I did something out of character this month – I finished a project! It only took me almost 2 years. Two years of sitting on folding chairs at our kitchen table because I was refinishing the kitchen chairs. My husband was super happy about that.
Let’s take a look at what I started with, shall we?
I bought these chairs from a local yard sale site with the intention of refinishing them, but they sat around fooooooreeeeeveeerrr (as in years) before I ever started. I knew I wanted something brighter and more fun, but I never found a fabric I really liked. I had this picture sitting around on my phone as inspiration for a while:
I love the bright colors and clean white look and the lines of the chairs. But again…what to do about fabric. I still hadn’t found any I loved at a price point I also loved. And then one day it struck me – why not forgo the fabric and have hard chairs and doodle on the seats myself? I realized that I didn’t even really want to use fabric because people live here and sit and eat and stand on these chairs, so what’s the point? I hate plastic over fabric and I hate dirty fabric and mostly I hate cleaning fabric (or anything for that matter – let’s be real). So, with my friend’s own project providing the catalyst for me, the folding chairs moved into the kitchen, the kitchen chairs moved into the garage, and I started tearing my chairs apart.
Whomever last upholstered these chairs was. not. fooling. around. The staple situation was out of control. A representative sampling of about 2-3 inches below:
That’s after the plastic layer had already been removed. Each chair had 2 layers like this on the seat and like a million on the backs. At least I’m pretty sure it was like a million. I lost count.When I got all of the staples out, and ripped the padding off, I found seats that were in pretty decent shape and decided I’d use them for doodling instead of adding another layer of fresh wood on top. Just had to clean off the glue and do a little sanding.
Nothing is ever as simple as it seems.
That glue never did cooperate. In fact, It’s still wreaking havoc on the paint job. And believe me, I tried everything I, and the home improvement store guys, and the internet could think of. I thought I had it pretty much under control until I put a base layer of paint on the seats. And by that point, I didn’t care anymore. So apparently the solution was apathy all along. But I digress.
Staples removed, seats cleaned (and cleaned and cleaned and cleaned) and cracks filled in and sanded. Next step was striping paint.
There were so many layers of paint on these chairs that I didn’t want to just add another, so I decided to strip them. Also took ages. Some layers were water based and some were oil based, and between them, the resulting sludge was…nasty and difficult. Eventually I prevailed. Or at least reached a point of “good enough, I don’t care anymore, let’s move on.”
Next I worked on painting a base layer and then hand drawing the designs on the seats. I just used sharpies and it was enjoyable, though time consuming. You can’t really tell in the pic, but the designs fade where the glue was still causing problems through the paint.
I hate that glue.
I put a few finishing coats of sealant on the chairs – first a spray sealant to keep brush strokes from smearing the design, and then a more durable brush on sealant. They’ve probably got 8-12 layers of sealant of some kind. And I bet my kids will still ruin them.
With the seats done, I had to figure out the chair backs. I had made some mock-ups with cardboard.
Part of the trouble was knowing how to get the slight bend of the existing back frame into the new pieces. Also, I didn’t have any means or know-how for cutting them out myself. After several failed attempts at getting someone else to do it for me, I decided to just buy a scroll saw and do it myself. And I did. (And now I have a scroll saw – mwahahahaha!)
I cut them out and sanded them down and turned my kids’ bathroom into a steam room to get them all steamy and moist and then clamped them onto the frames, hoping they’d form to the very slight bend. And they did. Mostly. I mean, in a good-enough-for-who-it’s-for kind of way.
Used some Gorilla Glue epoxy and a nail gun to attach them and we were (FINALLY) ready to paint.
After all the time I had spent, waiting for the paint to dry was much harder than it should have been. You can see here that I should have put some kind of filler in the cracks where the new backs attached, but I didn’t. So there’s that. Also, the paint was kind enough to point out all of the places where I didn’t sand well enough. So there’s also that. But if you just pretend not to notice, then we can still be friends.
Put new feet protector thingies on, re-attached the seats (seriously should have been the easiest part and was a PAIN), and voila – Finished Chairs!
They’re certainly not perfect, but they’re good enough if you don’t look too closely. (Do you sense a theme here?) We were sure happy to retire the folding chairs, and now I get to spend the day getting mad at my kids for spilling on them and stuff. It’s super fun.
One last look:
Next step – the table.
Check back in a couple of years on that.