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How to makeover an old chair into a French antique on a budget

Updated on March 2, 2015

Get the high-end antique look for a lot less

While my husband and I were walking around The Southern Women's show in Charlotte, we saw this technique of a certain matt-finished paint and dust used to create an antique effect on a picture frame. There are a couple different name brands of this matt-finished paint available on the market today, but they are pretty pricey. So I set out to get the same look for a lot less. The name brand paint, wax and dust totals around $74.00. My paints and finish spray totaled $20. You can see the table below for the price comparisons.

Step 1

Have fun locating an old, straight back chair you like. Flea markets, antique stores, craigslist.com, Habitat Restores, Goodwills and yard sales are all great sources for old chairs and fabrics. Don't worry about the condition of the wood and fabric on the seat because you are going to recover the seat and steel wool and sand the wood finish.

After two days makeover completed

This chair became a nice addition to my French guest room.
This chair became a nice addition to my French guest room.

Your supply list

Things you will need:

1. an old chair

2. steel wool

3. sandpaper, 150 grade

4. 1 quart flat Valspar Ultra paint and primer, color, Allen Roth's, color name, Tuxedo Tile (Lowes)

5. One 7.5 ounce Valspar color sample of Opera Glasses

6. 1 yard of upholstery fabric

7. 1 two inch paintbrush

8. 1 small tole painting fan brush

9. 1 small, fine, liner brush

10. drop cloth and paper towels

11. wet rag for clean ups

12. small water bowl

13. staple gun and staples

14. tacky cloth

15. 1 spray can of satin polyurethane finish

16l felt pads for chair legs (optional)

Step 2

Pick out a yard of fabric, preferably heavy duty upholstery fabric to recover the chair cushion. White or linen colors contrast beautifully with the Tuxedo Tile color or you can use a darker color like I picked. By the way, you can pick any colors you want for your chair. I am just telling you what I picked.

Step 3

I went to Lowes to purchase the Valspar paints. Take your supply list with you and get your 7.5 oz sample of Opera Glasses, 1 quart of Valspar Tuxedo Tile, flat, ultra paint and primer, brushes, drop cloth, paper towels, steel wool, sandpaper, staple gun and staples, 1 spray can of satin polyurethane finish and your optional felt pads.

Work Progression photos

Before the makeover
Before the makeover
Steel wool and sanding dents and scratches
Steel wool and sanding dents and scratches
First coat of flat Tuxedo Tile, no picture of second coat.
First coat of flat Tuxedo Tile, no picture of second coat.
after satin polyurethane finish was sprayed on
after satin polyurethane finish was sprayed on
Started at bottom of chair, stapling fabric over existing fabric for more cushiony effect
Started at bottom of chair, stapling fabric over existing fabric for more cushiony effect
detail fold of the corner
detail fold of the corner
second fold of the corner
second fold of the corner
working around the seat, staples every quarter to half inch
working around the seat, staples every quarter to half inch
trimming off the rounded corners
trimming off the rounded corners
completed backside of chair seat
completed backside of chair seat
new seat cover
new seat cover
practice detail fine line dry painting techniques and stippling before you do them on the chair.
practice detail fine line dry painting techniques and stippling before you do them on the chair.
Detail work takes lots of patience
Detail work takes lots of patience
close up of completed detail work
close up of completed detail work

Steps 4, 5 and 6

At this point, talk real nice to your husband and have him steel wool the old polyurethane finish off the chair. And using the 150 grade sandpaper, sand any small dents or scratches. If it is a nice day outside, he will enjoy this task. Make sure you bring him a big, ice-cold glass of sweet tea. By removing the old finish, you will ensure the new paint will adhere to the wood.

After all the steel wool and sanding, don't forget to use the tacky cloth to remove all the dust.

Step 7

Apply the first coat of Tuxedo Tile, flat paint to your chair and let it dry overnight because by now you and your husband are hungry and tired. So go out to dinner, have a drink and relax.

Price list comparison

Budget project
Brand name matt finish paint
 
1 qt Valspar paint/primer $12.00
paint $28.00
 
7.5 oz sample Valspar $2.98
wax $26.00
 
Paint brushes $6.00
stippling dust $22.00
 
Satin polyurethane spray $5.00
 
 
Chair free curb pick up
 
 
1 yard of fabric $4.00
 
 

Step 8, 9, and 10

Greet the new day and apply your second coat of Tuxedo Tile, flat paint. Let this coat dry for several hours.

Next, do the fine, detail line work with Opera Glasses paint and your small, fine liner brush using a dry brush technique. Tip: if your paint gets too heavy in the fine lines, it tends to look like pin striping on a car instead of the old world antique look you want. The dry brush technique is achieved by lightly dipping your brush in the paint and then blotting the brush on a paper towel to get the majority of the paint off your brush before you apply the paint to the chair.

Then using your small, fan brush, like the ones used in tole painting, dry brush the speckles of dust around edges of your detailed line work. You could also you a stippling, spatter technique, but the dry brush gives you more control where the drops land. The stippling technique is created by dipping your fan brush lightly into the paint, blotting off the excess paint, then holding the fan brush over the area you want the paint drops to go and tap the fan brush lightly with another brush.

( see progression photos above ). I would advise practicing this technique first.

Step 11

Recover the seat cushion with your fabric following the progression photos above that show how to fold the corners. Be careful if you picked a patterned fabric. Before you start stapling, line the pattern up straight in the middle of the front facing part of the seat cushion. Then using your staple gun, fasten your fabric to the seat cushion. Be careful to stretch and pull the fabric tight as you staple, so you end up with a smooth look.

Step 12, 13 and 14

In a well ventilated area spray the chair with the can of satin, polyurethane finish and let it dry about an hour or so.

Affix the seat cushion into the chair with nails on the bottom or this cushion was so thick with fabric, it just held itself in place once it was pushed down into the chair.

This last step is optional. Place the felt pads on each chair leg for ease of movement and to save scratching the floor surface.

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    • Purplepassion1 profile image
      Author

      Joanne Lombardo 2 years ago from Prescott AZ

      I'm so glad my article was a timesaver for you thank you so much for your kind words.

      I wanted to think outside the box and find a less expensive way to do this project.

      Thank you both for visiting and commenting on my work.

    • profile image

      Reegan 2 years ago

      Wow, that's a really clever way of thikning about it!

    • profile image

      Lorrie 2 years ago

      Thank you so much for this arieclt, it saved me time!

    • Purplepassion1 profile image
      Author

      Joanne Lombardo 2 years ago from Prescott AZ

      Thank you, Ruby, for your kind words.

    • Ruby H Rose profile image

      Maree Michael Martin 2 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

      Very nice. Great idea. Love the how to steps.

    • Purplepassion1 profile image
      Author

      Joanne Lombardo 2 years ago from Prescott AZ

      Dolores, thank you for your kind comments and I am truly flattered you stopped by my profile to read my hub and comment.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 2 years ago from East Coast, United States

      I love to restore old furniture and your chair looks so nice. I liked all the pictures as seeing the step by step process is a real help.

    • Purplepassion1 profile image
      Author

      Joanne Lombardo 2 years ago from Prescott AZ

      Thank you for your comments, Kim, and I truly could not do it without my husband's help. We rearranged the office yesterday and his floor plan worked better than mine; we make a great team.

    • klidstone1970 profile image

      இڿڰۣ-- кιмвєяℓєу 2 years ago from Niagara Region, Canada

      Hi Joanne. This looks great. I love repurposing old items into something new. I did laugh with, "At this point, talk real nice to your husband and have him steel wool the old polyurethane finish off the chair." Talking nice - love it! Best wishes, Kim