Paint Your Upholstery Fabric and Upcycle a Old Chair!

This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.

I had something else planned to show you today, but this awesome weekend project got bumped to the top of the list because I just love how it turned out. I scored a great old chair at the Salvation Army on Friday (it had great bones, as they say), and spent the weekend painting it and making it absolutely glamorous.

When I posted about my dining room a few days ago, I showed the before picture of this old girl and mentioned that I had a place already picked out for her in a corner that still needed something to finish the room off.

Here's how she looked when I brought her home:

Can you see the potential? Gorgeous swoopy lines, lots of wood trim, beautiful tufting, and I even liked the damask pattern on the jacquard fabric.

I knew it would look beautiful painted. It was also comfortable, and didn't have any funky smells (if you ever see me in a thrift store, I'm the girl who's sniffing the furniture!).

Here's what I did:

I gave the wood trim a wipe down and two quick coats of Annie Sloan chalk paint in Pure White (I had some left over from my dining room table and chairs).

I contemplated silver trim, but decided against it -- maybe on the next chair! I splashed a few drops on the fabric, and in hindsight, I should have been more careful.

I was able to cover it, but it took several coats. Here she is with the painted trim -- I could already tell she was going to be a beauty!

I've painted fabric before, but cotton -- not upholstery fabric (which is probably polyester). I had pinned a couple of great blog posts on how to paint chairs -- one by Shannon at Fox Hollow Cottage {here} and one by Samm at Little House in the Big D {here}.

Since both of these ladies were painting velvet and I was not, I used their posts as starting points and made adjustments when I needed to. Here are the supplies I used:

  • I used four 8-oz. bottles of the Martha Stewart fabric medium and only had an eensy bit left over. Fabric medium is what keeps the fabric from becoming super-stiff after you paint it. It was on sale for about $4.50 a bottle at Michael's.
    • I used ten 2-oz. bottles of Craft Smart acrylic paint in Dark Grey. They were $0.69 each, so it was still cheaper than buying a quart of latex paint. If I were doing more than one chair, I would probably get paint mixed at the store, though.
    • The rhinestone jewels I used on the buttons -- more on them later. They were $3.99, but I used a 40% off coupon.
    • Also, a squirt bottle filled with water, a brush, and a clean-up towel. I used a regular 2" paint brush for all of the coats and a small artist's brush to paint the piping so that I didn't get paint on the white wood trim.

    I mixed a 1:1:1 solution of paint, fabric medium, and water and used that for the first coat, since that was what the other ladies recommended. Because my fabric wasn't as thick and dense, though, it was a little too thin.

    I mixed my other coats 1:1:1/2 and the lower water content worked much better for me. I sprayed a small area with water to make things spread more easily before painting. You can see that coat #1 gives partial coverage -- the pinky gold is still showing through.

    I didn't tape off the wood trim, I just painted carefully and used my clean-up rag to wipe off any paint that got on it. Because my seat had a removable cushion, I elevated it on a few soup cans and painted one side, let it dry, then painted the other. Times four!

    I let it dry between coats, but not overnight as the other tutorials suggested. I did one coat in the morning and one in the evening on Saturday, and the same thing on Sunday. Also, I did not need to use any sandpaper on my fabric -- again, probably because it wasn't velvet.

    I needed to get my hands a little dirty to get paint into all the folds and tufting on the front, but it was worth it. I discovered most of it during the sermon at church on Sunday (oops!).

    I probably could have stopped after three coats, but I needed one last coat to cover those few splotches of white paint from the trim, and the more I painted, the more I fell in love with the dark grey color.

    I used an artist's brush on the last two coats to be sure that I thoroughly covered the cording. Here she is with all four coats of paint and her cushion back in place:

    Now, I could probably have stopped there, but I think we all know that a little bit of bling makes everything better. So I put the acrylic rhinestone jewels into the tufting, right on top of the buttons, and secured them in place with a drop of fabric glue. Perfect!

    Here's a close-up so you can see the rhinestones and how nicely the damask pattern shows through. It reminds me a bit of matelasse, but there's a sheen to the fabric from all the layers of paint.

    And here are some "beauty shots" of my glamorous chair in her new spot in my dining room:

    The fabric is stiff, but not as stiff as things I've painted without using fabric medium. It feels like outdoor/patio cushions, if you know what I mean.

    I've passed beautiful pieces up so many times in the past because I didn't want to shoulder the cost of reupholstering them, but now I know that I don't have to. I'll bet spills and stains just roll right off, too! I haven't tested it yet, but from what I've read the paint is now colorfast, even when wet.

    I've read tutorials where others used latex paint (flat and satin), chalk paint, and several other kinds, and it seems to work with all of them. I'll definitely let you know in a few months how it's held up. In the meantime, isn't she *awesome*?!

    Update: I have written a second post {read it here} answering your questions about the process I followed and how the chair is holding up, seven months later. Be sure to check it and the comments below if you have any questions -- thanks! If you want to see a black velvet chair that I painted several months later, that post is here. Black velvet painted chair Also, check out the article I wrote for SpouseBuzz on {here}.  It's the first in a series of three.  If you're a renter (or live in military housing) it will give you tips for painting and decorating to make your rental feel like home.  I have a similar post {here} on the blog.  


    Thanks for stopping by!


    Christy | Amy | Terry

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