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the unpainted desk & hemp chair


Despite what some may think, I don’t paint everything.

Most of the furniture pieces I buy are in need of some help.  They’re tired, worn, spotted with water rings, sporting chipped & bubbled veneer and have seen better days.  Because of that, I don’t feel the slightest hesitation about painting them.

Some pieces, though, are just perfect as is.  Such was the case with this oak desk…


The wood and finish were in beautiful condition and the vintage glass knobs were perfect.  We did have to add some new stops to the drawers to keep them from sliding all the way to the back of the desk, but that was a quick fix.


Usually, I feel that painting a piece brings out the details, but the graining of the wood made the details, like the cubbies and carved embellishments, really shine.



So, the only thing I did beyond adding drawer stops was tie a tag on it…


…and it sold.


I have quite a history with this second piece…an upholstered chair.  You see, upholstery is something I do, but it’s not my favorite thing.  I have to be in the mood for it and I have to really talk myself into it.  I love the result and I hate paying someone else to do it, but I will let a chair sit and sit and sit until I finally make myself do it.

This poor chair waited for at least a year, maybe close to two…


I bought this pair of pink French chairs from a used furniture store quite a while ago.  I was pretty inspired and stripped and finished one of them within a few weeks.  (You can see the tutorial on stripping the chair HERE and the reveal HERE.)  The other one pestered me when I walked by, but I just didn’t have the desire to work on it.  So, it waited.  It was moved from one room to the other and finally to the basement where its petitions wouldn’t bother me so much.  I even sold its twin and still, it waited.

I finally made myself finish it for Lucketts…


…and wouldn’t you know?  It was one of the last pieces I worked on!  It sat like this in my workshop for weeks!



Cari stripped it down for me and even cut out all of the fabric, using the pink fabric as templates.  She also painted the frame in MMSMP Linen to cover the 1960’s green-ish wash.  I distressed it and then she finished it with a coat of Hemp Oil.  All of the fabric was neatly folded in labeled bags, just waiting for a date with me and the staple gun.

I upholstered the chair in an antique European hemp sheet.  Those have become my very favorite for upholstery.  I used to use drop cloth fabric a lot, but it really couldn’t stand up to the stretching when upholstering a piece.  I can’t tell you how many times I would be pulling something tight and it would just tear in my hands.  I’d have to pull the entire piece off, remove the staples and start again.  The upside is that drop cloths are cheap, so it’s a trade-off.  The hemp sheets are tough, very durable, and the color is a little off-white, so I have found them to be very forgiving in a house with two boys.  (Most of them even come pre-stained, since they are antique!)


I feel like my upholstery skills keep improving, although, I still need to work on straight lines when I’m making the cushions.


I’ve gotten to the point, though, where crooked seams and wonky piping make me smile.  When I look at it, it says, “I made this.”  I didn’t buy it from a store.  I made it.

The little imperfections have my name written all over them.

And there’s a certain satisfaction in that.

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  1. I love mixing painting furniture in a room with furniture that has beautiful wood :)

  2. If you don’t mind sharing the info…where do you buy your European hemp sheets? And can you buy them in bulk? Thanks so much! P.S. how is your staycation going?

  3. That desk is gorgeous and I love what you did with the chair!

    The older I get, the more I find myself actually *loving* the little imperfections in things that give it character. The younger me used to drive myself (and everyone else) crazy trying to straighten out the crooked and the wonky–now I just smile at the charm. I think Disney and company had me in mind when they penned the song “Let It Go.” :-) Ha! Enjoy your weekend!

  4. Hi Marian,

    I have a tip that may help resolve your wavy cording on the cushion. When you put the cushion inside the cushion cover make sure that all the seam allowances are pushed down toward the boxing.

    Hope this helps,


  5. Kelly S. says:

    Did you sell the chair? Maybe I missed that. The hemp fabric looks so cozy. I wonder if hemp sheets are what nuns used in convents years ago?

    I’m so glad you wrote about the lovely desk. I bought an old tiger oak dresser with a bit of crackled finish on the drawers. I re-finished the top and use it in our living room to hold games, books, etc. I absolutely love the warmth of it and it reminds me of something from
    “Jeeves and Wooster”. I have a feeling you might be familiar with the show..

  6. Charlene C. says:

    My new word is “bespoke” meaning it is made to order and handmade. Your chair is Bespoke, sounds very British and classy.

