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Best of MMS – French Chair Makeover & Tutorial

Welcome to another “Best of MMS” post. A few of you offered up the brilliant idea of sharing some of my past posts while I’m busy working on things for the book, so that’s what I’m doing.  (I’m sorry about the wonky spacing in the post.  Something funny happens when I put code from my old blogspot blog on my new site.)
  I painted these French chairs before I had tried ASCP or Milk Paint and I thought I would share the makeover and technique again, so you can see a great look can be achieved with latex paint, which is less expensive and more readily available.  I really love ASCP and Milk Paint, but latex shouldn’t be totally forgotten.
Here’s how the pair of French arm chairs started…
(I had two arm chairs, although only one is pictured.)  The back of one was upholstered and the other was caned, but the cane was broken.
I started by removing the upholstery and painting the frames in Georgian Revival Blue by Sherwin Williams. This color was a little shocking at first, but just wait.
Before moving on to the next step, I want to point out the texture I left on the frame. I did not sand this piece before painting it and that was intentional. This texture is going to work in my favor.
Once the darker blue was dry, I used a brush loaded with a very small amount of Light French Grey (Behr) and hit the high points of the frame. I made sure to brush with the grain of the wood and kept the brush “dry.” Now, remember when I said that there is a point in every “faux” technique where it will look terrible. Yeah. This is that place. It looks like a streaky, bad paint job. Don’t quit here, though. It’s about to get better.

Once the light grey was dry, which didn’t take long, I sanded the edges with 80 grit sand paper. I like a really rough sand paper for this step, because it leaves great scratches in the paint. I also like to do this step by hand. It’s harder on the biceps, but I have more control and it looks more natural than an electric palm sander.  Instead of rubbing the sand paper back and forth, rub it across the surface in one long stroke, while applying hard pressure to the sandpaper.


Working in small sections, I brushed on an antique glaze making sure I worked it into the crevices.
Here is my “secret” glaze formula. It’s Ralph Lauren’s Faux Effects Glaze tinted in Espresso Beans by Behr. It gives a soft, aged finish that’s perfectly brown. I have found most “mocha” or “antique” glazes look really orange. Orange like a bad bronzer or self-tanning spray, so I have one custom mixed.  (I don’t think the RL Glaze is available any longer, but you should be able to have any faux glaze tinted to this color.)
After applying the glaze, I immediately followed with a wet paper towel to wipe off the excess.
Remember that texture I left…
Oh yeah. See what I mean? Imperfections really work to your advantage with this kind of finish.
And a word to the wise…wear gloves during this process. You see, I am a fool and I spent about five minutes at the sink with a nail brush and soap.
Now, onto the upholstery. Once the frame was dry, I dragged it into my basement workshop to upholster the back. The chair was already upholstered, so I reused the batting, which was natural cotton and in good condition.
I smashed it into the recess behind the caning. The caning was left to give stability to the back, but if the caning is missing altogether, just stretch and staple some burlap in its place.
A piece of canvas drop cloth was placed over the batting and stapled to the wood frame. I have upholstered furniture with a manual staple gun, an electric one and a pneumatic one. There’s only one way to go. Pneumatic all the way. It does involve having a compressor and the gun is an additional $150, but it is the very best way to go and it will save you a lot of frustration. The other guns are a waste of time. Trust me.


Here’s the back upholstered. Don’t worry about the line of staples. We’ll get to that in a minute.


This is the upholstered back from the front view.


Repeat the steps on the front side. This really is an excellent way to handle a chair with a broken back or one that’s been punched through, so don’t be scared of those anymore.


To cover the staples, I use hot glue and trim (in this case) or double welting. Ann, aka Nutbird, asked why I use bright white trim instead of an off white that would match the canvas better. Honestly, I like the bright white against the nubby canvas. I think it provides a nice clean contrast and frames the fabric better. It’s a personal taste thing, so use whatever color you want.
Apply a bead of glue in small sections and press the trim on the glue with your finger. Watch yourself. It’s hot stuff!


Cut the trim where the pieces meet and smush the ends together. If this is done well, it’s almost unnoticeable.


I chose a slipcovered skirt for the seat, so it’s machine washable. I wrote a full tutorial on how to make these for Cottages & Bungalows and you can read it here.



I was so tempted to keep these chairs and sell a couple of my dining chairs, to go with the mismatched look, but the arms didn’t fit under the table. Probably a good thing. I can’t keep everything.



