Project: Our dining chairs


It all started with Kirstie.  I saw her “Fill Your House for Free” show where she painted and distressed a chair (except I hated the colour she used) and thought, “Geez. I’d love to paint our TV unit/get some chairs to do that”, and asked for her book for Christmas last year.  A new project was born.



At the Canonmills EFI (go visit them, they have great stuff and do great work for the homeless!), we found 4 chairs for £40 that Dave was quite fond of. I wasn’t 100% sold, but they seemed really well-made, despite the hideous cushions.

These steps can be replicated for any piece of furniture you want to repaint/distress for a vintage feel!

If you’re doing chairs or anything with a fabric seat, the first thing to do is to pop out the seats and sand the shell of the chair. It doesn’t have to be extreme sanding, just to take any varnish away and allow the paint to “cling” to the wood.  We used a small pointed hand-sander from Dave’s Mum.

Then paint ’em with a good few layers of brilliant white matte emulsion paint, available from any hardware store, as a primer.




After they’ve had a chance to dry, paint ’em your chosen colour.  Be careful to smooth over any drips, and flip the chair over to do the underside. Go back again later on with a smaller brush and touch-up anywhere you missed.  Then after that’s dry (no more than a day so the paint isn’t too hardened), use a putty scraper to scrape away both layers of paint from the edges/legs/anywhere you’d like it to look “distressed”. If you’re not going for a vintage/distressed look, then feel free to leave ’em looking new and modern!



Then they need 2 layers of clear gloss varnish (“decorator’s varnish”, apparently. We just found clear gloss wood varnish).

Then you need to move on to the cushions.  If yours are like mine, they’ve had fabric wrapped/folded over the foam and stapled to the bottom. A good solution! and one I’m going to use. Just not with the ugly fabric.  One chair cushion was covered with a pillow case.




This requires a bit of grunt work – use the back of a hammer/pliers to pull the staples out and pull the old fabric off.  Confession: I had Dave do some of this – sorry for the blur, he moves fast.

The next bit will be a breeze for folks who like/are good at gift-wrapping. I have a strange skill for it (so have been designated “household gift-wrapper”) so thoroughly enjoyed this.




If the foam under the old fabric is in good nick, you’re good to move on. If it’s crumbly or damaged or just plain gross, measure it and go get yourself some foam and cut to size. Luckily ours was perfect and even had wee grooves in it to fit the chair.

Cut around the cushion, cutting out a piece big enough to wrap up and over the wood edges. Tip: If it has a pattern on it, like mine does, make sure it’s facing the way you want it to!




Pull the fabric up and get it as neat as possible on the edges. Staple in place as you go.




Don’t worry, if like me, you didn’t cut particularly cleanly because you couldn’t find your sewing scissors. No one’s gonna see it.  Make sure to fold it neatly over each corner (think kinda hospital corners for bed sheets) and staple in place.




Then put it back in the chair and marvel at your creation!


7 8 9 10


This one’s not so perfect with some paint blobs here and there – remember to smooth over any drips or blobs in your paint as you go.  Once I learned this, the other 3 chairs came out great. And I used the blob parts as a guide for where to scrape when distressing. These blobs above came off nicely with a scraper and I varnished over the nice wood below.



Et voila! a collage of piccies.  I was so pleased with them I wept a tear or two (I am a big sook). I can’t wait to repeat the process again sometime, possibly with our TV unit, and then again when we move to NZ – we’ll need to find us some good chairs there!

Enjoy! And if you do a similar project, let me know!





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