Saturday, March 1, 2014

Thrift Store Chair Makeover

 When I had a week off from work in February, in between working on set design for the school's musical and other art and home projects I had planned, I decided to add yet another project in to the mix.  I was out searching through thrift stores for various things we needed for props for the musical when I came across a chair for $4.99.

I spotted it when I first entered the store and debated buying it and giving it a makeover while I walked around the store looking for set props, telling myself, "You have enough to do...but it's only $5!...but you're designing sets and props for the school's musical! And making new project demos for your students! And working on that painting that's been sitting on the easel forever! And you've never recovered a seat cushion!...but it's only $5, so if you mess it up it's not a big deal!"

In the end, that price tag was pretty persuasive and I brought this chair home with me.

I really liked the back of the chair, where you could see the wood grain, and I thought that the silhouette was interesting.  The seat was terrible, though, and the legs of the chair were pretty beat up with dents, gouges, and scratches.  I put the chair in our living room and proceeded to stare at it for a couple days while I worked on making props for the musical.  I knew that I was definitely going to need to recover the seat and probably do some painting.  I debated about sanding and re-staining it, but since we're still in the grips of winter (tied with Quebec City for fifth snowiest city in the world, say what!?), I quickly eliminated that option since I couldn't do that amount of sanding inside without wreaking havoc on the apartment.  Even with some sanding, the gouges in the legs would still have been visible.  In the end, I decided that I would go with a weathered painted look on the legs and frame, but keep the back of the chair as is.

The next step was to head out to Jo-Ann's for some supplies.  I settled on an upholstery fabric with a colorful pattern that corresponds nicely to other colors that I've used in the apartment as well as the color of the wood finish (the fabric name is Waverly Mayan Medallion Adobe).  I bought enough fabric so that I could eventually cover another seat cushion if I find a second chair I'd like to re-finish, so that I can someday have a semi-matched pair of chairs (might as well while the fabric was part of a %50 off sale).  I also bought 2" green foam for the seat and batting to put in between the foam and fabric.  Lastly I grabbed more staples for my staple gun and some upholstery tacks in case I need them for the seat (more on that in a bit).  I was armed with plenty of different coupons (paper and mobile versions) as well as my trusty teacher's discount, so I did all right cost wise on supplies, especially considering that I bought enough fabric for two seat cushions.

That took care of the seat cushion, so for painting supplies I hopped on over to Home Depot.  I got a sample pot of Behr's Country Dairy, for a creamy off-white that would go with the off-white color in the fabric. I also picked up a Minwax Wood Finish Stain Marker in Early American to use to touch up a few small nicks on the chair's back.

The final supply I picked up was a Krylon Clear Polyurethane spray in a Satin finish to seal everything with at the end.  I bought that at Hobby Lobby where I had another 40% off coupon that I could use while I was picking up more supplies for the musical sets and props.

The first step of tackling the chair was to remove that lovely orange vinyl seat cushion.  There were some screws to remove on the bottom corners that were easy enough to take out so that I could pull the seat cushion off.

Once the cushion was off I could see that there were a number of upholstery tacks holding it in place.  I took a few photos to note how it was wrapped around the corners for reference before prying the tacks out with a screwdriver.  They were quite easy to pull out once they had been loosened with the screwdriver. 

With the vinyl off, I found that the inside of the seat was some kind of thick cotton that had been tacked to the wood from the inside.  It had been flattened quite a bit over the years, so I was glad that the 2" thick foam that I had bought was on the generous side.  I knew that it would be much more comfortable than the old seat.  

After prying the cotton off, I used the wood from the seat that was left to trace the shape for the seat on to the foam with a Sharpie marker.  I lined up the widest side of the wood seat with one of the flat sides of the foam so that I would only have to cut out three sides.  I used a regular pair of scissors to cut everything out.  It took a little bit of work since the foam was so thick, but really wasn't that difficult.  It wasn't a perfectly straight cut since I had to work at it with the scissors, but once the batting was wrapped around it you couldn't tell.

Once the foam was cut out, I used a hot glue gun to attach it to the wooden seat.  Then, I used the old vinyl seat cover to measure how big I needed to cut the batting.  After cutting it out, I practiced wrapping it around the foam and wood.  I also traced the batting on to my fabric for when I cut that out.  At first, I thought I would use the upholstery tacks to attach it to the seat, but it was much easier to use the staple gun.  When wrapping the seat, to get a tight and even tension I started in the middle of the top and then worked to the opposite side.  I worked out from the middle when stapling, working back and forth between the top and bottom.  I then moved to the sides and handled those in the same way before folding the corners over and stapling them pulling tightly as I stapled.  

