Imagine the horror my husband experienced when I sent him the picture on the right and asked how much he would mind if six of these appeared in our dining room. He had sent me off to the flea market without supervision, a decision I am certain he regrets, and I wanted to come home with what can only be described as some late eighties, early nineties Hollywood Regency chairs gone wrong. The paint was coming off all over the place. They were covered in years of dust, dog hair and crusty bubble gum, not to mention the nasty purple fabric - nasty due to both the design and their state of being. I was actually afraid to sit in these to test their strength.
Luckily for me, my husband knows the right answer when I want to buy something for the house. "Yes." The correct answer is always, "yes."
Step 1 - Cleaning and Sanding
This is the not so fun part of flea market finds. I spent the better part of a Saturday unscrewing the seat cushions and getting these chairs clean. Had I access to a good outdoor space and a hose, I would have started there. Since I do not, rags and cleaner were the way to go. Next I took a razor blade and scraped off the fossilized gum that coated the bottom of almost every chair. These definitely came from home with a naughty little boy or girl who liked to stick their gum under their chair rather than dispose of it properly. I guess at least they weren't swallowing it!
I kept sanding to a minimum – just enough to rough up the paint a bit in preparation for the new coat. I went over most of the chair very lightly and quickly with a medium grit paper. I kept the chairs black in order to avoid a priming step. A bit of glue to fix a few out of place strands of faux bamboo decoration and the bases were ready for paint.
Step 2 - Remove Horrendous Fabric
This is definitely the tedious part. I highly recommend ordering one these. It helped immensely. If you grow completely tired of taking each individual upholstery staple out, you can always resort to ripping the fabric off as hard as you can. I may or may not have taken such action on the last two cushions (with mixed results).
Step 3 – Paint
Spray paint was the only reasonable option for these chairs with all their nooks and crannies. To keep with the Hollywood Regency vibe of the chairs, I went with high-gloss paint - Rust-Oleum Painter's Touch 2X in gloss black. Two cans probably would have been enough to finish six chairs, but since I purchased three cans, I used just a bit of the third one to do a final onceover. It is always better to buy more than you need rather than run back out to the hardware store while you’re in the middle of painting. You can keep the extra on hand to fix any dings that happen during usual wear and tear.
Step 4 – Attach New Fabric
I am far from an expert in upholstery so these chairs were a great first project for me. The wooden base on the cushion allowed me to simply stretch the fabric over the existing cushion and batting and staple it to the base. Here is the process that worked for me:
Measure your chair pads. Make sure to account for the width needed to cover the sides and wrap around to the back of cushion. If you have fabric to spare, give yourself an inch or two of leeway on the first one until you see how much overhang you really need to staple the fabric in place.
Place the fabric on the floor, finished side down, and center the cushion on the fabric. Place three staples along the top and then flip the cushion over to be sure the fabric is lining up the way you want. Taking this precaution when you only need to remove three staples is much easier than waiting until you have the entire thing stapled in place.
Flip the cushion back over and pull the fabric very tightly around to the opposite side and place three staples on that side. Check how everything is lining up on the top of the cushion one more time and then finish stapling the fabric around the entire base.
I was very concerned how to properly fold and staple the corners until I realized that it really didn’t matter. I first tried folding it neatly as though I were wrapping a gift and later tried pulling everything tightly and haphazardly stapling around the corners. Both worked equally well and showed the same, neat result on the finished side of the cushion. Trust yourself and know that you can always use your staple remover if you mess up.
The finished product looked like this on the underside. Messy on the bottom, but still revealing a smooth, professional look on top. I opted for many, many fewer staples than the cushions had before. My guess is that I will one day want to change up the fabric again and I want to make that process as easy as I can.