I took the chairs to the Lucketts Store for the Groundhog Day Sale last year and one of the designers for the Design House bought them.  I spotted them a few weeks later in this gorgeous room…
I wanted them back when I saw them there.  And that table.  And that butterfly print…although, I think I can make one of those.  Hmmm…
I hope you’re enjoying the “best of” and that you’ve found you don’t have to totally forget about latex paint for furniture.

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  1. I love love love it! Was it hard for you not to keep these? I know that I love to sell my furniture, but I’m always so tempted to keep it! hehe:)

  2. That looks so great! I’m bookmarking this page so I can refer to it. I want to paint the dining room chairs that go with my husband’s old dining set, and your painting instructions would work perfectly on them! Of course, I have to wait until spring, because we have no place for me to paint anything during the winter!

  3. Wow! Wish I had seen this before I passed up on a solid oak table & chair set for $150 :( I would never have thought a seat cover and paint treatment could look so completely fabulous! Thanks for the inspiration.


  4. I really think I need to try and recreate this type of finish on something. Your in depth explanation really helps. Thanks so much for sharing what you do! I know what you mean about the glaze looking like a fake tan…that’s what the one I have does. Good info to know. :)

  5. silvia says:

    AMAZING!!!! the things you can do…loved this post and the those chairs;)…thank you

  6. Mekala says:

    I absolutely love your best of series. Mainly because I have so missed your furniture posts. :) Keep em coming and keep up the good work you amazing example of a woman!

  7. christina says:

    Awesome tutorial.
    I know this is totally off subject but what spray gun/station do you use? I have 30 chairs to paint and they are taking FOREvEr. Ive tried searching but cant find anything on the blog. Thanks x

  8. Love how you turned the cane backs into upholstered backs! Great idea and they turned out beautiful!

  9. Thanks for this!! I’ve been looking for a good caning fix tute :)

  10. wow, how wonderful the chairs are now! And you make it look so easy, but I know it’s not:) You have such a great talent!

  11. I’ve been wanting to try this painting technique, but I’m a little scared to! Thanks for reminding me of it! Good luck finishing up your book!

  12. So glad to see this.I missed this last year.I just discovered your blog this past fall.I will be trying this on a french chair I have.This will be a great guide for me.

  13. I love seeing posts I never got to see since I am new to blogland. Love the way you changed the back from the cane to a fabric back and I love the color very good job.

  14. Please do a tutorial on how to make that Butterfly Print, I spied it immediately in the picture, and thought “how can we make that!!!”

  15. I love how the chairs look in that room & the butterfly print is beautiful. And while I’m dreaming…I would like to have the settee, the column and the tureen too :) If you ever make the butterfly print, please do a tutorial!

  16. Beth Storm says:

    OH…. that table! I love it. Hope to find one on craigslist some day. Great info on doing the chairs- thanks!

  17. wow, this looks great! Ilove it.

  18. Shara says:

    Thanks so much for sharing! I’ve come across several chairs like your “before” picture, but was too intimidated by not knowing how to fix it. These are beautiful!

  19. Carrie says:

    Ooh la la!!!! Love them!

  20. I remember these chairs and they still make my heart go pitter patter. These looks fantastic in this decorators room.

  21. Wow! Wow! and Wow! You did great on these chairs! Love em!!

  22. Debbie Gilbert says:

    You are really such the pro! I do not think I have ever seen anyone with “just such an eye” for painting furniture. Some people just slap it on….ya know? However, you really are an artist when it comes to painting. Also, I am looking so forward to your book! Take all the time you need……

  23. denise says:

    I’ve never commented on your blog before but I just have to say…LOVE IT! You are quite the artist and I’m going to make sure to visit Luckett’s when I’m in the area in a couple of months. Thank you!

  24. Marian, this is still my all time favorite piece..that says a lot since I love everything you do!:)

  25. Kristen says:

    I loved this post back then and still do! Yes, after painting with nothing but chalk paint for a while, I’m back to mixing good ol’ latex into the paint rotations this last week. I sure missed using some of my favorite standby colors!

    Thinking of you during these last few weeks of book-writing! Take care,


  26. I’m glad you put this on again ! i just bought a Frenchy chair today and this gave me ideas on how to make it pretty ! Thanks .