  7. I love that chair, and it would look fabulous in my newly updates country kitchen at the little built in desk next to the fireplace. I’m sure whoever bought it loves it too!!! By the way, On Friday I was grocery shopping and the cover of “French Style” caught my eye. I opened it up and low and behold the first pages were filled with your now familiar home – so I bought it of course!

  8. The chair is beautiful! I have just acquired an old French hemp sheet at the local fleamarket. It has some rust marks and I wondered if you bleach these sheets or would they be too delicate being so old? It has patches and mends all over it which make it really interesting. I can’t wait to upholster with it. Please do tell how you clean them before use.

  9. Carol says:

    Marion, you are so talented.

  10. Jeanine C. says:

    Lovely…all of it…all so lovely. By chance, where does one acquire European hemp sheets?

  11. I know what you mean…upholstery is a lot of work…but when you’re done, you stand back and look at it…and you’re amazed at how beautiful a piece turns out…it’s all worth it!

  12. I absolutely love the chair. I’ve got a couple of upholstery projects waiting for me as well, but since I’ve never really tackled anything more than a standard seat cover I’ve been putting them off as well. I also try to rationalize that I really need to purchase an air stapler first. I actually really do if I’m going to do any of these projects because my electric stapler will bend the staples before it pushes them into the wood. I’m sure you know exactly what I am referring to.

    • Alicia from Whittier, Ca says:

      Hello Jennifer,

      I would so encourage you to view MMS’s tutorial and then take a deep breath, maybe eat a piece of dark chocolate (or sip a little wine) and jump into that project.

      I too, a few months ago, had never dived into an upholstery project. Finally the day came and I dusted off the case to the sewing machine before I opened it. It’s a Featherweight Singer Sewing Machine circa late 40’s or early 50’s and was my mothers. I learned how to sew on it as a girl. Well, I was amazed that I automatically went through the motions of threading it, threading the bobbin and placing it securely in it’s little niche. Next I took the material (pre-wash before you sew cause I didn’t and there is shrinkage) and as Marion instructs started with the back panel. Now I was only making a slip cover and that’s the tutorial I followed. I have a repro bergere in the garage and that h as to be completely stripped down and I’ll watch Marion’s tutorial on that subject at a later date. Well, the arm chair took me two delightful and painful weeks plus a few days to accomplish. And I was so pleased and proud when it was all done. No. It’s not perfect. But I made a good choice in fabrics (linen) and it’s a wide blocked stripe (5″ stripe) in a light linen color with a darker linen color. Handsome if I say so myself. I didn’t take pictures right away and my cat is so in love with it that he’s decided to dig his claws into the seams where the side panel meets the back panel. I love that cat or else he’d be on someone else’s lawn by now! I’ll make a creative repair to the chair soon. But you too can do this – without the interference of the cat I hope. And I am so emboldened now that I’ve taken on the living room 9′ sofa and loveseat!!!! And again I’ve chosen a print – black and cream ticking. It’s so handsome on my inherited furniture from the 80’s. The sofa has tucking and “scrolled” shoulders and rounded arms and such a headache but after three weeks all I have to finish is the bottom panel where there would normally be a pleated ruffle. I’ve already started on the love seat and I’m moving faster on it. Listen, I’m 66 and if I can do this you certainly can!!! Jump in the water! I love how Marian says she sees the imperfections and even loves them because it’s her stamp on a piece. When it’s home-crafted you know it was not manufactured by a machine or mass-produced. Hope you are encouraged!!! You go girl!!!

  13. Good choice to not paint the desk. It is a lovely piece of furniture as is and a great size. Wish I had it.

  14. So nice to have someone sing the praises of ‘good enough’. I usually notice the imperfections of my work, whatever it is, for about a day. After that I never notice!

  15. Marian, I have been following along your journey for some time. However this last year I have been super busy with my regular part time job and my still kind of new hobby business. I am a vender in a shop down town and sell some hand sewn items at farmers market. I have not had time to read your lovely blog for some time. ‘Touching base’ and catching up with your latest adventures just fills me up. Your chair story really gives me hope and encouragement. I started a complete face lift on a very old empire rocker over a year ago. It sat in the garage, dinning room then entry way and finally on a card table in the middle of the living room for so long I can’t tell you. But I finally got it done and it is in the shop. Oh how wonderful it is to just dive in and get it done. Thank you for your lasting tenacity.

