French Style Chair Makeover [with paint]

Hi everyone! Almost a year ago now I bought a French style chair that required a makeover–bad. I went back and forth about whether I should upholster it and make a cover for the seat cushion, or paint it. I’ve read numerous tutorials about how to go about painting upholstery, but believe me, it’s a process that needs to be seen before you can really “get it.” I mean, how could a painted chair really look good and feel comfortable? Well let me tell you all about it…

French Style Chair Makeover with paintI paid just $4.00 for the chair, so I knew it would be no great loss if it didn’t work out [other than the cost of paint, which Deco Art so kindly provided].

Close up of French Style Chair CushionHere’s a close up of the back cushion and the jacquard type of fabric that I was up against. I wasn’t sure how this textured fabric would fair with the paint, but the design coming through the paint adds a nice touch. The slouchy bunching on this cushion also worried me, but in the end turned out fine.

Close up of distressed paint on French Style chairI distressed the wooden frame to age it, so the well-loved cushions fit right in.

French style chair before paint
I gave the wooden and cane frame of the chair two coats of American Decor Chalk Paint in “Timeless.” [I used a little over 16 oz. altogether.] Then I distressed it lightly by sanding its edges and curves down to the dark stained [original finish] wood. For the final step, I gave it a coat of clear wax and then buffed it.

DecoArt Lace Chalk Paint
For the cushions I followed advice I read repeatedly and sprayed a small area (maybe 10″ x 10″) with water and then applied the chalk paint with a 4″ paint brush. After a while this process seemed tedious, so I simply watered down the paint in a separate container to about tomato juice consistency. The cushion and upholstery received three coats of paint with days (sometimes weeks) of drying time in between.

I will freely admit that after applying the first coat of paint, I was not impressed and felt that I was likely wasting my time. But I persevered and am very glad I did.

Wax and stain
After allowing the paint to dry completely, you must then coat it with something to contain the paint and protect your clothing (it’s chalk paint, remember). I know it sounds bizarre, but you need to apply a coat of clear paste wax to the upholstery. I used a 2″ brush to apply it and a 4″ brush to buff it. I know you’re thinking, “Won’t the wax rub off on my clothing?” Once wax is properly buffed, it’s no longer soft and greasy, it’s hard(ish) and dry, which is what you’re going for with furniture. You want a hard, protective surface. The wax actually “finished” the surface quite nicely, giving it a bit of a sheen.

Close up of French Style Chair Cushion (2)
I’m sure you’re wondering, “But how does it feel?” I find it very comfortable, albeit different from any other upholstery that I can think of. Kind of smooth canvas-y or similar to outdoor upholstery. My daughter, who mostly wears short-shorts in the summer, does not enjoy sitting in it, and I suspect I would feel the same if my skin directly touched it. Hope this description helps!

French style chair with lamp
I must say, I’m extremely pleased with the look of the chair, which replaced a mauve Queen Anne style recliner. I’ve slowly been lightening up everything in the room, starting with the lamp you see (above left). Then I gave a side table a clock-face makeover and a mantle received some overdue attention. Slowly but surely I’m making progress.

Frency style chair makeover with lamp
I think painting the coffee table will be next, but what am I going to do with the camel-backed, tapestry sofa?!! It’s basically the dog’s bed at this point, so I won’t be slip-covering it or buying a new-to-me couch for a while yet.

Off white french style chair with pillow
For now I’m enjoying my “new” chair.

French style chair with pillow
Trying to decide which thrift-store pillow looks best. What do you think?

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  1. It turned out beautifully Diana! I tried painting fabric when I did my headboard for my bedroom. It was once red velvet and now it’s teal blue… and very stiff to the touch… glad no body parts touch it! ha ha!

    I did a blog post yesterday and gave a link back to you in it ;o)


    1. Thank you, Tania! Yes, it seems like velvet might absorb a lot more paint and of course the fibers stick out, so they might be a little prickly I guess (?!!). I will go check out your post–thanks for the shout out 🙂

  2. I think the chair looks remarkable. I have painted a chair upholstery and all I could think of is pleather. But it works. For $4 you got a beautiful new chair.

  3. That turned out great…totally transformed! I love the modern pillow with it especially!

  4. Love the chair itself. I think I would probably have tried to recover the back and seat.You are so talented I bet you would have done an excellent job. I’ve covered only one chair and I sure learned a lot in doing so,

    1. You have more faith in my abilities than I do, Kathy! The beauty of choosing paint is that if I get sick of it, I can always give upholstery a try 🙂

  5. Love it! That bird’s nest pillow is my favorite. What an ambitious project, Diana! It turned out beautifully.

    1. Thanks so much Mary Ann–that’s a sweet compliment coming from someone as talented as you 🙂 I love that pillow, too!

  6. I’ve wanted to try this for YEARS but have not come across a suitable “specimen” to paint! Yours was perfect, and the color looks great. You know I’m no stranger to white! Congrats on the lovely outcome, after all that hard work. xo Kathleen Charm Bracelet Diva {At Home}

    1. I’m so glad you like it, Kathleen! I’m sure a suitable piece will cross your path soon, Kathleen 🙂 I look forward to seeing it when it does–

  7. Pingback: Vintage Charm 38 | The Blue Willow House

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