  27. kristin says:

    This post almost makes me sad, because this is what I loved about your old blog. You shared all this amazing stuff, and it was easy to see on your blog, and it was so amazingly inspiring! It just isn’t the same anymore. I’m not happy to share bad vibes, cuz you have been my favorite in the blog world…

  28. Barbara says:

    You make a somewhat daunting task seem almost doable! It helps that I’ve been using a bit of ASCP, but I havent done anything with glaze. Yes, you are an artist and did a great, easy to follow instructions, that I have to try! Not sure about the upholstery part, but we’ll see. Happy writing!

  29. Those chairs are fabulous and they did look great in the new setting. I will take that room for sure. It is beautiful!!!
    ANd thanks for the lesson….you make it look so doable!!

  30. Like always, gorgeous work. I love how you always have tutorials!

  31. Hey Girl,
    I am soooo loving these chairs. And they can really be picked up for a song at any thrift store. Its the slipcover seat that really made them though. And that room! When I can make a reservation please? :)

    I am so glad you re-shared this post. I know that ASCP is all the rage right now, but as a former professional faux finisher you really can achieve the very same look with latex paint, paint conditioner and glaze. I am hoping to tackle some projects soon myself. You are so inspiring to me.

    Blessings, Barb

  32. Love the chairs, Wish I lived closer and could get to Lucketts, but maybe thats a good thing. I would probably spend all my money there. I purchased some Lowes dropcloths and am going to attempt slipcovers. You make it look so easy, wish me luck.

  33. Amazing….thanks for the tutorial….
    It just shows me I have soooo much to learn.

  34. Katherine says:

    The buffet piece in the pictures at Luckett’s is beautiful! Did you do that piece? Is it featured on your blog anywhere? I absolutely love the color of it!

  35. Oh my gosh, it is insane how gorgeous those chairs turned out. I totally want them!. and at that table with the moth print…. it’ll make ya weep it’s all so pretty together!


  36. Kenzie says:

    Personally, I think you SHOULD make that butterfly print then show the tutorial. :)

    Love these chairs!

  37. Hi Miss Mustard Seed! This is a beautiful post, and I’ll take the chairs, table, and butterfly print, too! Tonight I was inspried by you and made a treasury on Etsy in your honor! I couldn’t find any other way to contact you, so I will post it here: I tweeted it, too, and am a follower, with the hashtag MissMustardSeed. I hope you like it! I have enjoyed your blog for several years now, thank you!

  38. I am in love with the chairs and that room they ended up in! I just pinned it earlier today on Pinterest.

  39. Those chairs turned out amazing! Lovely. And that room is really neat as well.

  40. thankyou! we can never have too much instruction for these projects….trust me!…..smiles

  41. Congratulations on your House of Turquoise feature! Although I wouldn’t describe what you do to a piece of furniture as a ” fresh coat of paint!”

  42. I’m currently working on re-doing my dining room chairs – so this was great timing! And thanks for the tip on the Sherwin Williams black satin enamel latex paint! I’m using it with a grey primer and it looks fantastic! Thanks!

  43. I love those chairs and when I was painting some frames the tutorial was the best! Also I hate to mention this, since it was your reasoning for NOT keeping them, but armed dining chairs generally do not fit under a table in my experience.

  44. zee thomas says:

    I would love to see a tutorial on the butterfly print.

  45. Gorgeous, I bet you where very proud to see those pretty chairs wind up in the design house. They look marvelous! I love the old technique you shared about latex paint. Many years ago I was in my 20’s and there was a thing called “antiqueing kit “which I used and that is exactly what you did with the second coat. It directed you to dry brush over the first coat with a darker shade. Your chairs look super. Good luck with your book!

  46. I’m struggling trying to find out how to make glaz and then how to apply.
    What proportion do you mix the glaze and paint. Do you add water? I tried making some black glaze this weekend, and then “wiped”. When I applied a lot of pressure, it was all gone. Too little pressure and it looked like colored milk gone bad.

  47. I love how the chairs turned out! I was searching for a Pneumatic Stapler for myself and having trouble with what brands to go for, what do you use?

  48. Thank you so much for the tutorial. I’ve always been a little scared when I see chairs with busted out backs. Not anymore. Thank you for sharing. Hope you had a grand weekend. Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

  49. Sharin says:

    Excellent tutorial! I, too, saw some chairs recently with the caning busted out and chose to walk right by them — not wanting to re-cane them. This is a great substitute.


  1. […] Seed. She is so talented and inspirational. She shared a detailed tutorial of a chair makeover here that you have to SEE to believe.  Because I’m kind of a “newbie” at this, […]

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