With the batting wrapped around the foam, I took the time to make sure my fabric was lined up evenly on the seat cushion.  I didn't want it to slip when I flipped the cushion to staple everything in place, so I used several straight pins to temporarily hold the fabric in place, sticking right through in to the foam seat cushion.

I then flipped the cushion and attached everything with the staple gun in the same way that I did with the batting.  I made sure to fold the fabric so that the majority of the corner folds were hidden.  With the seat cushion pressed against the back of the chair, those fabric folds were completely hidden.  I wrapped the other corners so that the fabric folds were on the left and right and couldn't be seen if you were looking at the chair straight on.  I also used an upholstery tack nailed in to the wood at each folded corner just to be doubly sure that everything was going to stay put.  

The seat cushion looked pretty good on the chair (just set on top here, not attached to the chair frame yet)!  It was now time to tackle the back of the chair.  That part was in the best shape, but even then it still had some scratches that needed to be fixed.  

The Minwax Stain Marker that I bought was the perfect tool to fix this part.  The Early American stain color matched the current wood finish quite well.  To touch up the scratches, I dabbed the areas with the marker and then immediately wiped over it with a paper towel to pick up any extra stain.  As you can see from the photo below, it worked quite well!

The seat back was all fixed up and ready to go, so it was time to start painting.  I used newspaper and painters tape to block off the seat back.  I lightly brushed on one coat of paint, let it dry, and then did a second coat.  After the second coat of paint dried, I used some sand paper to even out any areas where brushstrokes were too noticeable and then did one more coat of paint, followed by another round of light sanding as needed.

To make the paint look weathered, I used a fine grade of sandpaper to rub paint off corners and any protruding areas, like the rounded ridges on the front chair legs.  If the paint didn't wear off in an even stripe, like below, that was fine with me because I wanted a more natural worn look.  You can also see the kinds of nicks and gouges in the wood that I was talking about.

I let the painted chair sit overnight.  In the morning, I peeled the newspaper off and then lightly scraped off paint that had bled under the tape in a few small areas.  Then I re-taped the chair back, this time using plastic bags instead of newspaper - I should have done this from the beginning, it was much easier to use the plastic shopping bags than the newspaper.  I took the chair outside (hello snow) and sprayed a light coat of the polyurethane.  The polyurethane did make the paint yellow a bit, which I wasn't happy with at first.  At the end though, it looked fine when paired back with the seat cushion.  I did one light coat of the polyurethane spray, let it dry, lightly sanded a few areas that had collected a drip, and then repeated the process.  The chair was then moved to the basement to sit for a few hours and cure.

I let the chair dry for several hours and then brought it back upstairs and flipped it upside down to screw the seat cushion back in.  The polyurethane was dry enough to be lightly handled, but still slightly tacky in a few areas so I left the chair alone for the night.  The next morning, it was completely dry and even looked like the yellowing from the polyurethane had lightened up a bit.  

In all, I'm pretty happy with how the chair turned out!  If anything, I was able to teach myself how to re-cover a seat cushion.  Now I just have to keep my eyes peeled for a second chair to go with this one. After all, I have the materials all ready to go.

Tools and Supplies that I already had:
  • Staple gun
  • Hammer
  • Screwdriver
  • Sandpaper
  • Paintbrushes
  • Scissors
  • Sewing straight pins
  • Hot glue gun and glue
  • Sharpie marker
Tools and Supplies Purchased:
  • Chair - $4.99
  • Krylon Clear Polyurethane Spray in Satin finish - $4.19 (40% off coupon)
  • Fabric for seat, 0.694 yards - $12.14 (50% off fabric sale, normally $34.99 a yard), works out to $6.07 for 1 chair
  • Steel upholstery tacks - $2.29 (with 15% off coupon)
  • High Density Foam for the seat, about 2" thick - $8.99 (40% off coupon)
  • Batting, enough to do more than one chair - $4.97 on clearance, works out to $2.49 for 1 chair
  • Sample pot of Behr Country Dairy paint - $2.94
  • Minwax Wood Finish Stain Marker in Early American - $5.98
  • Total Cost = $46.49 for all materials - however, I have enough left of all materials except the foam to do a second chair and then some, bringing the cost down to approximately $30 for one chair, including the price of the chair itself.