Thursday, February 16, 2012

Helping My Desk Chair Grow Up a Little

Confession: When I posted pictures of my desk last month, I was kind of embarrassed about the blue and green desk chair. The patterns in the fabric and on my desk competed with each other, the blue didn’t connect with anything like I expected it would, and the whole ensemble looked childish. I knew I needed a change.

Let me refresh your memory. Here's what the chair looked like when I first showed you my desk:

And here's what it looks like no that I've helped it grow up a little:

I thought about painting this chair other colors, but I just couldn’t decide what color would work. I didn’t want white because I wanted the chair to have some contrast. I thought green would probably end up looking the same way the blue did.

So I decided to stain this piece. I knew it would be hard work, but what can I say? I had a vision. And part of me knew it would be a challenge that would make me very proud upon completion. I was right.

First, I removed the seat, which was easy because I never actually screwed it down. Then I took my chair downstairs to our basement and set it on top of two drop cloths and a piece of cardboard. Sure, it was overkill, but I knew the process would be messy and we live in a rental unit.

I applied a layer of Citristrip to most of the chair and let it sit for about 30 minutes. I thought that would be enough, but it really wasn’t. So my first attempts to strip this chair were  quite time consuming. I decided to put a layer on right before I went to bed, and then come back to it after work the next day.

Clearly, letting Citristrip sit for a while is a good idea, because I was able to get much more of the paint of that way. Still, the job wasn’t nearly as thorough as I wanted. There were just so many crevices that were hard to get paint out of.

I left the project for the night and decided to investigate other tools and options that would make the job easier. That’s when I stumbled  upon a website that didn’t so much recommend taking the chair apart as it did give instructions for putting a chair back together. I wish I could remember what that website was, because I'd love to give them credit.

Talk about a light bulb moment! I decided the best way to thoroughly remove paint and finish from the chair was to take it apart and then strip and sand it. So I bought a $5 rubber mallet from Home Depot and went to work gently knock the chair apart at the joins. Everything came apart pretty easily, minus the seat support pieces that I had actually glued in myself not very long ago. But I was still able to get 3 out of four of them disconnected.

Once I had the chair in pieces, it was way easier to strip. I worked on it for the rest of the evening and then washed down all the pieces with steel wool dipped in mineral spirits. Here’s what the wood liked at this point in the process.

As you can tell, the wood was definitely not clear. That’s was OK because I knew I would have to spend a lot of time sanding anyway.

Did anyone see that episode of Dear Genevieve recently where she got that crochet artist to cover a chair for Genevieve’s client? And the woman said it took her “four movies” to do a project that large? Well, sanding this chair took me four movies and the entire first season of Sex and the City. No joke, I literally spent 6 hours on a Saturday sanding pieces, and then another 6 or 7 hours after work sanding the pieces of the chair so that there wasn’t any paint on them, and they were nice and smooth and ready to soak up some stain.

First, I sanded the chair with 80 grit paper, then 120 grit, and then 220 grit. To get in the look those down the front of the chair, I wrapped sand paper around my 5 in one tool and rubbed it in the detail of the chair. The sanding was hands down the longest part of this process.

Note: I wore a mask during this whole sanding process, and I'm glad I did. You should see the amount of dust in our basement and on the front of the mask itself. I always wear a mask when sanding, even when I'm hand sanding.

When I was finally done sanding, I wiped down each piece of wood with a damp rag, and then a dry rag. Then, I set up shop staining in my basement. I was able to stain the entire chair with three coats of General Finishes Java gel stain in one Saturday. I applied stain with a foam brush and buffed it off with some lint-free rags my nurse roomie snagged for me. Oh, and I kept the basement door open a lot because this stuff is fumey.

I let the stained pieces dry for 24 hours, and then went to work putting the chair back together. I used a cotton swap to apply wood glue to the holes and joints of the chair. I put the pieces together by laying one side of the chair on the floor and putting the connecting pieces in their joins. Then I placed the other side of the chair on the connecting pieces.

Once the chair was together for the most part, I used clamps to tighten all the joints. I like to use a bar clamp with a screw-like piece that allows you to gradually tighten the clamp, and easily release it as well. I think they tighten better than the ones that tighten by pulling on a lever. I actually used a collection of clamps for this piece while letting it dry, once all the joints were secure.

As you can see, I went a little overboard with the clamps. I let the wood glue dry overnight with the clamps in place, and then took them off the next morning before work.

