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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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Comments

  1. LOVE LOVE LOVE it! Wonderful makeover!

  2. Katreona says:

    Tell me about how to make the farmed chalk board…would be great in my newly designed French inspired Bistro dining room.

  3. Thank you for sharing this great tutorial- Yesterday I scored a set of 4 French Provincial chairs for FREE on Craig’s List- I can hardly wait to dive in and bring them back to life!

  4. OK how much padding did you put on the front side of the caning?? I SO want to do this and will probably need that little detail :) You’re so talented! Thank you for posting this, it’s going to help me out a TON!! :)

  5. I love it!!! I too like white and off white together in regards to your trim – I’m working on a french chair and just need to finish up but wanted to check yours out too! Great job, and it looks beautiful!! Thanks for sharing all your tips!!

  6. Pamela says:

    I think I’m in love!

  7. Hi! I just found you while researching slipcover and re-upholstery ideas. I was already pretty sure I wanted to reupholster the couch I just got off of Craigslist with drop cloths. The main reason is because it has the most amazing carved french legs with wood that goes across the full length of the sofa and I don’t want to cover them with a slipcover…even a short one. In my fantasy this couch would be reupholstered with drop cloth and have antique looking bluish legs but, I had no idea how to do this faux look. Totally destiny I think that i found your blog. Thank you so much for sharing this technique! You definitely make it seem very do-able for a novice like me. I will send you a picture if it turns out! :-)

  8. Cannot believe how that bright blue turned out! I think you could turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse!

  9. shelby says:

    ..I love the color on the chairs. great choice, Miss M. Beautifully done.

  10. Marie says:

    Thank you so much for this inspiration! I have 6 mid-century modern dining chairs, and the cane backs of 4 of them are damaged. I knew there had to be a way to make them usable without replacing the caning (expensive!) or just using a slipcover (what I am doing now). This is on my winter project list.

  11. Beautiful. I’m going to us this post as inspiration to re-do my dining room chairs. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Sherri Eisenhauer says:

    Marian,
    I seriously NEED that table! The round one. It is exactly what I have been looking for for the last year! Are you selling it? I realize that I am quite a ways away, but I think you have sold your furniture to others out of state. Could you please let me know the price, if it is available? Also, the diameter? It looks perfect, but best to be sure. Thank you so much and the chairs are gorgeous too! Definitely trying the color combo soon, Also, I have found a really good, easy “glaze” if you are in a pinch. It is just acrylic craft paint in Asphaltum, diluted with water. It is also a really good brown with no orange to it. It is almost a grayed brown. I dilute it a little or a lot, depending on the look I am going for. I also add a drop of black if I need it darker. You could probably mix it with an actual glaze too, but I’ve never tried it. I just use the same brush on/wipe off method you do. I did all of my kitchen cabinets with it 4 years ago and they still look the same as the day I finished them. Anyway, sorry to ramble, but I just HAVE to have that table. Let me know. Thanks and keep up the amazing work!

    Sherri Eisenhauer

  13. Jeanette M C says:

    I just saw this. I have chairs that have cane on the backs that I HATE! I want to try doing this. The alternative of replacing 6 chairs will be too expensive. Thanks for the tutorial and reposting .

    Jeanette

  14. Melanie says:

    What a great idea and look how beautiful they turned out!!! I will look at caning a little different now when it’s broke…thanks for the inspiration!

  15. Mary beth says:

    Ok quick question: I’m midway through this project, but I’m stuck on the front section of the back upholstry- should I add some sort of batting, before I staple the fabric on to cover the broken cane? Grazie!

  16. arlene says:

    Do you have any instructions/tutorial on re-doing the ‘seat’ on chairs
    that are upholstered…. or if you have seen any places?
    It would be so much more convenient if they were pillows – but
    alas, they are not…

  17. Kirsten says:

    What kind of stapler do you use when you re-do your chairs? I have 2 french chairs I want to re-do but I’m nervous I’ll wreck them. But they REALLY need to be re-done. And what kind of fabric did you use? I LOVE LOVE LOVE the color :0) Thanks!

  18. I have to say, I tried this technique and wow, my French chairs are really awesome. I wanted to step away from white shades due to a move to an island. This inspired me to step away from chalk paint “AS” and spread my wings. I love the outcome and now to make the seat covers from the drop cloth.
    Thank you so much for the inspiration here. I am very grateful.
    My best your way,
    Mira

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