Chair Refinishing Project

This project is from last year, when I lived in a teeny-tiny apartment in New York City's East Village. Nonetheless, it's worthwhile endeavor if you find yourself with some dingy old chairs in need of some refinishing love.

In this case, I got the chairs from my grandmother. Though they look kind of cool in the photo, they were actually pretty dirty, and the fabric was stained and smelly. Dan and I decided to repaint the chairs and cover the seats with some scrap fabric I'd collected.



The Job 

First, we took the seats off the chair using a screwdriver. It was relatively straightforward. 

unscrewing the seats

Then, Dan went up to the roof to spray-paint the chairs black.

paint it black

In the meantime, I peeled the nasty old stuffing out of the chairs and made a new stuffing template by tracing the wooden seat bottom onto some industrial foam. I cut out the foam and used spray adhesive to glue it to the seat bottom. Do this in a well-ventilated area, because spray adhesive is stinky!

getting high on spray adhesive

Once I'd made foam cushions for all the chairs, I placed each seat over a piece of fabric and traced an outline for the seat covering, allowing several extra inches for the fabric to be wrapped around the bottom of the seat and nailed in. I used a bunch of mismatched fabric scraps, including this great African print I found on Orchard St. for dirt cheap, but you could certainly make a matching set.

fabric time

Next, Dan and I worked together to uphoslter the seat. We chose to reuse the ancient upholstery tacks that came with the chair, which proved to be difficult, as they were dull and warped and the wood was hard. It made for some serious nailing, but eventually we got the fabric in place on the underside of the seat.

nailing it

And the finished set of three chairs, along with a 1950s-era formica table in my old studio apartment:

et voila

Post Script

I'm sad to say that after all that work, we eventually had to give up both the table and the chairs when we decided to move out West. They just wouldn't fit in the tiny trailer we'd gotten to haul our stuff. The good news is that they found a home with friends of mine in Brooklyn, where they look splendid.

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Gerry on Jan 21, 2010:

I can easily respray the wooden chairs with paint, but would like to have the paint re-baked as per original finish.

Henri on Dec 27, 2006:

I love the Meadowlark Swifts in the last photo, I have a pair as well and they sound really really good in my opinion. The chairs are great, I'm really liking the blue seat!

celee on Nov 20, 2006:

thanks for sharing ... i've been wondering how to refinish chairs... awesome advice :)

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