Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dining Chair Makeover w/tutorial

Whew!  I have spent the past few weeks trying to get our house into order.  I have discovered that, if you put stuff in a messy closet, it's just hiding the mess.  Same goes with drawers.  So, I have been organizing closets and drawers, while the rest of my visible living space continues to look like crap.  I'm slowly chipping away, though.  One room on our house that constantly makes my skin crawl is our dining room.  It is full of antiques that I've inherited the past few years, and I really wanted to add something modern to add a little contrast and classic modernity to the victorian furniture.  We have a couple of dining chairs that we got at Goodwill for 4 dollars apiece.  they looked really cool, but they are the "assemble yourself" type, and they constantly need tightening.  See exhibits A and B:


not so bad from a distance...

But then you see these, ugh!
With a little cash and a trip to JoAnne's, I was able to turn them into this in about 24 hours:

Here's how I did it:
Staple Gun and lots of staples
1.5 yards of upholstery material (in home decor)
2 foam chair pads
cotton batting
elmer's glue
satin finish paint in brand/color of choice (one quart)
one inch paintbrush
Spackling or wood filler
set of allen wrenches
Damp washcloth\
drop cloth and paint clothes

First, I removed the seats from the chairs.  Since I am upholstering them, I don't need to paint them.

There are two screw holes in front and two holes in back that attach to the seat.  Save your screws or make sure you have some new ones the same size and length! 

A step you want to take here if the chair is not already reupholstered is to take your power drill and drill out the screw holes a bit deeper.  Don't drill the actual small hole the screw goes in, but drill the larger hole that the screwdriver goes in.  Shave off about 1/4 inch of wood from this part, because the added thickness of the fabric will prevent the screws from gripping deep enough to hold the seat on the frame.  This took me sooooo long to figure out when the seat wouldn't go back on, so just do it now and get it over with, instead of wrestling with tacky chairs and trying to drill them without leaving marks anywhere! 

Now you want to take your allen wrenches and find all the allen-wrench screws in your chair.  One by one, remove a screw, put glue on the loosened joint, and put a line of glue along the length of the screw.  This will ensure that it will not loosen over time.  They make products for this purpose, but I had glue so that is what I used.  I'll let you know if it gives me problems, but I don't anticipate any.

Make sure the glue gets down into the joints like this.

If necessary, clamp any joints that won't stay together until they are dry.  Next, take spackle and fill those ugly giant holes in the screws (where the allen wrench goes) and any scratches or dents in the chair. Then go over the whole chair (minus the seat) with sandpaper.  Any sandpaper will do, this is just to ensure that the paint sticks better.
After you have sanded the chair, wipe it down with a damp washcloth so you can pick up the loose dust.  Be sure to let the chair dry after this.  Once it is dry, you are ready to add the first coat of paint.  It will be streaky, but don't worry about it too much at this point.  The paint I used is exterior paint because it is more durable and it was on clearance for 5 bucks. 

 Since I was using exterior paint and it is too cold to paint outside (paint does not dry well in cold), I painted in my mud room and took some precautions because of the paint fumes.  I opened 2 windows to get a cross breeze, and I used a space heater on the other side of the room (which is more like a hallway than a room):

This is how my chair looked after the first coat of paint:
Chairs have a lot more crevices to paint than you think. This is why I used a one-inch brush instead of something larger.  Be sure to paint the bottom of the various parts as well, because they will be noticeable if you don't.  The top you see that is not painted is where the seat attaches, so I wanted to keep that unpainted.

Now you want to let your chair dry overnight, so now it's time to get out your fabric and seats, staplegun, batting, foam pads, glue, etc.  You will also want some tools that resemble these:

The pliers are so you can pull out dud staples.  You will NEED them, trust me!

First, make sure your foam fits on the seat.  It should come almost flush to the edge.  Since the back of my seats had an extra "notch" of surface area, I had to buy a third seat cushion and cut a piece to fit at the back.  I glued them in place with a little bit of Elmer's glue.  I made sure to glue the separate sections of foam to each other as well, so they don't split apart under the upholstery.

Now, lay the whole seat and foam on top of your batting.  cut the batting so that you have about 1 inch (or more)of overhang on each side.  You want to glue this batting to the top of the foam.  If you have spray adhesive, use that.  I didn't, so I just ran a small bead of elmer's glue around the edge of the foam.  In my case, I left 3 inches of overhang because I'd rather trim off excess than screw it all up and have to start over.

Now you need to cut your upholstery fabric.  A good way to do this is to lay your seat on the fabric, batting/padding-side-down.  Fold up the edge of the fabric onto the hard seat until you have a good 2+ inches on there.  That is how much room you should have on all sides.  Since I don't measure things, I can't tell you exactly how much, but it looked like I cut about 4 inches extra all around the seat.  Keep in mind the angle of the pattern in relation to the shape of the seat.  Make sure they line up for the most part.

Now, you need to line up all your layers with the upholstery fabric on top of everything.  Now, flip it all upside down and you can start stapling.  You should keep in mind the points at which the seat attaches to the chair, and either mark them or just remember not to put a staple directly on that spot.   Make sure to pull the fabric very tightly.  Below is a progression of staple placement, and you should do something similar to this:

Ahh, the dreaded corners:  Do not try to "wing it" like I did.  It takes so much longer if you do not know what you're doing.  I thought, "I know how to stretch canvas, what's the difference?"  Well, apparently, a lot.  The fabric is thicker and the batting gets in the way sometimes, so you cannot just fold the corners so easily. 

I'm going to attempt to explan the "correct" way to do corners, which seems very wrong when you do it, but I did some research and it is the best way.  First, you take the fabric that folds directly over the "point" of the corner.  Pull it tightly over the corner and staple it in place.  Now you have a crude trianglular shape.  Go to each side of the triangular shape and pull and staple until you have a smooth corner.  Do NOT fold the corners over like you are stretching canvas.  It does not work well! 

This is how your corners should look.

Once you have finished all your corners and used up thousands of staples, stop for a moment and admire your work:

Now, back to those chairs.  Slap on that second coat of paint and let-em dry.
The paint is wet in this photo, I actually used a satin finish.

Once the paint dries, dig out the screws you saved and screw the seat back on the chair and you will have something like this:

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