They were a bargain deal on Craiglist. The listing read, "I crawled on these chairs as a toddler. I am now 60 years old. My mother crawled on these chairs as a little girl. She is now 80."
Man, I am such a sucker for a good anecdote.
I just couldn't pass up this set of four farmhouse chairs, only to be discarded at the nearest curb. Apparently, I was the only person who saw the potential. If there is one thing I am really good at, it's spotting a diamond in the rough.
They were in rough shape, but I bit the bullet because the chairs were solid oak with dovetail joints, and the springs were in surprisingly good condition. They stood level with no creaks. There were a couple deep cracks, and the finish was in major need of some TLC.
The upholstery had probably been replaced a couple times, most recently with the oh-so-stylish chocolate vinyl. The chairs were in desperate need of a good sanding, but I loved that remnants of the original olive paint were still visible.
I sent the photo and dimensions to a local antique dealer who verified the chairs were probably English or American farmhouse chairs, at least 60 years old.
I had never refinished anything before. Since my intention was to resell, I contacted a couple of professional refinishers for a quote to restore the chairs, and the bids range from $165-$250 per chair. Yikes! I also struggled because the quotes were to make the chairs "like new." I realized that I didn't want them to look new - the whole reason I fell in love with them was because they looked old.
I started sanding the chairs a couple hours - here and there - over a period of weeks. This was what they looked liked mid-way through. You can see the grain of the oak starting to show through, but some of the paint is still left behind.
Warning: Make sure if you are working with old furniture (1978 or prior) that you take precaution and wear a protective mask, for risk of exposure to lead-based paint.
The finish was a three step process:
First I sanded them smooth, which took many hours. I didn't attempt an electric sander - one, because I don't own one (hint hint, relatives and/or spouse) ; and two, because I wanted control over the finish.
I didn't keep track, but I would estimate at least 20 hours of sanding for all four chairs over several weeks. I used a 80 grit sandpaper to get rid of the crud and initial roughness. Once the initial layer of dirt and crud was removed, I moved to a 120-150 sanding wedge to maintain as much of the original paint as possible.
Once the chairs were completely smooth. I stained them with Minwax Wood Finish in Dark Walnut.
Finally, I diluted a 1 part Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint in Country Gray with 1 part water to create a wash of color, allowing the grain of the wood to peak through.
I can't express how amazing this paint is to work with. It is so easy to use, and is virtually impossible to screw up. I used a 200 grit, very fine sanding wedge to gently sand the paint down enough to remove the obvious brush strokes.
Here is the finished product.
I gently sanded the paint into the grain, and buffed it to a subtle sheen. The dark area you see below is the original paint peeking through.
I had them professionally upholstered with 7 yards of Robert Allen's, Sweet Nothings, Ikat in twine; 40 feet of upholstery tacks; and new foam for each seat.
I am truly proud of the way they turned out. If you see them in person, you will notice that each one is unique. The chairs look as if they would be rough, but when you run your hands along the arms, the finish is smooth as can be.
I was going for a updated vintage farmhouse look. Do you think I was successful?
The chairs are now available for purchase in my Etsy store.
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Have a wonderful weekend!