Q. Hey Jordan!
Longtime reader here, or well since your blog began! Anyway, I have this ugly brown wooden chair in my apartment. I found it on the street one night and brought it home, vowing to my roommate that I was going to make it more interesting. Well, it’s been almost a year now, and the chair hasn’t changed. Given the long weekend, I thought I would finally tackle this project. I was thinking of maybe just buying some paint and painting it but I’m not really sure where to start. Any ideas would be much appreciated; you seem to have a knack for DIY projects.
A. Ooh, congrats on your first furniture rescue! First, and most important: since you spent exactly $0 on this thing, and it’s not a piece that’s particularly special to you (like a family hand-me-down), that gives you tons of freedom to really be brave. What’s the worst thing that can happen? You throw it out…and have to rescue another forlorn pile of wood from the sidewalk or spend $2 at the Salvation Army? Also, since it’s not an investment piece you’re not going to want to spend a lot of money or time on the project, so I think stain or paint really is the way to go.
I’m more of a paint girl, myself, because I’m not particularly into subtlety (but if you prefer stain, click HERE for some tips). I love bright colors with metallic accents – the very first chair I re-did I painted hot pink with gold leaf on the slats, and it was pretty incredible and Matthew Williamson-esque. Lately I’m loving high-gloss black-and-white, but I’d say to let your imagination run wild. Slap on wide yellow-and-black stripes, or use stencils to paint a big floral design on the seat. Or both!
Before painting or staining, you might want to restore the wood; I tend not to do this on dilapidated old pieces, because I’m impatient and don’t see the point in putting a ton of time into something that I probably won’t want to pay a mover to transport next time we move, but that’s just me. If you want to make this a piece that’ll last for at least a few years, you may want to put in the extra effort. First you’ll have to either strip off the old paint or sand off the old stain, and then sand again to smooth down the wood. Fill in any damaged areas or cracks with wood putty, let dry, and then sand down again to create a smooth surface.
Some furniture-painting tips:
1) If you’re going to strip the furniture first, sand along the grain of the wood (if you want to get really fancy, start with 80 grit and move up to 150 grit or 220 grit, using a tack cloth to remove sawdust between sandings).
2) Use water-based paint on wood furniture, and use a synthetic brush with water-based paint (and vice versa).
3) Gloss paint shows everything…only use it if the surface you’re painting is pristine (use semi-gloss or matte for a more forgiving finish).
4) Put down a (big) drop cloth. You’ll think you won’t splatter paint on everything, but you will (our dining room set is now adorned with an attractive speckled pattern from my many painting projects).
5) Nail polish remover gets the stains off of furniture/floors that have been splattered, but spot-test first to ensure that you won’t take off anything you don’t want to.
If you’d like to make the chair a little cozier, you can also DIY a padded seat cushion pretty easily: just buy a piece of foam cut to fit the seat (you can get this at most fabric stores), and either sew together the pieces as you would a pillowcase, insert the foam, and then sew up the last side, or just use fabric glue to cover the foam with the fabric of your choice (I did this on a windowseat cushion in my LA place, and it looked great, although it did need to be re-glued after a few months).
Hope that helps!
Image via Heart&Design.