Jeanine Wester
Jeanine Wester
  • Hometalker
  • Peoria, IL
Asked on Mar 20, 2013

What should I do with this pretty, but beat-up chair?

Jeanine WesterZDahlia corella-ryle
+23

Answered

I bought this chair for $8, I couldn't pass it up. I figured I would just reupholster it and slap some chalk paint on it. Of course, as the brush touched the chair my husband decides that he doesn't think it should be painted because it's probably antique. So my question is: Am I ruining a nice chair by painting it? Is this chair worth stripping, staining, and revarnishing? That just seems like a lot of work to me and looks like it's going to be difficult. Take a look at the pictures of the condition and see what you think, thanks so much in advance!
what should i do with this pretty but beat up chair, chalk paint, painted furniture
No varnish left on this leg anymore.
No varnish left on this leg anymore.
what should i do with this pretty but beat up chair, chalk paint, painted furniture
These spots did not come off with light cleaning.
These spots did not come off with light cleaning.
26 answers
  • Jamala W
    on Mar 20, 2013

    I would definitely paint it.. Ive seen lots of those chairs painted in my travels and they look great

  • Jeanine Wester
    on Mar 20, 2013

    Jamala, that is what I'm inclined to do, but then I started second guessing myself. I know some people consider it sacrilege to paint over wood lol!(and sometimes I do too)

  • Jeanette S
    on Mar 20, 2013

    I love the painted furniture, but some items just do not need painting and I think this chair is telling you that. I have taken old pieces and worked wonders with them by getting the stain chart from Home Depot and buying a couple different colors and mixing small amounts. This is a small piece so it will not take much to fix it since the biggest damage is on the larger surfaces. Clean it well, use a 00 steel wool (it is flexible and will get in those tiny places) and rub it down just enough to get the stain to adhere. start on the back so you can see how to work the stain. Then use that wipe on gel varnish that is so easy...goes on well with a piece of an old t-shirt and no sanding between coats! This is just too classic not to try and refinish!

  • Gail Salminen
    on Mar 20, 2013

    @Jeanine Wester what a beautiful chair. It looks like it has great bones and the character is exquisite! I think I agree with @Jeanette S on this one. I think what I would do is strip it down as far as possible, then sand it. I would also pretreat the wood for even absorption of the stain. I would go for a dark brown/black colour and follow it up with polyurethane to make it pop. But you might first want to choose your fabric for the chair pad before choosing the stain. If you decide to paint after, it would be easy to do, but if paint then decide to stain it would be a lot more work. Thanks for posting and please do post a pic of your final product :)

  • Leslie D
    on Mar 20, 2013

    Looks like you have a Heppelwhite style chair, probably mid-1800s, but would need to see type of joinery, fasteners, etc to ID the real age, as this style has been made as early as the late 1700s and as late as yesterday, although yours has age. Unless this can be identified as a true Heppelwhite or a Duncan Phyfe (which would be of enough value to insure), in its current condition, your chair is worth less than $100. You could do some online research or take it to an antiques dealer who is knowledgeable in furniture to help identify it. Duncan Phyfe is rarely marked, and it needs to be examined closely for type of wood, quality of construction and method of joinery. Even if it is a true Heppelwhite or Phyfe, you would have to restore it, which takes away from the value and would cost a fortune to have done properly. You found it at a thrift store, so I say paint away and enjoy it, especially since it's only one chair and not a full set.

  • Jeanine Wester
    on Mar 20, 2013

    @Jeanette S I think I'd need to strip it first because the varnish is pretty thick on some of the top parts that haven't seen as much wear, but I am thinking that I should try to salvage it before giving in to painting it. I love this dark wood color too. Do you think it will be hard to strip those small decorative parts?@Or just put on the stripping agent and scrub with steel wool? This is the part that I'm not sure how to do.

  • Tanja Moderscheim
    on Mar 20, 2013

    Hi Jeanine, great chair! To offer a European view- I woul strip the paint and then stain in a dark colour, making sure the beautiful woodgrain is visible. Then upholster in a classic fabric. Would love to see a picture of the finished chair!

  • Jeanine Wester
    on Mar 20, 2013

    @Leslie D You must have posted as I was typing, thank you for the info! It would be so neat if this was that old. You're right tho about restoring taking away the value, I've read that a lot as I was trying to do some research. That's why I'm not too worried about what happens to it. If I mess up staining I always have to option to paint.

  • Jeanine Wester
    on Mar 20, 2013

    @Tanja Moderscheim I think I will try to strip and restain. It will be a learning process for me, but this is a good place to start since I don't have a big initial investment. I actually already did the re-upholstery and picked a chevron stripe fabric. Kinda modern, but I think it will look good even with the dark wood (I'm in love with Chevron lol). Thanks so much for all of your posts I think I need to attempt to refinish instead of paint. I will post pictures when I am done!!

  • Gail Salminen
    on Mar 20, 2013

    @Jeanine Wester for stripping the fine areas I have used a couple of methods. Apply stipper, let sit for a few minutes then gently rub a fine (not stiff) wire brush, or I use what I have around the house. I often gently pull the stain off with the picks that come with nut cracker sets - it has soft round bevelled edges and a more rounded point on the tip. I am sure there are other more professional refinishers that can offer better advice. Perhaps @Leslie D , @Petticoat Junktion would have some advice for you.

  • Leslie D
    on Mar 20, 2013

    I have practically no experience in stripping....LOL

  • Gail Salminen
    on Mar 20, 2013

    @Leslie D this surprises me, you are so good at all that you have posted, perhaps this could be a new experience for you :) It is so rewarding to get back down to the grain of the wood and see it transform again with the staining. It is my favourite pass time, but unfortunately I can only do it spring through fall as we use our garage a lot during the winter.

