DIY Cane Desk Chair Makeover

Love & Specs
by Love & Specs
10 Materials
4 Hours
Behold one of our very favorite DIY furniture makeovers that we've ever done. Yes, it's just a desk chair and yes, it's about as easy a DIY project as it gets, but we love the end result so much and that's mostly because it's exactly what we envisioned in our heads when we started the project. We've been obsessing over all things cane as of late and we've especially had our eye on the pairing of a white chair frame (bentwood or otherwise) with a natural cane back. There's something about the contrast that's just so fresh, modern and fun. I saw this bentwood desk chair with cane backing on OfferUp while searching for cane dining chairs, and immediately knew that this was my next project!
The chair when we snagged it from OfferUp, in all it's dusty glory!
First we sanded the seat, legs and bentwood frame of the chair using a finishing sander and 150-grit sanding squares. For the more delicate spindles use a 150-grit sanding block. We sanded until the varnish and stain were gone. Then we brushed the dust off with the large brush, and made sure to get in all of the crevices of the spindles with the smaller wire brushes. 
Then we brushed the dust off with the large brush, and made sure to get in all of the crevices of the spindles with the smaller wire brushes. 
Before I wiped the chair down, I tackled re-shaping the part of the cane that had "bubbled" out. As described above, I sprayed the cane using a water bottle, wiped it down with a rag so it wasn't overly wet. Then I used that same water bottle to hold the cane in place and re-shape it where I wanted it, and then used a hair dryer to dry the cane and mold it back in place. Hopefully the images help provide clarity on what that process looks like! Once the cane back was re-shaped, I wiped the chair down thoroughly (I had to be especially thorough on all of the crevices on the spindles) with a damp rag to get all of the rest of that sanding dust off. 
Then I taped the cane off very carefully and precisely using standard painters tape and plastic tarp. One tip: I'm not a huge fan of using newspaper for something like this if you're spray painting or using an airless sprayer because it's so porous, especially if you're using more than one piece of newspaper to cover the surface area - that's a recipe for paint to get through the breaks in paper. But if you're hand painting like we did in the end for this, you can use whatever works for you! When you're hand painting it's the borders that are the most important to keep protected, and the painter's tape kind of takes care of that. We also taped off the metal casters on the chair because we couldn't remove them and painting them wouldn't have looked awesome. They're perfectly worn, so they add a little bit of character as they are!
Before we painted, we needed to make sure the paint we chose for the chair came as close to the white paint on the Pottery Barn desk
Before we painted, we needed to make sure the paint we chose for the chair came as close to matching the white paint on the Pottery Barn desk it would be next to. The only problem with that? Pottery Barn doesn't sell their paints, so we'd have to do some testing. We searched to find what paint other people out there had used to match Pottery Barn's white furniture paint, which they call "Antique White", and found that people had used a couple of different colors. So we tested samples of the two popular choices against the desk and found that Sherwin Williams' "Creamy" was extremely close and a very pleasant off-white in general. So Creamy it was!
Once the cane was completely covered and all of our prep was done, we were ready to paint by hand. I love using  this brush for hand painting furniture like this because it's flexible and allows me to get in all of the corners. It worked like a charm this time! Painting the spindles took a little bit of patience and I used a smaller brush for those so I wouldn't get drips and paint pools around the curves. Otherwise, painting this chair was easy and straightforward. After I was finished painting I wondered whether I should add some sort of clear coat on top to protect it. After FaceTiming my mom and grams the consensus was that no, this particular paint formula wouldn't need it. Also, when you use a top coat of any kind there's always the potential to discolor your paint job or even strip some of it, which is no good at all. So it was good to go! 
The finished product! My new favorite chair in our house.
I love how perfectly the white of the chair and desk match up. Normally it's so hard to match two paints without being able to take in a sample to get matched, but the results of this one were near perfect!
Not a drop of white on the natural cane, which we attribute to a very careful, time-consuming tape and tarp job.
The whole office corner look with the new chair!
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Love & Specs
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
  3 questions
  • Did you put any polyurethane or anything on the Wicker to protect it?

  • Bet Bet on Sep 04, 2019

    Would it be safer to detach the top of the chair and put it on a five-caster base so the person sitting in it would be less likely to tip over in it?

  • Sandra L Warren Sandra L Warren on Aug 23, 2021

    It came out great! $100 to make it over?

Join the conversation
2 of 19 comments
  • Dl.5660408 Dl.5660408 on Aug 23, 2021

    Very helpful tip for getting the “bubble” out of the caning

  • Joyce Thiery Joyce Thiery on Aug 23, 2021

    The two screws and the line below them, air line I think. On your sander.

    Anyway it looks like a smiley face to follow you around to make your day