Distressed Vintage Chair

Doing up old, second-hand furniture is a must to achieve the vintage look in your home, whatever era you are going for. One of the best ways to completely transform an old piece is by painting and distressing it. You can find special workshops that can do it for you, or you can try to do it by yourself. It really is an easy and straightforward technique, and has amazing results. What was a dull old chair become a bright and wonderful piece of furniture that gives your interior completely new dimension.

To make it work effectively with your chosen vintage era, do your research and choose a colour that was typical of the time, or take inspiration from a vintage fabric. Even if you mix styles from different period it still may look great.

Material you need

– dustsheet or newspaper, as required, to protect your working space

– chair of your choice (the seat should be removed if it is a drop-in type)

– apron or overall

– safety goggles, rubber gloves, putty knife

– sugar soap, measuring jug, bucket, cloth

– medium sandpaper

– large soft brush or duster

– 2 colours of one coat matt emulsion: brilliant white for an undercoat, and your chosen colour for a top coat

– 3 paintbrushes, one for each colour and the varnish

– 1 paintbrush (1 – 2 cm wide), for painting any details

– coarse fabric-backed sandpaper

– flexibile sanding tool (optional)

– decorator’s clear satin varnish

shabby chair

How to make it

1 Cover your working area with dustsheets or newspaper, then place your chair in the centre. If you stand it on the table, as we did, it saves you having to bend or kneel.

2 wearing protective clothing, goggles and rubber gloves, prepare the sugar soap according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Dip your cloth in the solution, then use it to wash down the chair. Rinse off with clean warm water, then allow the chair to dry.

3 Lightly sand the chair with medium sandpaper. Don’t be tempted to skip this stage: it is important as the roughened surface gives the paint better ‘grip’. When you have finished, brush the chair to get rid of any dust.

4 Apply a thick coat of the white emulsion using a wide brush. Take care – you don’t want any drips. Inspect your work carefully, then go around touching up any parts you have missed (you might want to use a narrow brush to get right into any decorative details on the wood). Leave it to dry.

5 Use a second wide brush to paint your chosen colour on the top of the white. Again, try to avoid drips, then go around touching up your work, using a narrow brush to get right into any decorative details if you wish. Leave it to dry, ideally not for more than a day, or the paint will be too hard to distress easily in the next step.

distressed chair 2

6 To achieve the distressed look, scrape a putty knife along the edges and corners of the chair to remove some of the paint. The idea is to target the areas that would naturally get worn. Now take some coarse sandpaper, wrapped around a flexibile sanding tool if you like, and sand off more paint on the scrapped areas.

7 Get rid of the dust by using a soft brush or duster, then apply two coats of varnish to the chair, allowing it to dry between the coats. Slot the seat back into the finished chair.

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