 1/2″ washers (outer diameter of 1.375″). These are available at any hardware store and can likely be sourced locally for less money than online.

The pattern

The pattern is too large to print on a standard printer, so we’ve provided the dimensions for you to recreate it. We used packing paper for ours, but feel free to use whatever is handy. We traced our original cover and added a 1/2″ for a seam allowance. We recommend finishing the edge of your cover as many fabrics can fray and this is a simple step to prevent that.

Putting it Together

First, steam and iron the fabric to smooth it and preshrink it. Then fold and pin the initial 1/2″ hem and sew it all the way around (stitchline 1/4″ from finished edge). Next, fold and iron the 1 1/2″ seam allowance, then sandwich the chain in the folded over seam allowance and pin in place. The diameter of the chain will be smaller than the cover and this will help the cover begin to take it’s proper shape (see this part of the video for details). Make sure the corners bunch the fabric (tack/pin down about 3 folds on each corner) before sewing; since the chain is smaller, smooth out a section at a time while sewing.

Test Fitting

Before adding the grommets, install the cover on the frame. It should be tight, but not impossible to pull over all the edges. We found it easiest to place the head and foot over the frame first, then pull the sides down and wrap the corner at the seat of the chair last. Once the cover is exactly where you want it, mark the grommet locations. We intentionally left these off of the provided pattern as we think it works better marking them after fitting the cover.

This view shows the grommet locations pretty well except for the one towards the head of the chair that’s obscured by the frame
This shot shows the upper half of the chair better.

Once all the Grommets are installed, add the springs and smooth out the fabric if needed. That’s all there is to it and time to relax in your like-new Barwa! If you found this post helpful or lacking please let us know so we can improve it for others.

Additional Resources (more to come)

17 Replies to “How to Recover a Barwa Chair”

  1. Hello!
    My father (a 90 year old Architect) and I were researching how to get a replacement cover for his Barwa chair and stumbled upon your post. This is awesome! I’m thinking I may attempt to sew one but we’re also wondering if you might be willing to make one for him. Please let us know :).

    Thank you so, so much!!!
    -Sally

  2. Hey Sally,
    Always good to hear from a Barwa owner. We’re definitely not looking to make or sell these as regular thing. I’ll talk with Amanda and see if she’s willing to do a one-off. No promises as life has been really busy lately. :)

  3. I think this was amazing that you figured this out and posted this. I have been looking for Barwa replacement covers for our 2 chairs for awhile but both places where I have bought them closed due to Covid so not sure if they will be available again or not. I would like to think I could do this but I think it is beyond my Skill level but it is great to know still since I have an idea what to ask an upholsterer to try and make. Thank you for posting!

  4. Hey bob, we’ve decided to make a run of covers and would love to make you some. I’ll send you an email with some details.

  5. I have two Barwa lounge chairs acquired by my parents ca 1949. They are in decent shape and I have recovered them several times acquiring covers from D&J Patio Shop and converting them from tie-on to springs when they also sold spring sets. Springs are now rusting out (not stainless steel) so I am very interested in new springs if you locate a source. Thanks

  6. Hey Edward, thanks for reaching out. I’m hoping to hear back this week on the springs, but my previous inquires took far longer than expected so no promises. I’ll keep you updated using the email you provided to leave this comment. Thanks!

  7. Yes! Please send an email to barwachair@gmail.com and let us know your color preferences, if you need replacement springs, and contact information. We will add you to our list and please note that we are still somewhere between 1-2 months away from having everything ready to go. We’re getting more fabric samples in next week and I’m hoping we get the quote for manufacturing the springs this week or next. We are making progress and having a good time while we do it!

  8. Hi – I also have been hunting around for a Barwa cover – for a frame I rescued from our junk discard pile at our house! A pandemic find! I didn’t know what it was but thought I’d look it up and discoverd the beauty of Barwa. I like so many others inquired and received sad replies from vendors that covers are not currently being manufactured. I live in LA and was even considering driving by the closed down factory to take a look (but haven’t as yet!). Are you manufacturing covers for stringing up too? We don’t have the springs, just the frame. Thanks so much!

  9. Hey Mia, It’s awesome to hear you rescued a Barwa frame! The only factory I was aware of that was making covers was Christie Covers @ 3412 E Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90023. No one answers the phone number and it’s a bummer they no longer appear to be in business. I’ve moved all our content to barwachair.com and I have two new blog posts about polishing the frame and replacing the bolts. These might be interesting to you as good next steps until you can get a cover. We haven’t looked at making the tie-up style covers yet, but that is on our list. I really want to nail the springs + canvas covers first before looking at the other style. I just heard from the spring vendor that we’ll get an updated quote on Monday. If I can afford it, we’ll hopefully be able to place the order next week to get this started. We also received one of our fabrics today and are looking forward to making another prototype this weekend. The good news is we’ve made a ton of progress since we decided to do this for real, but it’s still going to take 1-2 months before things are moving at full speed. Please send us a note here if you’d like to get on the waiting list: https://barwachair.com/contact/ If you do need replacement bolts for your frame, we have these in stock now. …I just need to finish the “store” part of the site to get this going. Cheers!

  10. I need a Barca chair cover with chain, springs, and grommets. I love this Barca chair that belonged to my parents. The original cover was green. The springs, and grommets are rusting, and the cover is beginning to tear. Please add me to your list of eager clients.

  11. Thanks for reaching out. You are on our waiting list. We’ll keep you posted with our progress. Thanks

  12. I have been searching for covers or a pattern, it’s been nearly impossible until I found your YouTube video. My father has 2 frames, he purchased new in Palm Springs. He passed away this past April and I would like to get them working again. Thanks for the article and keep us updated or on your list for your plans to make the covers.

  13. Hey Karen,
    I’ve added you to our list and will keep you updated. We’re testing what I hope will be the final fabric over the weekend. Once we get this locked in, things will start to move faster. We should have the springs ready to ship in November.

  14. Hello fellow Barwa lovers! We rescued our parents’ green Barwa from the give-away pile 7 years ago, and I’ve longed to have it recovered in ORANGE!

    My mom passed away in December, and my dad turns 95 in October, and I’m thinking this would be a great surprise for him and my siblings. We all loved that chair so much. If you have a source for the springs and hooks I could take this on down the road, but if you are taking any more orders, I’d be happy to purchase. You wanted a new business, right? 😉 Thank you for keeping the amazing Barwa story alive.
    Donna

  15. Hey Donna, awesome to hear about your family’s Barwa. We should have the springs ready to ship in Nov. I’ve also added you to our waiting list and once we finish the fabric selection we’ll start running down the list making everyone’s cover. ……Amanda and I are working hard to make sure we do these *right* not fast. If you still have a working set of springs, we can get you a new cover before the springs are here and just change those out later. We’ll be in touch through the email you left. Thanks!

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