If there’s a piece of furniture on the side of the road, I’ll be the first one to pull over and see if it can be used (in any possible way) in my apartment. So you can imagine my joy when I found THIS gorgeous chair hanging out on the curb a few weeks ago:
It’s in pretty good condition and has beautiful little details throughout – plus I needed a chair for my kitchen table, so this was perfect. The only issue I had was that it totally didn’t fit in with my decorating style, like, at all. My entire apartment has a feminine, antique feel, infused with light and airy colors and materials. This chair has the antique part down, but the other factors are total opposites. I decided to whitewash and reupholster it – and found out that this project was not as intimidating as it sounded!
What you need:
To whitewash: sandpaper, paintbrush, white paint, rag, bucket, water.
You can get all these supplies at a hardware store. Make sure you use sandpaper that’s specifically made for wood – it should say so on the package. If you plan on using your chair outside, use exterior paint – mine will just be used indoors, so I used interior semi-gloss white paint.
To reupholster: fabric (I used a pillowcase!), upholstery nails, a screwdriver, scissors, pliers, and a hammer.
What you do:
First you must sand, sand, sand. Most wood furniture is quite smooth to the touch. Sanding the wood will give the paint something to grip onto, so that it doesn’t just slide right off. Since I used a very old chair, the outer layer came off easily. If your chair is newer, it may take a little longer. You’ll know you’re finished sanding when the wood turns a slightly different color and feels rougher to the touch.
Next you must dust, dust, dust. Use a rag to wipe off any dust particles that accumulated while you were sanding.
Now it’s time to remove the fabric! Not all chairs are made like this one, but if your chair has upholstery nails, you can remove them with a screwdriver and pliers. You can discard the nails after you remove them, as they’ll probably be too bent to reuse.
Remove the fabric and any padding that may be underneath it, but don’t discard – we’ll need to use these things later.
Now it’s time to whitewash! Place your chair on a drop cloth (or newspapers or an old sheet) to make sure the paint doesn’t get anywhere it shouldn’t!
Pour some paint into your bucket. Pour in a little water and mix well. The more water you add, the more diluted your paint color will be, so if you want more of the wood color to show up beneath the paint, use more water (and vice versa).
And now for the fun part. Dip your paintbrush into your mixture and start painting! The whitewashing technique is “paint and wipe” – after you paint, use a rag to wipe off some of the color. This gives it that beautiful “washed” look, allowing some of the original wood to show through.
You don’t want the paint to dry before you get a chance to wipe, so it’s best to work in small sections for this part. The amount you paint on and the amount you wipe off are totally up to you!
When you’re finished, your chair will look something like this!
Allow the paint to dry before moving on. This may only take a few hours, but I waited a full day to be sure.
Next you’re going to cut your new fabric to the proper shape. Lay the original upholstery fabric on top of your new fabric, and position however you like. I left about an extra inch of the new fabric because I wanted it to hang off the front of the chair.
Now cut your fabric! It may be easier if you trace the shape onto your new fabric first (I didn’t do this).
Now it’s time for the upholstery! If your chair had padding underneath the original fabric, use it! Place the padding on top of your seat and position the new fabric on top.
Secure the fabric with upholstery nails. Hold fabric in place, position a nail where you want it, and hammer into the wood. You can use the holes that are already in your chair as a guide for where to place your new nails.
I didn’t want the studs to appear on the front part of my chair, and I was lucky enough to be using a pillowcase (which means there were two layers of fabric), so I cut the fabric at the front, nailed that into place, and let the other layer hang over. This way, the nails were hidden!
And you’re all done!
Now that I know how easy it is to whitewash, I’m pretty sure every single mirror I own is going to undergo a little makeover… I can’t wait.
A gigantic thanks goes out to my awesome friend Jon-Pierre for walking me through every single step of this process… and for hammering half of the nails into place. That part’s not as easy as it looks, ha!
Photos by FP Brigette and Jon-Pierre Vargas.
More DIY ideas for you!!