After the chair was back together, I used a paintbrush to apply some Minwax Polycrlic in satin that I had on hand. I used brushed on three coats of poly to the chair, sanding each previous layer with very fine sandpaper between layers. The finish looks cloudy after you sand it, but once you wipe the dust away and apply another layer of finish, it looks clear again.

Once the chair was done, I had to recover the seat. I used my parents’ electric staple gun to staple four layers of batting over the chair so that it would be cushy and fit snugly on the chair.

Then I covered the layer of batting on the seat with a mossy green corduroy fabric from Jo Ann fabrics. I actually wanted that color green in velvet, but this fabric was only $8.99/yard, and I had a 40% off coupon.

With the fabric attached, I attempted to attach the seat to the base, but was unsuccessful. Right now my seat is just sitting on the chair, which isn’t much of a problem really. But I should figure out how to attach it.

I am so smitten with this little corner of my room now. I guess you could say I am kind of crushing on my handiwork. This finish on this chair looks great if I do say so myself. I love that I was able to pull it from its spray-painted sadness and make it look grownup again. I also love that the chair and desk do not match at all yet I feel like they work together. I absolutely love contrast between dark and light, and masculine and feminine in decorating, and I feel like I’ve somewhat unintentionally captures that with this piece.

I’m fully aware that plenty of people will look at this and think that this chair’s “after” looks more like a before. And if this chair was just sitting by it somewhere in my house, I might have stuck to the painted route and added a patterned fabric. But because this chair’s home is pretty specific, I didn’t want to head down that street.

Here's a fun before and after for you:

Annnnd another.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever attempted to strip and refinish a chair before? Do you prefer painted or stained chairs?

Linked to: Miss Mustard Seed, Saved by Suzy, Savvy Southern Style, Someday Crafts, The Shabby Creek Cottage, Crafty Scrappy Happy, Finding Fabulous, Primitive and Proper, aka design, The 36th Avenue, My Repurposed Life, Beyond the Picket Fence, Thrifty Decorating, 504 Main, Chic on a Shoestring Decorating, Wayward Girls Crafts, The Shabby Nest, A Potpourri of Life at 2805, At the Picket Fence, Southern Lovely, The Vintage Farmhouse, Common Ground, Primp, The Artsy Girl Connection, Mom 4 Real, My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia, Hope Studios, Shine Your Light, Creations by Kara, Blue Cricket Design, WhipperBerry


  1. I can't believe you took the whole chair apart. It must have been a lot of work but it looks great!

  2. I can't believe you took the whole chair apart, either! It looks terrific, though!

  3. What a gorgeous desk! Love the knobs!

  4. That is such a cute desk & chair combo!!!

  5. Oh are good! Both pieces are gorgeous! I am partial to the desk, because red is my favorite color, but what you did with the chair is amazing! I am hosting my first link party today, and would love for you to add this along with anything else you like!

    Jessica @ Mom 4 Real

  6. Looks great Sarah; I'm impressed at your determination! Now submit it! :)

  7. Your chair looks great - well worth the effort!

  8. Perfection!!!!! I love your chair!! :o)
    Thank you so much for sharing and for the inspiration AND for linking up at Crafty Scrappy Happy!!!!
    Jaime from crafty scrappy happy

  9. Thank you so much for linking up to my first link party last Friday! Party #2 is live, and I would love for you to come link up something new!

    Jessica @ Mom 4 Real

  10. Wow, all your hard work paid off! It looks great! Love the desk too, the stencil on top is a fun pop of color and design.

  11. Wow, you got that chair clean as a whistle! Beautiful, and I love the whimsical touch of the stenciled desk. Great work! Thanks for your visit the other day and your kind comments on my botanical wall!

  12. I love the title of your post :o) Your chair certainly looks all "grown up" :o) What a lot of work...and well worth it! I love the shape of the chair and the color stain looks perfect :o)

    Blessings & Aloha!
    So nice to meet you! I'm popping over through Lisa's Before & After party. If you get a chance to stop by, I'd love to share with you the progress that our daughter is at with their nursery :o) Nursery time...

  13. Very nice blog.Every man and woman need furniture in her/his house.Furniture is the best item to create beautiful our house.

    desk chairs

  14. your blog was too good. i really appreciate with your blog.Thanks for sharing.

    armadi metallic

  15. I like this a lot. Thank you for sharing.I will inspire your blog.


  16. I like this a lot. Thank you for sharing. I'm always looking for upcycles like this. In the end, you don't know it was a shipping pallet to begin with!

    móveis para escritório


Thanks so much for your comment! I try and answer any questions directly in the comment section, so check back for my answer later.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...