My husband went to the Naval Academy and has yet to see his Midshipmen lose to West Point. We're looking forward to Navy continuing their reign over Army this afternoon. But right now, I'm getting in the spirit by celebrating my newly finished navy wing back chairs. We found a pair of dated wing back chairs on craigslist. Despite the fact that they were certainly not our taste, they were in wonderful shape, the price was down right amazing, and we needed more seating options... Sold! I originally thought I might be brave enough to try my hand at slip covering or reupholstering them. That is, until the glorious day when I stumbled upon a tutorial on how to paint, yes PAINT, upholstered furniture. I'm embarrassed to say that I let those hideous cranberry colored chairs sit in our living room for weeks until I summed up the courage to get my paint on. Now that they are finished, I can't believe I waited so long!
They are certainly not brand new chairs by any means, but the difference is night and day to us! And for just $40, YES $40, and a few days work, I couldn't be more thrilled with the results. I'm so grateful to Kristy at Hyphen Interiors for the wonderful tutorial. I practically had it memorized before I was brave enough to give it a go. And I can only imagine how much easier it was than reupholstering.
Here is a closer look at just how awful these chairs looked to begin with. Surprisingly though, the cushions were in great shape... they just needed 30 years worth of dust cleaned off of them and a little love. I am still completely smitten with the claw feet.
After studying the tutorial and reading about the results of other Hyphen Interiors readers, I decided to skip the first step in the tutorial, which is to prime the fabric with a layer of latex paint. It seemed as though the results were the same with or without that step and that the pigment really came from the acrylic. I also wanted the fabric to remain as comfortable and flexible as possible by doing the least amount of paint layers. So I skipped right on ahead to mixing my acrylic paint with fabric medium.
I used about 15 (2 ounce) bottles of navy blue acrylic paint and I mixed that with 3 (8 ounce) bottles of fabric medium. The tutorial demands a ratio of 1:1, but with the tiny bottles of paint, I found it hard to get every drop of paint out. So I added three more bottles for good measure. I found the fabric medium on the same shelf where I found the acrylic paint in the craft store.
I watered down the paint until it was almost a drinkable consistency, think of a watered down smoothie or heavy cream, just like the tutorial said to do. The fabric medium appeared white as I dumped it in, so I was worried it would lighten my navy paint and I'd end up with royal blue chairs. But surprisingly, with a little mixing, it blended into the navy with no problems or color changes whatsoever.
Here's my paint all mixed up. Since I was doing two chairs, I wanted to be sure not to run out of paint or have to mix colors more than once, so I opted for a fresh one gallon paint can from Home Depot instead of mixing in over and over again in a cup. I have to tell you, Kristy was right, the absolute most important step was wetting down the chair first. And I don't mean damp, I mean wet. I used an old febreeze bottle to fill her up and spray her down. It made the paint glide on so smoothly, creating the most even finish possible. I was surprised to find it didn't dilute the paint one bit.
I have to admit, after applying the first layer of paint, I was incredibly nervous and thought for sure that I had just ruined my chairs. The wet paint made the fabric look like vinyl and I had a small panic attack waiting for it to dry. Thank goodness, it did not dry looking like shiny blue vinyl!
Here is a look at the first coat of blue. It's still quite streaky, but it's certainly a huge step in the right direction compared to that leafy cranberry lookin' guy on the right.
Since my chairs had the raised leaf pattern in the fabric to begin with, the finished product also has a raised leaf motif. I was sure I'd hate that, but you can only tell they are leaves if you look closely now that the chairs are one solid color. It kind of looks like an expensive damask pattern, or even lace. My husband says they went from trashy to classy. ;)
I had just enough paint to finish two layers on each chair. I really was cutting it quite close (Don't look at the underside of the cushions, they are still red. Gasp!). In some light, the chairs look almost purple in some spots, and I'm sure a third coat might have done them some good, but I really was happy with the results after two coats. Plus, I feared that with each new layer of paint I was making the fabric more stiff.
Although, just like the FAQ section in the tutorial, these chairs aren't "crunchy" at all. The texture is now more like that of a drop cloth canvas than soft cotton. But I can already tell that they are beginning to soften with a little use. Kristy is right though, they're definitely not chairs you would want to cuddle up and watch a movie on anymore. But for a mere $40, that's absolutely fine with me! We still have the option to buy nice fabric and reupholster them down the line when we have the extra dough. But for now, I think they will make excellent formal living room furniture for Shania. ;)