  16. The desk was so beautiful! Did you say if the chair sold? It was gorgeous. It did make me squirm a little to see it sitting so near what appeared to be muddy ground! haha

    I’m really enjoying your videos in the business course!


  17. Natalie says:

    Hi there Marian, Can you tell us where WE can get some of those HEMP SHEETS? I have a similar chair & was going to cover it with a drop cloth….but would like to try this instead. I am so excited to paint the wood trim on our chair as well. Will post pics once I am done. Thanks. 😉

  18. Cecelia Brandt says:

    Hi MMS!
    I too am wondering where you purchase your antique hemp sheets…I went online and see some but they are quite pricey…please share if possible.
    Love reading about all you do and look forward to the daily posts!

    • Miss Mustard Seed says:

      I buy them wholesale from a seller in Hungary and then resell them in my online shop. Yes, they are pricey, though!

  19. Sometimes I’ve feel like I’ve dragged things out and gotten some grief because of it. ( a.k.a my husband). But I too need to be in the right frame of mind before I tackle it. I find that if I’m not, the project is bound to be riddled with mistakes I need to go back to the beginning. It’s encouraging to know someone of your caliber has days of having to be in the mood, and that I’m not crazy for putting it off till things are just right.

  20. Oh how I wish I was back in NC to live closer to you when you are at shows. I see so many pieces that I would love to purchase from you. The french chair is something I have been looking for what seems like forever. Thanks for sharing all your lovely pieces.

  21. Alicia from Whittier, Ca says:

    Ms. Marion,

    That desk almost made me covet the person who was at Luckett’s and purchased it! I’m glad you didn’t paint it.

    You make me smile with your transparency about how you feel about upholstering a piece of furniture. I’m on my third upholstery project and I’m still sweating every step of the way. The first project was a wing back arm chair and I followed your online tutorial. Thank you for that. But, I loved this 5″ striped print on linen fabric and just like you said, it’s more difficult. Next I decided to update an inherited sofa and love seat. It is a very traditional wing back 9′ sofa with wide rounded arms and “wings” and even what I call a yoke or shoulder piece. It makes reupoholstering a bergere chair look like kids play. After three weeks I’ve completed all but one section of paneling (instead of a pleated ruffle). All the curves on the arms and shoulders drove me crazy because I chose a black and white ticking fabric (vertical stripes). If it wasn’t for happening upon your blog and tutorials and mentoring I don’t know if I would have challenged myself. But you are an inspiration to us out here – some young and some still thinking young (me). I especially found it refreshing to hear how you have to be in the right mood to tackle the upholstering. A true artiste! I also enjoy reading what other MMS followers have to say. God bless all!

  22. Cyndia says:

    Loved reading about the desk and chair. I adored that desk and was so glad you didn’t paint it. As for the chair, I understand your delay in finishing it. I decided last year to learn upholstery, so enrolled in a class at the local technical school. I’ve been through two sessions now, and while I love the process and finished results, now that I’m out of class (will take more this fall) I find I dawdle in finishing projects. I have a gorgeous bergere I found on the street that I’m reupholstering in a teal leopard. It’s all done but the back loose cushion. I just HATE sewing cushions! And mine are always wonky.

  23. can you really just apply paint directly on the “green-wash”? was there any priming? I am sorry for my ignorance.

  24. Miss Mustard Seed says:

    No priming. We just lightly sanded it and then applied the paint using the bonding agent mixed in with it.

  25. Love the chair… and i’m totally lusting after the European hemp sheet fabric…


  26. Love it all!

  27. Love the desk! I am very much the same way, I do love to restore pieces, but some pieces are just perfect! The chairs are beautiful!! You are so inspiring =)

  28. I have a question about finishing pieces while pregnant :) I love the look of tung oil but on larger pieces I’ve had it streak if it’s not thinned with mineral spirits (which are a no-no). Does hemp oil also have to be thinned on large flat surfaces? Are your waxes safe during pregnancy? Thank you in advance for any info!

  29. Miss Mustard Seed says:

    No, hemp oil doesn’t need to be thinned and it’s all-natural, so it’s a great option to use when pregnant. I would think the waxes would be okay, but I am not an expert with that, so I can’t say 100%. I would just suggest wearing a respirator mask as added precaution when working with any kinds of paints or finishes while pregnant.

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