Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ugly-to-Nice: Boring Old Chair Gets a New Life

It's a real score finding something truly ugly that can benefit from a little TLC.

The key is seeing the potential hidden under the ugliness, and looking for nice lines and a solid build.  This "cushioned" (airquotes!) wooden chair fit the bill perfectly.  It had these key factors:

pick me!  pick me!
  • Very ugly. 
  • Why yes, that is in fact itchy, scratchy tweed.
  • Ignored at thrift shop.  Chair very lonely and looking for a butt to call its own.
  • Dirt cheap at $5.
  • Solidly made and still has some life in it.
  • Come on, look at it.  Begging for a makeover.
With our niece's 8th birthday coming up, we decided to give it an overhaul.  Hey, how often do you get a custom revamped chair for your birthday?  We calculated that this project could be completed in one afternoon.

Here's how you can do it:
  1. Remove the seat.  Salvage the wooden base because it's already cut to size.  Get rid of old fabric, cushioning, staples, nails, etc.
  2. Tighten up all the screws and solidify the structure.
  3. Sand away the old, chipping varnish.
  4. Prime.
  5. Spray paint with glossy color of your choosing.
  6. Reupholster the seat with a fun fabric.
  7. Put it all together, and voila!
So, here she is in all her glossy white glory, with her extra plump cushioning and fun, dandelion-like fabric.  We picked it out just for our niece.


We got it finished and put a giant gift bow on it just in the nick of time for her birthday dinner.  In fact, the paint was still drying in the car on the way over.*

The good news is, she was very happy with her one-of-a-kind gift.  And we were joyously thrilled to give her something that we really put thought, time and TLC into -- much more than we've ever been giving a trendy-for-now plastic toy -- not that there's anything wrong with that!

What do you think?

* Note: Here's what we learned the hard way doing this project:
  • Don't rush a job.  It may sound silly but while we accounted for painting time, we overlooked drying time.  So while I rushed to spray on more coats, the coats underneath hadn't set yet and were tacky.  There were also quite a few drips that I had to remedy with a brush, messing up the smooth finish.  All of which could have been avoided if I'd allowed for more time.
  • Don't paint outside on a windy day.  Every spec of dust, grain of sand - and even bits of gravel! - got swept up in the breeze and stuck like magnets to the wet paint.
  • Do go for extra-thick cushioning.  While we used a standard 2-inch foam for the seat cushion, it didn't offer much resistance so it squished down almost flat when you sat on it.  It may look way cushy to the eye, but it was just enough.
  • Do pick a color and fabric that will fit nicely with the person or room it's intended for, that's what makes it special.
  • Don't drive with something freshly painted and not-quite-dry loose in your car.  It's just a pain!  You'll stress at the turn of every corner and over every pothole, both about your car and about the piece.

Let's hear your thoughts!  Where do you find old treasures to refinish?  And what tips have you picked up along the way?

Boring old chair gets a new life!

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