the chairs.

Sometimes I think it may seem as though I decide to makeover a room and then I just whip it up in no time.  That’s not really how it goes.  I usually think about it for a long time, and then I try to work up the gumption to get ‘er done.  That can take awhile.  I’ve been wanting to perk up my dining room since last winter.  I knew I wanted new chairs, and as I mentioned last week, I specifically wanted french cane back chairs.  I’ve been watching craigslist for them since last spring.  I finally saw a set that I liked, but not only were they expensive ($75 each), they were also all the way out in Mound, MN.  Still, I decided they were too good to pass up.

chairs before

I recruited my sister to drive out there with me.  It should have been about a 50 minute drive, but since we missed our turn off, it ended up taking more like an hour and 15 minutes to get there.  But, it was worth the drive.  These chairs are perfect.

First of all, they are really well made and very sturdy.  The cane is in perfect condition.

chair before

They have really nice proportions and they are very comfortable.

And best of all, they have seats that can be recovered with just some stapling skills.  No fancy reupholstery required.

chair seat before

The piping around the edge tricked me at first.  I thought maybe these were non-removable seats.  So I was thrilled when I turned them over and saw the screws for removing them.

The only thing wrong with these chairs was their shiny orange finish and unappealing fabric and those are easy to fix!

After removing the seats, I used my favorite cheating method to paint the cane.  Spray paint!

chair with cane back

Painting cane with a brush can take forever.  So instead, I spray paint it first.  In this case I used Rust-Oleum in Heirloom White with a satin finish.  Once I had the cane fully covered in the spray paint, I let it dry.  Then I went back over it with the paint I was using on the rest of the chair.  In this case, Annie Sloan’s Old White.  Now the white matches, and I only needed one lightly brushed coat on the cane.

The rest of the chair took two coats.  Once the paint was dry, I sanded by hand to distress.  Since these chairs were for me, I could distress to my heart’s content.  I like my pieces to look a little beat up.  Once sanded, I vacuumed off the dust and waxed with Miss Mustard Seed’s furniture wax.  Let me take a minute here to talk about using a brush to wax.

wax brush

I think I’ve already established that I am kind of a cheap skate.  I don’t like to spend much on tools and supplies (well, on almost anything really except trips to Europe and good hair products) and this Miss Mustard Seed large wax brush was priced over $30.  I will tell you that I probably never would have ended up with it except for the Round Barn’s going out of business sale.  It was half price, so I decided to splurge on it.  Yes, I purchased this brush myself, this is not a sponsored post in any way.

And I’ll tell you what, this brush was worth every penny (and would have been worth paying full price for actually) when it came time to wax these chairs.  It got in all the nooks and crannies easily, it maneuvered around all of the curves and bends, it even worked beautifully on the caning.  If you do a lot of waxing and you don’t already have one of these, get one, stat!  So much easier than trying to use a rag to wax these chairs.

I debated a couple of different options for seat upholstery.  I thought about using drop cloth fabric and stenciling it with a grain sack like I did on these folding chairs.

chair seat

I also thought about using one of my many European stencils instead of the grain sack stripe.  But since I already have a European style stencil on some other pieces that are in going in the room, I felt like that would be overkill.  In the end, I just went with authentic grain sacks.  And I LOVE them!

chair seat

I purchased 4 of these grain sacks from 3:17 Vintage in Afton.  Each one is a little different and they are exactly what I wanted on the chairs.  Well … wait a minute … to be honest, exactly what I wanted was a fabulous European grain sack with an awesome blue grain sack stripe down the middle.  But have you priced those?  For the price of just one of those, I was able to get 4 plain old mid-western grain sacks and still have some change left over.  And if I had splurged on the European version, I probably would have never let anyone sit in the chairs.  This way I’m perfectly fine with using them, and if they get spilled on, no problem!  They are pre-stained!

I have to admit, Ken the handyman totally rolled his eyes when he saw these.  He simply can not fathom why I would want stained old grain sacks on my dining room chairs!

chair after

But in case you missed it the first time I said it, I LOVE how these turned out, stained grain sacks and all!

