Saturday, October 24, 2015

How I Painted a Fabric-Covered Wingback Chair

I am not a seamstress. In fact, if I made a list of activities I do not enjoy, sewing would probably make the top 10. 

That means reupholstering a chair, no matter how awesome it looks, or sturdy, or inexpensive--is "out" for me.

And yet, as I looked through thrift stores, I came across chair after chair that would have been great options for our house... if it were not for the ugly, outdated fabric.

Which made me wonder: is there anything else I could do with a chair, to restore its beauty--without dealing with needles and fabric?

That's when I came across the idea of painting a chair. Not just the legs, but the entire chair, fabric and all. 

It didn't take me long to find this $10 beauty. Besides the light green fabric being slightly stained, the chair was in great shape. And you can't beat that price! I ordered some fabric medium from Amazon (the Martha Stewart brand), and started painting.

This is the after.

As for the painting process, there are lots of tutorials out there on painting fabric-covered furniture, but I'll share with you what I learned along the way.

1. The better condition the furniture is in, the nicer the end product will be. You'll be doing a lot to the fabric--spraying it with water, sanding it, and (obviously) painting it with several coats. It has to look nice to begin with, or no matter what you do, paint won't fix the problem. 

2. Some fabrics work with paint better than others do. I specifically picked a fabric that didn't feel like velvet or corduroy, for example, because I've heard those might not work as well. 

3. Clean your fabric thoroughly before you begin, and let air dry. Fortunately the chair didn't smell, but I still thoroughly cleaned the fabric with a carpet/upholstery cleaner. I was much more comfortable sitting in it after it had been cleaned! 

4. When you're ready to start painting a section, thoroughly spray that section with water. It'll make the paint go on more smoothly. 

5. I mixed two parts paint (I just used Valspar's Vessel Gray, which is the same paint we used on our walls!) with one part fabric medium (which is intended to make the painted fabric softer).

6. After each coat of paint had dried, I lightly sanded it (by hand) with 220 sandpaper. You wouldn't believe the difference sanding makes to the feel of the fabric! It goes from being stiff to soft in less than 30 seconds!

7. I did three coats of paint in some areas, and only two in others. It just depends on the original fabric (how hard it is to cover), and how thickly you're putting on the paint. I read it's better to put on light coats of paint. I'd say I did more like medium coats, because I wanted to make sure the fabric was really covered. I think it ended up fine. 

8. As with any other painting project, watch for runs, or extra thick paint spots, because they'll show up (and look unprofessional) once the paint has dried.

9. The last thing I did was sand and stain the chair legs. 

People have asked if painting fabric is hard to do. I don't think it's any harder or easier than painting any other piece of furniture. It just takes time! 

Now for the big question: would I recommend painting your fabric-covered chairs (or even a couch)??

I wouldn't say the end result is comfy and cozy. The closest thing I can compare the feel of the fabric to would be outside furniture. But it's not scratchy or overly rough. And it looks beautiful. 

I think wingback chairs (and similar furniture styles) are so lovely, and I've always thought it'd be fun to own chairs like that. But usually the price is way out of our price range. So taking a thrifted chair and painting it is a perfect option for us. You also have the fun and flexibility of painting or designing the chair any way or color you'd wish!

So, yes, I'd definitely recommend it! Just don't expect it to be your softest, cuddliest chair. :)