How to upcycle an old chair in 5 easy steps

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How to upcycle an old chair

Do you have a sad old chair sat ready for a revamp? Or are you looking for a project but don't want to spend too much, an old wooden chair can be picked up from a junk store, charity shop, car boot, flea market, or eBay for a few pounds. Even with a small car, a chair is easy to transport.

To check if the chair is safe for sitting on, place one knee on the seat and move gently back. If it is very rocky then it probably needs considerable attention and should be avoided, also check for no broken pieces, and try sitting on it. Don't be put off by dilapidated finishes, or an ugly colour that can be easily fixed.

When choosing a chair make sure the style is in keeping with your current furniture, as you do want it to fit in after all the hard work.

The easiest and simplest ways to transform an old wooden chair is to paint it, taking it from a dull, boring piece of junk to a very stylish piece of furniture that you would love to give a home too, adding a few fabulous cushions to complete the look.

There are several paint styles to choose from: a simple all-over block colour; a two-tone style with one colour topped with another colour; two contrasting shades or complementary shades to paint different parts of the chair, a distressed look with areas of the paint sanded back to the wood and so on, it is all about your taste and home style. I have chosen to do a simple all-over block colour for this old wooden farmhouse chair which I found at a junk store.

I would suggest you wear some old clothes or overalls for this project and place the chair on a dust sheet or newspaper to stop any paint getting on the floor. or carpet.

Along with your chair, you will also need

  • Rubber gloves
  • A bucket of soapy water
  • Clean cloths
  • Sandpaper or wire wool and white spirit ( You can wear a mask to stop the dust)
  • A large soft brush or hand hoover
  • A primer or simple white emulsion
  • Use matt emulsion in a chosen colour or colours for a chalky matt finish.
  • 2 paintbrushes a medium one and a smaller one
  • Clear wax or acrylic varnish

Step by Step Guide

Give the chair a wash with warm soapy water to remove any grim and let it dry fully before moving to the next stage.

Before any painting can start you must prepare the chair. For a chair with a factory finished light sand is needed to remove the finish, and for a wax finished chair some wire wool and a little white spirit works best to remove the wax.  Both types of the chair will need lots of elbow grease, don't forget to wear your rubber gloves. Brush or hoover off any traces of dust before you start painting.

Using the medium bush apply an acrylic-based primer or emulsion. Make sure you do not have any drips or runs. If you do, brush them in. With your small brush touch up any areas, you have missed.  Leave to dry.

For a classic, shabby chic or distressed look apply two thin coats of flat matt emulsion paint, letting each coat fully dry before the next coat, and give quick sanding in between, removing any dust. Touch up any details with the small brush. While you waiting between coats wrap your paintbrushes in clingfilm to stop them drying out, and just clean the paintbrushes when you have finished. Once completely dry give a final quick stand.


Remove any dust, then apply two coats of varnish, allowing it to dry between coats or for a softer look use wax rather than varnish. Rub the finished chair gently with a cloth and some fresh, clear furniture wax and buff up. Once completely dry or buffed, place the chair in a prominent position and add a few cushions, homemade of course.

Blog Photo by Benigno Hoyuela on Unsplash

Main Photo Norah Sleep Living


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