Curbside Pickup: Chair Makeover Part 1

As summer comes to a close, Dan and I have been spending as much time as possible enjoying the beautiful weather and the outdoors.  We’ve taken a little time off from doing projects just to enjoy each other’s company and experience some of the fun things in life: outdoor movies, beach trips, and of course, dinners in our fabulous new kitchen.  In fact, one of the most fun things we’ve done in the past couple of weeks was traveling to Montclair, New Jersey for their outdoor film festival series for a viewing of The Princess Bride.  Neither of us had seen the movie in YEARS, and I just finished reading As You Wish, an inside look at the filming of the movie, so it was perfect timing.  We just brought our lawn chairs and some snacks and drinks to the middle of downtown and enjoyed the film.  I would highly recommend stopping by the film festival if you’re in the area.  There’s nothing I love more than a good outdoor movie. :)

While we’ve had quite a bit of time to get our summer on, I decided that this weekend it was time to buckle down and get to work.  I’ve had a decent sized project in the back of my mind for a few weeks now (okay, months) that would help to spruce up our office desk area.  Aside from the floating shelves project we completed, I’ve always thought that we should revamp our desks and desk chairs to make this a real shared office space for both Dan and I. We’re currently working with his desk, a black laminate table with cross legs (a freebie from our good friend Lauren!) and my desk, which we snagged off the curb last summer during a bike ride around the neighborhood.  Both of the chairs that we’ve been using are from a cheap Target dining set we bought five years ago when we first moved into our apartment.  Let’s just say our office is not quite Pottery Barn catalog worthy (excuse the poor quality of this picture, but this is what our office first looked like last summer!).

I dreamed a dream… of a new desk chair, specifically something like these made-over and reupholstered beauties from Young House Love.  Lo and behold, Dan and I went for a walk one day and came across this silver and blue, faux leather-cushioned chair.

Okay, so it’s not the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen, but I really loved the crisscross back and the fact that it was FREE.  While Dan hemmed and hawed over the weirdness of snatching the chair off the curb with other people around, I sighed and thought, I’ll give it up: another day, I will find the chair of my dreams.

The chair story doesn’t end there, however.  I noticed on my drive to work that the chair was still on the curb, catching some rays.  On my drive home from work, the chair was still out there, beckoning me.  I parked my car and marched right over to that chair, dragging it back to the house.  I strategically placed it in the driveway so Dan could witness my true dedication to this chair, heretofore known as Khaleesi’s Throne (just kidding).

I let the chair sit in the garage for a few weeks before I started making some actual decisions on how I was going to tackle this project.  I decided to remove the seat first, which was easy enough.  On the bottom of the seat were four screws, which I quickly loosened and removed with a screwdriver.

I decided I was going to completely reupholster the seat, since the faux-leather cushion wasn’t doing me any favors.  I asked Dan to make a new wooden base for the seat.  This was a relatively easy process.  He took the old seat off and removed the staples so that he could get to the wood piece underneath.

In case you wondered what the interior seat of a curbside chair reject looks like, this is it. Yuck.

As for the chair, it needed quite a bit of TLC before it could even be painted.  First, I started to buffer the chair and smooth it down with a wire wheel drill attachment.  I quickly realized this would be a lengthy process to say the least, so I just focused on a few rough problem areas.

I decided to clean the rest of the chair, wiping it down with paper towels and a simple kitchen cleaner (this one happened to be a Method product from Target) and it seemed to do the trick.  It took about 45 minutes to really do a quality scrub down of the chair, but it made a difference in how smooth the chair felt afterwards, which was pretty important for painting purposes (see below for death by paper towel).

Next, it was time to break out the big guns, er, the spray paint gun.  It’s my Wagner Control Max paint sprayer, which I talked a little bit about back when we painted the windowframe mirror in our bedroom.  As is the case with many DIY projects, things didn’t go quite as smoothly as we hoped.  The paint spraying nozzle repeatedly got clogged with paint, so each time I had to use the sprayer, I dabbed some mineral spirits (this is a hazardous chemical, so be careful while using it) on a paper towel and wiped down the nozzle.  For the paint job,  I used a regular old interior, flat white paint (this one happened to be Royal Interiors from Ace Hardware), but I think any flat white would do the trick.

I set the paint sprayer on the mid-pressure setting and determined that this would take quite a few coats.  By a few, I mean 10.  I only really had to do three full coats, but the touch ups were quite a challenge.  I probably did about six to eight touch up coats, especially because there were so many different angles to cover on the back of the seat.  This entire paint spraying process took about four hours, with lots of breaks in between.  I also decided to spray paint our floating shelves white since I was already in the midst of the painting process.

Once the coats were done and darkness had settled over New Jersey around 8pm, we cleaned up our paint station and cleaned out the paint sprayer.  I don’t believe I mentioned this before, but cleaning out the spray gun is quite a process.  It needs to be almost completely disassembled, and each piece is cleaned individually – it’s about a 15-20 minute process just to clean!  Now you see why it’s taken me so long to get around to this project (not to mention we didn’t have a sink for cleaning the spray gun while the kitchen was under renovation!).

I’m not sure how easily you can tell in the picture above, but the flat white paint really just wasn’t doing it for me.  The rough surface of the chair, combined with the lack of a shine and sparkle, made me think that we needed to add a gloss coating to spruce up my new throne.  I’ll follow up with Part 2 of our chair makeover to go over the rest of the painting process, plus details on how to reupholster an old chair cushion!

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