before & after: bentwood chair makeover

so…i have this thing for chairs. okay, it’s a little more than a thing. i have acquired quite a little collection in the past couple of years. lucky for me they’ve been mostly thrifted or gifted – from my replica eames chair to my (authentic!) arne jacobsen series 7 side chair. i was pretty jazzed to be able to snag an imitation bentwood chair for $3 from a garage sale. it definitely needed some love and i felt so excited to try a project i’ve never done before.

bentwood chair makeover-03

as you can see from the picture the chair is finished in what looks to be a cherry stain, which i was not in love with. this version of the chair also has a cushion seat which was covered in a hideous green vinyl that also definitely had to go. figuring out how i didn’t want the chair was pretty easy but planning on how i did want to finish the chair took a little more thought. luckily this chair was only $3 so it was pretty low-risk no matter what i decided to do.

bentwood chair makeover

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there were quite a few ideas i was drawn to. i’ve been really loving metallic trend lately so i was thinking of incorporating some metallic gold or brass detail – maybe as the dipped legs?? i also liked the idea of a natural finish (though not cherry) so i toyed around with giving it a walnut stain.

another thing i had to consider was the seat. since the cushion is part of the structure of the chair i was thinking about whether or not to make it a bold color or more neutral. then it hit me…emerald velvet! it’s really no secret my love for it and since having a whole couch reupholstered isn’t in the cards for me at the moment i could get a small taste of it in my chair. i used this mossy green velvet from west elm’s fabric by the yard (which is so gorgeous in person) but you could also use this or this.

here’s where i’m going to get real with you. where i thought this makeover was going to take me a weekend – and really it absolutely should, it’s not that complicated – it took me months from start to finish. partly because i was super busy and kept putting it off and the weather was changing for the worse. one weekend though i finally just forced myself to focus and finish it! i’m pretty happy with it but not in love with it and i’ll explain why in a bit.

here are the supplies i used:

  • green velvet fabric
  • black spray paint
  • 1″ thick foam for cushion (found at any craft store)
  • staple gun
  • sandpaper and/or tack cloth

so my initial thought was to strip the cherry veneer and finish from the wood and restain it walnut. that was a bad idea. the process is doable but takes a long time and a lot of supplies ($$) and good weather and ventilation. i went ahead with it and suffered in the cold for a bit as a started the process of stripping the original finish off. i’ll be honest, i wish i hadn’t. i think i bit off more than i can chew. the stain and clear coat finish was so thick and almost seemed to be a part of the chair. after about 3/4 of the way the chair looked horrible and almost unfixable and i was super upset. i immediately stopped what i was doing. after it dried i while i took sandpaper and a tack cloth and tried to smooth it down as much as possible. i resorted to a black spray paint which is fine, but not what i really wanted. it helped hide the ugly but if you get up close to it you can kind of tell the base is uneven. so why am i sharing such a fail? so you can hopefully learn from my mistake!! and maybe i’ll remember too.

before and after bentwood chair makeover | design + curiosity

before and after bentwood chair makeover | design + curiosity

thankfully the upholstery piece wasn’t so bad. i spent a good amount of time ripping out staples from the old vinyl cover. i used the wooden circle base to trace in the foam for an added cushion then cut a larger circle of the emerald fabric for the cover. i didn’t have the best upholstery stapler so the job isn’t pretty, which you would be able to see from the bottom but it still holds pretty well.

before and after bentwood chair makeover | design + curiosity

before and after bentwood chair makeover | design + curiosity

i once the chair and the cushion were separately done i drilled the cushion piece back into the chair. and there you have it! i think it looks pretty sweet next to my sewing desk and although it wasn’t exactly what i planned and i spent a little more money that i initially wanted to i still feel satisfied. giving furniture makeovers is fun for sure, just make sure it’s a commitment you’re ready to make!

what do you think of the final result? any tips for my future furniture makeover endeavors?

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  • Reply Carolyn McFarland 02/03/2016 at 4:18 pm

    Hi Catherine! Just love your blog. Your mom sent me an email and can’t wait to see what you’re up to next!!

    Carolyn Mcfarland

    • Reply catherinehblu 02/16/2016 at 8:58 pm

      Thank you for stopping by, Carolyn! Glad you like it!

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