Vintage Wood Chair Makeover
With autumn and crisp cool days on the horizon I had a hankering for a DIY project – so first up on the upcoming DIY list: a vintage wood chair makeover.
One visit to a favourite thrift shop later and I had 5 vintage wood – very solid and heavy – chairs for $8.00 each. Since my son’s girlfriend was looking for a desk chair and my daughter was looking for four casual dining room chairs these sad looking and scuffed up gems fit the bill!
Yes it took “vision” to see the potential in these unloved cast-offs. (And, yes that is our dog’s paw “pointing” at the chairs – he thinks we got an amazing deal!)
I truly believe that the most interesting and charming homes consist of a mix of old and new. As I’ve noted here and here introducing unique vintage pieces to your decor adds interest and character. Plus, by making simple changes such as new paint and fabric you can create one-of-a-kind treasures that truly reflect your personal style.
Here are the steps for this easy and affordable vintage wood chair makeover
You will need:
- Medium 120 and Very Fine 220 Grit Sandpaper
- TSP Cleaner
- Chalk Paint (I used Rustoleum Chalk Paint)
- Optional: Finishing Wax (I used Annie Sloan Soft Wax)
- Staple gun
- Fabric – estimate 24 x 24 inches per chair seat
- Optional: Batting
Turn the chair over and unscrew the seat. I always tape the screws to the frame so that they do not get lost. I also find that old furniture pieces are quirky so it is best to re-use the screws in their former holes. Set the seat aside for re-covering.
Since these chairs were very scratched up we sanded all over with medium 120 grit sandpaper. This step is not required if your chair is smooth since you do not have to sand before using chalk paint.
Wash thoroughly with TSP or another suitable cleaner. Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry. The sun helped with this step.
I prefer using chalk paint for furniture makeovers because you can paint practically anything, it dries to a lovely matte finish and (bonus!) you do not need to use a primer. I frequently use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint but I have to order it online since it is not available in my city.
But…. I happened to be in my local Home Depot and spied Rustoleum Chalk Paint for $25.00, less than half of what I would have paid for Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint so of course I had to try it. I chose the Linen White which is a bright grayed white.
I really liked this chalk paint (this is my opinion only and I have not been paid to say this). It was budget-friendly (a key ingredient in my makeovers!) and being able to pick it up at my local Home Depot was handy. It went on smoothly, dried very fast and covered well after two coats. Because we were covering a very dark wood, we added a third watered down coat so there was no bleed-through. This can of paint went far: it covered five chairs and a large round coffee table.
Painting Tip! When you are painting chairs turn them upside down to start so that you can easily reach every part of the legs.
To enhance the chalk paint finish, lightly go over the painted surface with very fine 220 grit sandpaper. I check the surface by rubbing it with my hand to make sure it is smooth. Trust me, this step will go quickly because it does not take much sanding to create a silky finish.
We also lightly distressed (sanded) the edges of the chairs with the 120 grit sandpaper. This is a matter of personal preference but I do find from experience that distressing chairs is practical because then you won’t notice if the chair gets a bit marked up from regular use.
This step is optional but I like to use a finishing wax to provide extra protection and durability. I have a can of Annie Sloan Soft Wax that has lasted for several projects and is still going strong. Another product I also like to use is Minwax Paste Finishing Wax but it can have a slight yellowing effect and I wanted to maintain the crisp white paint colour.
Simply add a tiny bit of wax with a soft cloth and rub it in the piece. After you have finished applying the wax buff the chairs with a soft clean cloth.
You are almost done!
It is time to re-cover the chair seat.
Remove the old grungy fabric by using a straight edge screwdriver and pliers to remove the staples.
I gave the original vinyl seat cover a good cleaning with Lysol Disinfecting Wipes, let it dry and then re-covered with fabric I purchased from our local Fabricville (you can also shop online).
One of my favourite chair makeover tips is to use indoor/outdoor fabric to cover the seat. This versatile fabric does not have the plasticy (is that a word?) feel like it used to – it is very soft and flexible. And, as a bonus you get a very durable and washable family-friendly fabric. I purchased 1.8 metres of fabric (enough for 6 chairs – this allows 24 by 24 inches per chair) which I purchased for $10 a metre since there was a 50% off sale.
I also added a layer of batting. To save money I purchased double bed batting for about $11 and doubled it.
Lay out your fabric, right side down, layer the batting on top and then your chair seat. Cut about 2-3 inches around your seat.
Staple the fabric and batting to the back of the chair seat with a staple gun, making sure that the fabric is pulled tight and the corners are neatly wrapped (like a present!) There are a lot of video tutorials out there but you can try this very simple 6 minute tutorial if you are not sure about this step.
Screw your seat back onto the chair and you are done.
Voila! Your beautiful custom vintage chairs.