  • Jeanette S
    on Mar 20, 2013

    Actually, I do not do stripping because I have never wanted to. But having seen it done by friends use caution because it is very toxic. Do it outside where you have plenty of ventilation. Wear rubber gloves and eye protection! I would apply the stripper to just the groves and use a wire brush to brush it out...these brushes come in toothbrush size and are not very expensive. Use a "pull" motion rather than a robust back and forth action so as not to fling it around. If you have one of those picks used for picking nuts out of the shell, it works very good to get this out. I used one such tool on an old bed that had been dipped but still had some residue in the grooves...I just forced it out (of course it had been treated some time earlier so it was not too stuck). This is not a big piece and I think you will be so glad you took the time to do it. Pick a very classy fabric to cover the seat!

  • Mary Insana
    on Mar 20, 2013

    Since you just have one chair and it looks like you'll need to cut a piece of wood for the seat I say paint it ! I would go with a chalk paint in a color that matches the room where you want to put it and the color of the fabric you choose for the seat. Make it POP !

  • Jeanine Wester
    on Mar 20, 2013

    @Mary I. I actually have the seat for it, its just downstairs where I was working on recovering it. I put a new cushion in it too. It's a green and off white chevron stripe!

  • Devan
    on Mar 20, 2013

    I bet it's pretty. If you ever have any other old wooden chairs, you can put a pot turned upside down on the bottom or some sort of elevating item and put a pretty pot on top. I planted flowers and hanging ivy in the pot to cover the bottom one. It looks neat.

  • Z
    on Mar 20, 2013

    I'm with @Leslie D on this. It's not worth checking or worrying if it's worth something since it's only one chair and you just want to use it around your home and didn't buy it with the intent of making money off it. Personally I'd use RAF (Howard's Restore A Finish) that you can find at HoDe. There's different colors available. Chose one that best fits the original color. If you don't want the wood, sweet talk your hubby and tell him what you found out here and paint away. Even if it'll make me cry. LOL Just kidding.

  • The Robin's Nest
    on Mar 20, 2013

    As Becky mentioned RAF would be the easiest first plan of attack, it's inexpensive easy to use, apply with 0000 steel wool, leave it on about 20 minutes or so, wipe off excess with a clean non lint rag. IF the look is still not as finished as you'd like then I would suggest Minwax Polyshades. It's available at Lowe's and probably Home Depot too. It can be applied with a paintbrush and literally you would paint it on so overall it's pretty easy to use, BUT like with painting, do not go back and forth over what you have laid down or it will junk up. You may have to go over it quickly at first to make sure it's going on evenly. Stain and poly in one, let it dry and you can go back and apply additional coats if your color or coverage is not as desired. The darker colors (bombay mahogany is one of my faves or even black is very pretty) If the areas you describe with built up laquer or whatever are pronounced, i'd probably sand them down first. You do NOT have to strip the chair to apply the polyshades, I have used it dozens of times on pieces already stained and they cover very well. Of course, if you are wanting anything lighter that what the chair is now then you definitely will have to strip it first. It's a very pretty chair, and whether you stain or paint it, I'm sure it will turn out lovely.

  • Sistah Sunshine
    on Mar 20, 2013

    It sounds like for an $8 chair, stripping and staining is going to be a LOT of work! It's already pretty beat up - and most likely not worth "restoring". I would paint it a funky color and then do a wash over it, to highlight the decoration, then find a great accent fabric for the seat and ENJOY! Good Luck! :0)

  • Kathy @ Petticoat Junktion
    on Mar 20, 2013

    Thanks Gail but I have to admit like Leslie D, that I don't have any expertise in stripping and refinishing furniture. I'm all about the paint! It's a beautiful chair and I think it would look great refinished or painted. Hows that for middle of the road!

  • Jeanine Wester
    on Mar 20, 2013

    Hey @Z and @The Robin's Nest I've never heard of that product, but sounds great! So it would give it a wood looking finish and it wouldn't be weird looking over the different shades of color already going on with this wood? Just wondering if it'll look patchy seeing as there's varnish on some parts but bald in other parts.

  • The Robin's Nest
    on Mar 21, 2013

    RAF will appear to "soften" the original finish, it has some solvent in it but it's not a stripper, but it will sort of thin the finish and allow you to spread it around, redistribute it, I'd use a mahogany color which will be the closest match to the original color. RAF works really great for some things, but if there is too much finish missing from your chair it may not work as well, But since it's only about $8 a can and it goes a LONG way, you can try it and see how you like the results. If you don't like it, you can move on to another option without having to do much else (no further stripping etc).

  • Jeanine Wester
    on Mar 21, 2013

    Thank you that explains a lot. I looked it up and I agree that mahogany will match best too. Thank you so much everyone for all the comments. I'm going to give RAF a try and I will post the results. I appreciate all the help SO much. Wish me luck :)

  • Dahlia corella-ryle
    on Mar 21, 2013

    Have you though about leaving it with the "distressed" look? Don't paint or refinish, just use a good lemon oil and polish it, make a great looking cushion for it and enjoy.

  • Z
    on Mar 21, 2013

    Good luck Janine. I think you'll be surprised at the results. @Rhonda, thanks for stepping in while I was away. We do need to find a time to chat soon. Maybe Sunday night after D's flight.

  • Jeanine Wester
    on Mar 21, 2013

    @ I did for about a minute lol! Then I decided not to. It's kinda dirty looking I don't know if guests would be inclined to sit in it. And the 'dirt' doesn't come off so that's why I decided to refinish. It does have a natural beauty tho, but this'll be a good learning experience for me.

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