From ugly chair to trendy conversation piece

From ugly chair to trendy conversation piece

I spent about a week - and a little more than $20 - to turn a hand-me-down chair into a piece of furniture I love.

When I took my Christmas tree down earlier this month and realized I had to return my papasan chair to its rightful place in my living room, I balked.


The chair is too big for the room (and my house is pretty small). It feels like a holdover from my college apartment - mostly because it is.


So in an effort to make my home look a little more mature, I started looking for a more grown-up chair.


Then I realized – I can't, in good conscience, bring home another piece of furniture when I have several chairs I don't use now. It just didn't make sense.

The lovely chair shown above is a comfortable hand-me-down that's been sitting mostly unused on my enclosed front porch. While I was chair-searching, I realized it has good bones and would probably look great with a coat of paint and some fresh upholstery.


When I was little, my mom (you might have seen her byline – she's N-G correspondent Carol Thilmony) was constantly whipping up some sort of wonderful do-it-yourself project.


While I didn't inherit her amazing sewing skills, and I don't really knit, I do think she's the reason I relish tackling a do-it-yourself project. So I thought – upholstery looks easy enough.


I proceeded to tear off the (disgusting) maroon Naugahyde on the back of the chair and the front. I tried to get it off the seat ... to no avail. I tried unscrewing the pieces holding it in place, but they were glued firmly.


I'm not one to totally dismember something when I know I don't have the skills or energy to make it whole again. (Plus, I was a little nervous about my ability to sew a new seat for the chair, complete with piping.) So I started searching for another alternative. My mom laughed when I asked her if I could spray paint the seat.


That's when I discovered vinyl dye. I could've ordered it on, but decided I wanted to try it as soon as possible, just to see if it would work. (I also like to shop local.) I called several (OK, probably eight or more) local auto-supply shops The Advance Auto Parts on Marketview Drive in Champaign told me they had some. I went to pick it up that evening, and the helpful gentleman in the store advised I wipe down the seat with mineral spirits before spraying it down. It cost about $7.


I tried it – and it worked like a charm! The dye dried quickly and in a smooth, shiny finish. I tried sitting on it in my painting pants, and it didn't cake or bleed or run. I also painted the rest of the chair in a high-gloss black paint I'd purchased for another project.


I had my heart set on reupholstering the rest of the chair in zebra print (to fit my gray, red and black-themed living room – it looks cool, I swear) and was thrilled when Joann Fabrics on north Neil Street had it and everything else I needed. I spent about $15 on fabric and decorative upholstery tacks.


I used the old pieces of vinyl as patterns and my heavy-duty stapler to affix the fabric to my chair. The front turned out better than the back – smooth and mostly straight. (The back, not so much, but I don't plan on anyone seeing it anyway.)


I finished it off with Scotch Guard, moved it from my basement workspace to my living room, and have been enjoying it ever since. Plus, the project cost a little more than $20 and took a week – that's hard to beat! Plus, I was able to keep a comfortable piece that fits better in my living room than its predecessor (without having to look at that nasty maroon vinyl).


Plus, I know I'll get sick of the zebra print sooner or later, so I'll be guilt-free when it comes time to move on.

What successes have you had in re-doing furniture? I'd love to hear your stories about it.

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