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An Idea for Upcycling an Old Chair.

Updated on August 14, 2014

In this hub, is a step-by-step guide to upcycling an old chair using paints and decoupage; turning it from something old and shabby into a personalised piece of statement furniture.

Make a feature chair.

The finished chair
The finished chair

It just needs a bit of love!

When moving into my new house earlier in the year, I discovered a faded wooden chair that had been left behind by the previous owners. One of the arms was broken, but apart from that it was in structurally good shape so I decided to 'upcycle' it into a feature chair.

The old chair.
The old chair.

You will need:

  • A tin of white primer paint
  • Paintbrushes of varying sizes - A few small brushes can be used for touching up edges and a large brush is useful for covering large areas.
  • Coloured acrylic or household paints.
  • Some medium grade sandpaper.
  • Beeswax
  • A few clean, soft cloths
  • PVA glue
  • Some paper to decoupage with. - This can be any absorbent paper. Glossier papers are more difficult to use within decoupage as they repel the PVA glue.
  • Wood glue - For any superficial fixes, in this case for reattaching the arm of the chair.

Get creative: You can add anything you like into the design to make it truly unique, from buttons and ribbons to glitter and feathers.

The rabbit always wants to know what's going on!
The rabbit always wants to know what's going on!
Adding a little colour...
Adding a little colour...
Using natural beeswax protects the wood and also darkens the white colour slightly.
Using natural beeswax protects the wood and also darkens the white colour slightly.
The aged effect.
The aged effect.

Painting the Chair

  • Firstly, clean up the chair and remove any dust or dirt using a dry cloth.
  • Paint the entire chair using the white primer paint. This forms the base of the rest of the design.
    • (Remember to paint the underside of the chair too so that the final design looks neat!)
  • Leave to dry.
  • You may need to add another coat or two of primer paint so that none of the original wood shows through. The aim is to make the surface as smooth as possible.
  • When the paint is dry, you can choose to paint on some colours. Decide which areas you would like to colour. I chose to use red and black paint to match the paper I will later be using to decoupage with.
  • Again, you may need to use more than one layer of paint to achieve a neat effect.
  • Try to be neat with the coloured paints at all of the joins in the chair. I used a tiny brush to finish the ends of sections to try to keep it neat looking.

Adding an 'aged' effect.

  • In my design, I decided I didn't want the chair to look 'too new'. This is where the sandpaper and beeswax comes in.
  • Use the sandpaper to remove some of the paint you have carefully added so that the original wood colour shows through.
  • Do this all over the chair, remembering the legs and back.
  • Now that the design looks suitably 'aged', use a soft cloth to remove the sanding dust.
  • Now, using another clean cloth, rub beeswax onto the chair, making sure to get into the grain of the wood. This protects the wood and also has the added effect of slightly dulling the bright white paint that has been left on show.
    • Make sure you are in a well ventilated area when using the beeswax.
  • Once you have waxed the entire chair, remove any excess wax using another clean cloth.

Making any Repairs

Because this chair has a broken arm, I decided that this could be easily fixed using a strong wood glue. This should be sufficient for fixing it as not much pressure is applied to the arms of the chairs with use. If your chair is more substantially damaged, you may need to repair it using a few screws or nails.

Now for some decoupage

Decoupage is such a versatile craft, useful for decorating almost anything inexpensively. And can be done using pretty much any type of paper (so long as it's not too thick and glossy as this repels the PVA glue).

I love bright colours and vintage designs, so I chose to print vintage adverts off from the internet, making sure to find ones that matched my colour scheme of red, black and white.

Be creative with the papers you use! You can buy specific patterned decoupage papers from craft shops or the internet, or just collect some of your own papers. eg. maps, photographs, old magazines, newspaper cuttings, book pages, comics, food can use almost anything to create your perfect personal design!

An example of one of the vintage adverts I used within the chair design.
An example of one of the vintage adverts I used within the chair design. | Source

Decoupaging the chair.

  • Collect/print out or find the images you want to use.
  • Cut out the images into appropriate shapes and sizes.
  • Keep cutting out images until you feel you have enough to cover the required area. I chose to cover the seat and back of the chair.
  • Plan out where you feel the images will look good by placing them onto the surface you are going to cover, or measuring certain areas.
  • Now, using the PVA glue and a soft paintbrush, paint a layer of PVA onto the surface you wish to decorate.
  • Press the paper down in place.
  • Paint a layer of PVA glue over the paper and allow to dry.
  • Continue with this process until you have covered the area you wish to decoupage entirely. A craft knife can be handy for cutting smaller sections out (I had some issues gluing images neatly around the 'bars' at the back of this chair).
  • To protect the design, allow the entire thing to dry and then coat it with another layer of PVA glue.

If you want to make sure that the decoupaged area is well protected and unlikely to peel, then also cover the finished design with a layer or two of clear varnish.

A before and after shot of the chair
A before and after shot of the chair

Add embellishments

Now that you have painted and decoupaged the chair, it is pretty much complete! This is the point where you can add some optional embellishments to your design. Add some buttons or ribbon strips to add extra personality to your design. In this case, I felt that the legs of the chair looked too bare in comparison to the decorated sections. I first tried tying spotted ribbon around the legs, but eventually opted for more decoupage and added a few thin strips around each leg.

Home-made decoupage table covered with Street Art.
Home-made decoupage table covered with Street Art.
Another decoupage project based on 'The Beano' comics I used to read as a child.
Another decoupage project based on 'The Beano' comics I used to read as a child.

Other Home-Made Decoupage Projects.

Here are a few more photographs of more of my home-made decoupage projects showing a few more ideas.

...Apparently, there is a colour scheme going on!


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