i painted a chair

A while back Sherry on Young House Love tried to paint a chair. . . it didn’t work for her BUT she lead me to this tutorial and I couldn’t get it off my mind.  I have since done a lot of reading and then I took the plunge (like in October) and bought a $10 chair off Craigslist. My hero hubby went to pic it up for me and it has sat in our living room. . . stained and dejected ever since. I did clean it when I had rented a carpet cleaner for a rug that the dogs had . . . .well you don’t need details. . . .my point is I cleaned it. And then it sat. In January I bought my supplies. And it sat. And two weekends ago I decided to paint it.

Here is my chair before:

Now. . .how I did it. Like I said. . .I read a lot. I also went into this with a very open mind. I gave myself permission to ruin this chair. If it ended up in the trash I wasn’t going to feel bad about it. I let myself off the perfection hook. I highly recommend this step. Without it there would have been crying on my part during this process.

Disclaimer—- this is not a real tutorial—- I want to share with you what I learned as I went BUT I highly recommend reading the tutorial at the above link. 

Supplies I used:

Latex paint (I should have bought a quart. . instead I started with one test pot. . .ended up buying another test pot. . .could have still used another)

Fabric Medium (you can get this at a craft store near the puff paints and other fabric paint)

A spray bottle

Foam sanding block

Paint brush

I mixed the paint and fabric medium 50/50 in a clean plastic container I dug out of the recycling bin.The fabric medium keeps the paint from being crunchy at the end of this. It is very important so don’t skip it!  I would also recommend watering this mixture down. It shouldn’t be thick. Like thin pancake batter would be the right consistency.

I started on the back because it won’t be seen. That was a good decision. Start by spraying the fabric with water. Lots of water. My experience was the wetter the better. Then I started brushing. I didn’t water down the paint when I started and it made it very hard to blend. It looked like this:

Blotchy. . . made me want to cry. I honestly kind of felt like giving up at this point. So I took a break and regrouped. Here is what I learned- more water is better (this is where I started watering down the paint mixture). I also would re-spray areas that I was struggling to blend and that helped a lot. You can see in the picture I was applying the paint in an up and down motion with the brush. . . and then it occurred to me you would never do that on a wall (you should always roll paint on a wall in a W motion so you won’t have lines) so I started using the W technique while applying the paint. Those things combined made a HUGE difference on the rest of the chair.

So I painted a coat on the rest of the chair, let it dry and then I sanded. This is the key to pleasant feeling fabric when you finish. It might feel weird to sand fabric (but lets face it- we are already painting fabric- it doesn’t get weirder) but it matters so much. After each coat of paint it felt terrible. After sanding my chair feels like canvas (it was velvet to start). Sand (and paint for that matter) in the direction of the grain of the fabric.

I also painted the legs of the chairs with white paint we keep on hand for the trim in our house.

I ended up applying 3 coats (sanding in between and a lot of sanding after). I did not achieve perfect coverage. Honestly I am not sure with my fabric it is possible, nor do I think I want to.  A friend who was over the other day remarked that it made it look more like fabric- the imperfection- which made me feel better about the whole thing.

Here she is finished:

The verdict? I like it. I’m not in love with it. Like I mentioned. . . it feels like canvas. I am actually impressed with how good it feels. I think I would like it better if I did it again knowing what I do now from learning on this one. You can see the places where the coverage is a lot less than perfect and I think using more water than I did in the beginning (I ended up adding more water during every coat) would make a big difference in the even coverage department. All that said- this is GREAT for a $10 chair off Craigslist. A chair from your Grandma’s house with sentimental value though- no way would I paint it. Too much room for error. And I think it’s likely I won’t like this any more in a few years.

I’m happy I tried this. It was fun actually. . . and it’s fun to talk about. People can’t believe I painted upholstery. What do you think?


Today I am thankful for spring break!


1 Tisha TS { 03.18.12 at 3:42 pm }

You are more adventurous than I, Michelle! Great job. Neat color, it really pops in that room :)

2 Krystal { 07.23.12 at 1:25 pm }

You’re so cool! It looks very nice.