The Old Chair Lives Again! (Vintage French Arm Chair Makeover Using Chalk Paint)

Two years ago, I discovered the joys of thrifting and painting furniture. My first attempt was pretty unsuccessful. I picked up an old nightstand/end table and painted it white to use as a coffee table. It was super cute, but it lasted all of about… three months? Three weeks? (I honestly don’t remember) before it started to look awful and dingy and gross. We continued to use it until we moved into our house, and then it sat in a corner in a spare room until last weekend when I finally sent it back from whence it came (Salvation Army).

My second project was much more successful. I bought a small desk for $20 and transformed it into this beauty. It now sits in my bedroom in the corner with a pretty little chair and makes me happy every morning when I see it.

I’ve had a few more successes and not-so-much-successes since then and I’ve tried to experiment with different painting techniques and ways to create different looks.

When we first moved into our house (going on two years this summer!), my Great Aunt gave me an old chair, along with lots of other vintage goodies. It was an old dining chair and the last one remaining of a set. It had been redone at some point and had some kind of antique glazed finish with a bright gold velvety cushion. She and I could both see that it just needed a little love and TLC to look like new.

This chair sat in a corner of that same spare room (it honestly was like the Land of Misfit Furniture and Random Hand-Me-Downs in there. It was such a mess that I had to keep the door shut the whole weekend when my in-laws came to visit recently – this is when I realized that I may or may not have slight hoarding tendencies, and the following weekend I hauled a trailer full of stuff back to Salvation Army for the next overly-ambitious DIYer to take on).

Ahem… Anyway. The chair sat abandoned in the corner for over a year. I didn’t know what to do with it, so I did nothing (see, this is where the hoarding problem comes in. I actually think it’s more of a commitment issue – if I don’t have a clear vision I don’t want to jump into a project!).

Then, my brother and sister in law gave me an Annie Sloan book for Christmas – Creating the French Look. Right on the cover, I saw it. My inspiration! I knew within seconds what to do with the chair!

I gave this baby a light sanding to remove some of the glaze finish and started painting. For most of my painting projects, I use FolkArt Home Decor Chalk paint – it’s very affordable and available at JoAnn Fabrics. I first brushed on very haphazardly some dark blue/with a hint of teal (Turkish Tile) – I didn’t necessarily want full coverage, just enough so that the blue could peek through later on through the other layers.

Once that was dry, I applied a coat of Castle (a dark, kind of taupe-y gray). Once dry, I lightly sanded in some spots to let the Turkish Tile show through. I liked where I was headed.

Monday morning rolled around and I daydreamed of my chair all day at work. As soon as I got home that night I got back to work. I applied a coat of Minwax Paste Furniture Wax, and then applied a coat of the same wax in the dark finish. And…

I hated it. It looked dirty and muddy and not at all the light, airy, pretty look I was going for. I was so mad I didn’t take any pictures at this point.

So it sat again until I worked up the courage to jump back in. Sometimes with these projects, I just need to take some time away and then come back when I’m ready.

I applied a coat of Parisian Grey, which is a much cooler, lighter, softer gray than Castle (Castle has more brown undertones). MUCH BETTER. I went back and lightly distressed it using a wet sanding technique, which is new to me, but just involves taking a wet rag and rubbing in certain spots until some of the paint wears away (unless I’m doing it wrong).

For the cushion, I took a piece of painter’s drop cloth and painted some grain sack stripes using chalk paint. I’m not sure how long the paint will last on the cushion, but it’s so easy to change out cushion fabric that I’ll probably change it again at some point anyway. Once the fabric was dry I stapled it onto the seat cushion right over the existing fabric. Voila!

To finish this piece I applied two coats of clear wax. This time around, I tried a new wax. I wanted to be able to apply it with a brush so that I could really get into all the awkward spaces on this chair. I also just wanted to try something new. Fortunately, Lowe’s is five minutes away (unfortunately, I spend way too much money there), so I picked up a can of the Sealing Wax from the Valspar Chalky Finish Paint collection. I’m not an expert, but I think I like it so far. We’ll see how it holds up though. You just apply it with a brush, really working it in, let it stand for a minute or two (while you continue to wax other areas) and then wipe away the excess with a clean, lint-free cloth. The package doesn’t say whether or not you should buff it out, so I didn’t, but I may try that on another piece that I’m working on.

What I love most about these projects is the gratification I get from breathing new life into something. For just a few dollars and a little bit of love, you can take an old, run-down, outdated, and unloved piece of furniture and make it new again. And if you mess it up, all you need to do is walk away, take a deep breath, and start over!

Have you ever used chalk paint to refinish old furniture? If so please share your creations with me! I’m always looking for new inspiration!


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