Torn to Perfection

Artfully reupholstered chairs give depth and character to interiors

Gigi McHone has joyously elevated the notion of distressed furniture.
Portrait by Rachel Pressley

Gigi McHone gives each of her chairs a name and a back story, and all of those stories are meant to have happy endings. To make sure, she even hides a “Bible verse of hope” within each frame. McHone specializes in taking old pieces of furniture and making them new again while keeping them looking old — an intriguing loop of creative opportunity. 

McHone, who was born in Argentina, notes that her grandmother was a seamstress. “I grew up by her side and would watch her create beautiful wedding gowns and make clothing alterations. She taught me to sew, embroider, and knit at four years old.”

Perfectly imperfect upholstery gives undeniable character to a space.
Photo by Rebekah Bibbens Brackett / brackettstudios.com

McHone started Bella Antiques & Design, named for her daughter Isabella, in 2014. “As any working mom knows, balancing family and career is very challenging and demanding.” At the time, she had a job in real estate while also taking care of her eight-year-old twin sons, one of whom has high-functioning autism. “I desperately needed to make money but be available for my kids. So I began painting old furniture in my garage and selling it for profit.” 

And when she started focusing on chairs, her customer base grew. “I found my special gift in doing artistic upholstery work, mainly creating deconstructed specialty chairs.” An interior-design style that gained traction in the last decade, deconstruction exposes the internal structure of a chair frame or other piece of furniture. “The beauty of it,” she explains, “is the imperfection. Pieces in this style are meant to look worn and used, [with visible] rips and frayed edges. Showing off the skeleton of the piece highlights the craftsmanship.”

Photo by Rebekah Bibbens Brackett / brackettstudios.com

 She’s quick to add, however, that while she loves the look, she makes certain each piece remains functional and comfortable.

The process is meticulous and time consuming. “I start by taking apart a chair to the bare frame, taking off every [piece of] fabric, foam, nails, and staples. I am studying the chair, becoming familiar with it.” As she works, McHone says, the final design begins to take shape in her mind.

McHone likes the hands-on aspect so much she won’t wear protective gloves — “hence the scars of the many times I have stapled and poked my hands.”

She doesn’t have to scout her own raw material very often. “I’m to the point now where the furniture finds me. I have some fantastic friends that send me referrals for chair frames and furniture. I also hunt vintage and antique textiles for my chair designs and find them everywhere, including estate sales and flea markets.

“I am very attracted … to pieces that tell a story with every stain, scar, scratch, and chip. The more imperfect, the better.” As with people, she says, “there’s much a piece can tell you by the imperfections it wears.”

Find Bella Antiques & Design online at bellaantiquesdesign.com, on Facebook, and on Instagram: @bellaantiquesdesign. Gigi McHone’s work is also sold at Garage on 25 (3461 Hendersonville Road, Fletcher) and at the Screen Door (115 Fairview Road, Asheville, screendoorasheville.com).

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