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How I Painted My Gross Dining Chairs

Well this is a post that's been a long time in the making! I haven't been on the blog in months, but I'm back and have been wanting to commit a post to this DIY project to share with you all!

I recently scored 8 Restoration Hardware chairs on Facebook Marketplace for $450. These chairs were in horrendous condition. I mean they looked like a group of 20 pre schoolers attacked them with acrylic paints, sharpies, orange juice and crackers. They were so filthy! The Facebook posting for them clearly stated that they were in horrible shape and would be a great project for someone willing to take them on. They were all structurally perfect though, so I had to take a chance! I did feel a bit little sick though thinking I just spent money on chairs that looked to be in such poor condition, but my gut told me that I needed to at least try to clean them up and bring them back to their original glory, and if that didn't work I could just resell them!

Now the exact chairs from Restoration Hardware are here and here. They are SUPER pricey!! I seriously can't believe people spend that much money on furniture to only then let them get in so filthy, but who am I to judge!? Their loss is my gain.....I think???

Alright so here's a picture of them when I brought them home into my garage. I wish I took more before pics but I was eager to start cleaning them right away. My original plan was to see if I could just get them all cleaned up and restore their original fabric, but boy was I wrong!

I'm sure you're wondering how in the world did they get so filthy to begin with?? Well the original owners said that they just let their now 5 year old son from 0-5 years old basically have his way with them. She said they knew they would eventually be getting leather dining chairs so decided to not bother being careful with them! Not something I could ever do that's for sure. After countless attempts at everything from Folex, Tide laundry powder, Oxi Clean, a Bissell machine, baking soda and hydrogen name it I tried it, nothing and I mean NOTHING worked!

Many of those following my cleaning journey on Instagram were advising me from the very beginning to just paint the fabric!! It was something I kept hearing from you guys, but never really even considered it as every time I've seen and touched painted fabric, I've never liked it. It always felt crunchy to me and looked like it was painted fabric. I didn't want that at all, I absolutely loved these chairs and wanted them to look as original as possible. Then one day my sister in law guided me to a video on YouTube called "painted thrifted furniture to look like leather?!" The genius behind this video is Drew Scott from the @lonefoxhome on Instagram. Drew is a DIY genius! I've only just discovered him and I can't get enough of all of his incredible transformations. He gave an ugly upholstered patterned chair a makeover using only paint to look like REAL cognac leather!! Say whhhaaaat!!!? As I was watching his video I was blown away how it not only looked like real leather, but that the chair did NOT at all look like it was painted. Drew also kept saying that the chair didn't feel crunchy!? What is this sorcery!? Well I found out that the secret ingredient he used in his regular ol' latex paint, is fabric softener!! SO genius!! So I knew I had to give it a try.....I was going to paint my Restoration Hardware chairs...gulp!

The first thing I did to get them ready for painting was take them all outside and pressure wash them. No more messing around with a little hand Bissell cleaning machine. The pressure washer to me was the only way to ensure that they would at least be hosed off thoroughly and hopefully cleaned up enough to get ready to paint.

After pressure washing them, I was a tad nervous that there was too much water in them and that they might not fully dry leading to a possible mould situation. I tried to take a lot of moisture out with my Bissel machine first then left them outside to finish drying in the sunshine.

After waiting a couple days for them to dry in the sun they felt 95% dry. Now I was ready to paint. First thing I did was decide on a colour. I really wanted to keep the chairs as original as they could be. I loved the original colour of the upholstery. It was a beautiful beige/grey colour. I held paint swatches up to the chairs to choose a colour that was closest. The colour I chose was Sherwin Williams Into the Gloaming. It was a great match!

*Here is the recipe I came up with after a few trial runs....

Fabric Paint REcipe

  • 1 part eggshell latex paint (I used Behr sample pots)

  • 1 1/2 parts Downy (scent free) liquid fabric softner

  • 5 parts cold water

Mix your paint with the cold water first. Now slowly add in your fabric softener while continuing to stir until thoroughly blended. Keep in an air tight container. I used a tall yogurt dish.

Applying this paint is a dream! It goes on so smooth and effortless. The key to allowing a really good slip though is to keep your fabric WET all the time! I found a great little pressure hand sprayer from Dollarama, but this one is also great and is nearly identical to the one I used.

So apply your spray mixture first which is a mixture of just half fabric softener and half water, then you can start applying your fabric paint. Use a good angled paint brush or a domed quality chalk paint brush will also work great too and is mostly what I used.

I've included 2 options of brushes for your convenience.

I painted all of my chairs with this technique. Spray fully first then paint. It was easy and actually so therapeutic! Watching all of those old gross stains just disappear was like watching a magic eraser in action.

I allowed the first coat to dry over night. I would highly recommend sanding very lightly with a 320 grit sand paper before you apply a second coat (if required). Most of my chairs all got a second coat and some of the chair pads even got 3 coats where there were really bad rings left behind from attempting to wash them a million times.

Around the buttons I applied the paint straight on top. I first was going to tape them all off, but that was gonna be way too much work so I discovered painting over them and just wiping off the buttons right away with a damp paper towel worked perfectly.

I didn't apply a sealer on the chairs in the end. I did get asked that question a lot. It just didn't feel necessary. There probably are great fabric sealers out there though if that's something you wanted to do.

The results blew me away! These chairs DO NOT look or feel painted. We have had them now for a few months and they are holding up great too! Although we hardly use these chairs as they are in our formal living room. I have spilled a few things on them, and I was able to wipe them off with a towel first and then spot clean lightly with a damp soapy rag. It's actually pretty neat, it's almost like the latex paint in the fabric acts like a natural repellant to stains and they mostly bead off!

The legs of the chairs are still a bit beat up. I would like to eventually sand them down and restain them, but for now I'm just so happy to have these beauties restored to their original glory once again... even if it's kind of just a mask....ssshhhh, Lol!

Some of my followers on Instagram shared their furniture transformations using the fabric paint too! Check out these before and afters below...

Does this not inspire you!? I was so happy with the results that nothing is off limits now. I go thrifting and am now always looking for second hand upholstered furniture that can be painted. Even if the material is hideous, there is still hope to paint the fabric over the pricey reupholstering option $$$$!

Let me know your thoughts below! I would love to know what you think of these transformations.

Have a wonderful day!



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Anna Myagkaya
Anna Myagkaya

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