A little while ago I decided that our apartment needed an upgrade and redesign. My son was running at top speed, Winter was approaching, and we needed some color and a different dining area. I wanted a round, expandable dining table (since we live in an apartment I needed something no larger than 43″ radius for normal dining and I wanted leaves in case we had company) and brightly colored Windsor chairs.
Well, whaddya know, at Crate & Barrel windsor chairs are $150/each. That was out of my budget so I found some on Overstock.com for $80/each and was going to be content with that. Then I started searching Craigslist for old table and chairs and watched for several weeks finding an almost perfect match but not quite. Then one day I found an old set from the 60s – not windsor chairs but captains chairs with a round, expandable table – and bargained down under $300 for the whole set. I know some people can find these sets for much cheaper but I live in NYC and this is probably the best price I was going to find. I thought, I’ll grab those and paint them! No problem.
I told my husband and went about researching how to do this. I’ll share with you before and after photos as well as the abbreviated version and what I learned. I had never painted furniture before, I don’t have a garage, I have a terrace and it was November in New York.
BEFORE- chairs were untouched and the table had just been sanded.
I found this photo on Pinterest and decided these were the chairs I wanted. After some research, I discovered I would need to sand, use enamel based paint (I wanted high gloss and as bullet proof as possible, read: 2-year-old in the house), and then once it had all been painted, I should cover chairs with polyurethane to protect the paint and I would wax the table top.
I went to my local hardware stores and found the following paints:
If doing this, you will also need:
A drop cloth (9’x12′), an electric sander (get the kind with a pointed front), sanding sheets 80 & 220 grit respectively, a razor blade to fix drips (crucial), a mask for spraying polyurethane, an angled good quality brush, a paint roller (for table top), rags for drips, soft rags for applying and polishing furniture wax to table top. I recommend using plastic take out containers to pour paint into and take with you as you move around the chairs. Use a glass with water in which to store your messy paint brush in between painting sessions.
If you have a garage, lucky you. It will be a lot easier. Use chalk based spray paint on your chairs and save yourself a considerable amount of trouble. If you don’t have a garage, keep reading.
I thought this project would take a week. It took a month. But. I had to pause often for weather (no garage) and carry them all inside after drying and then back outside once the weather cleared. In between paintings furniture collects bits of dust and debris and must be wiped clean again before painting.
Sanding is a pain in the ass and necessary. Use the electric sander on every single inch you can. All the tutorials I read said “you can do this by hand, but it’s much easier with an electric sander”. I suppose if someone put a knife to my throat and threatened my very existence I could do it by hand but short of that, it ain’t happening. My husband had an electric sander already, thank the baby. You want a rough surface area so the paint will stick to it, especially when using high gloss paint.
Chairs after sanding:
Do yourself an enormous favor and stir the damn paint before applying your first coat so it doesn’t look like this:
I’m not sure how it would’ve looked had I stirred the white paint initially which I absolutely did not do, but I think it would’ve looked better. Here are the chairs after coat #1 (I had realized my mistake with the white paint and DID stir the cherry paint):
See the difference? Yeah, me too.
I thought and was told it would take 2 coats to cover both chairs and the table. It took 4. Once I started I realized how long it would take because high gloss paint shows the brush strokes. Aaahhhh, THIS is why people use chalk based spray paint. Chairs have all these nooks and crannies and it takes forever to go over everything and make it’s all smooth before it starts to dry. Is that important? You bet your booty it’s important. Have a damp rag in one and the brush in the other. Check from every angle before that paint starts drying. It’s well worth your time.
I painted the under side of parts of the chairs. Not the seats but the legs and the back.
I listened to Serial, the podcast while I did this. I highly recommend listening to podcasts or audiobooks as you work.
I let the chairs dry, flipped them right-side-up and realized, OH SHIT. Paint had dripped and dried on while they were upside down and I had to fix it. Use a razor blade and *carefully* cut away at drips using wafer-thin cuts until the surface is smooth again. Then re-paint. Are we having fun yet?
Chairs and table, coat #3:
Table & chairs, coat #4:
Once you are happy with the coats of paint, spray chairs with polyurethane in a very well ventilated area while your mouth and nose are covered. Use wide, sweeping gestures keeping the can 10-12″ away from the surface and do multiple, light coats. You don’t want bubbling or dripping.
After you’re finished painting the table top, apply the furniture wax (which STINKS) in a well ventilated area, following the grain of the wood with a rag. Let the wax dry for about 30 minutes and then wipe in circular motions with a soft rag until shiny. Do this 2-3 times.
Writing this blog post is more time than I ever want to spend on these pieces again. However, every single time I look at the final product, I smile. We have a great, cheerful dining space, my son loves the bright chairs, I love the combination and how they turned out. It’s extremely satisfying and I don’t want to do this again for another 5 years.
TADA! The final result.