I had set myself some lofty goals for this past weekend.  I wanted to finish the chairs, plus paint two dressers.  I didn’t quite get there.  The chairs are all painted, sanded and waxed, but I still need to upholster the seats on the other three.  It won’t take long, but they weren’t quite ready for this post.  As for the rest, one dresser is completely finished and needs a photo shoot, the 2nd dresser is painted, but needs to be sanded and waxed.  So, I have my work cut out for me this coming week.

I’m also going to keep moving on the dining room makeover.  Things are starting to come together, more ideas are percolating, and I hope to share more on that with you soon.

chair collage

Oh, and in case you are wondering, my sister and I blew off our visit to Oronoco Gold Rush.  There was a heat advisory here on Saturday.  Gold Rush can be overwhelmingly hot even on a cooler day.  The combination of no shade, lots of pavement and lots of people results in heat overload.  And let’s not even think about the condition of those porta-potties in that heat!

27 thoughts on “the chairs.

  1. Well done! We often use spray paint on an entire chair for the first coat . To me, it gives a nice base for the next coat of chalk paint. And saves on chalk paint!

    I have to laugh… I wanted to use grain sacks on chair seats and the “Kens” among us said they look like soiled diapers!


  2. They turned out great. Glad you could find what you were looking for. Have you ever though of putting on a small seminar in your home. Giving some how to examples of different ways to refinish furniture. Charge a fee of course and serve tea and scones. I could make different kinds of scones! A Saturday winter afternoon would be great!


    1. I have done a couple of painting classes, and that was fun. I don’t have a ton of space, or a ton of time though. But maybe I’ll give that some thought for this coming winter!


  3. Again thanks for the inspiration. I have a similar chair with arms on it sitting in my entry waiting for a makeover. I had a bench but found an old dresser at Apron Chicks sale that I couldn’t pass up so I needed a chair for setting on while putting those winter boots on. Twelve months of sandle season doesn’t exit here. Unfortunately staining our fence has priority right now but the sooner that’s done the sooner I can get to that dresser and chair. Can’t wait to see your new dining room look.


  4. Love those chairs – a real teaser for the new room unveil. Thanks for sharing your thinking process in choosing and rejecting ideas for the chair cushions. The old grain sacks are the perfect complement to the formal character of the chairs.
    Did go to Gold Rush on Friday. Terrific crowds, unbelieveable heat,humidity, and sun, but did not see much actual buying. Did find the perfect parking spot for next year!


  5. Yep using spray paint for the cane makes for a much quicker job. It’s like wicker you could be hand painting forever.cthey turned out great. Curious how tall is the back of yours? I think mine are taller though I would have preferred the height of yours. The backs of mine are 23 1/2″ to 24″ tall. I looked for them for a long time. Ended up getting all 4 for a $100. I look forward to viewing the metamorphosis of your room as it plays out here.


    1. I’ll have to measure, they are fairly tall though. I wish I had only paid $100, but I was impatient and wanted to get going on this project. These were definitely a splurge for me.


      1. They were still a steal for $75 each! They turned out terrific and it is fun to see the dining room evolve.


  6. I am searching for chairs exactly what you found! Boy, you got a bar gain! In my area, for 6 French chairs, they are asking over 1500.00, which is out of my price range! If I could find chairs in the price range you did, I would be thrilled!! Your chairs look beautiful! What a lovely job you did! I just love reading your blog!


    1. I did look at chairs already painted and upholstered and found many in that price range too! I should have outlined my final cost in this blog post, but I neglected to do that. In the end, I spent around $95 per chair once you factor in the grain sacks, paint and wax. But I agree with you, still a bargain!


    1. Thanks Darrielle! Yep, it is a good feeling. I was looking for a while. It was important to me to have chairs that were comfortable and very sturdy in addition to looking good. Mr Q and his friends can be hard on chairs! So, I was glad to find chairs that met all of my requirements.


  7. I hate to be the only one to disagree, but I really liked the chairs the way they were as you purchased them. But, for those who love painted furniture…..yep! a real find.


  8. Love what you’ve done with these chairs, wow!
    I decided to skip Gold Rush this year, too. I often go, as I know someone who lives in Oronoco and lets me park at her house. I love wandering around there all day. But it was WAY too hot this year!


  9. This is too funny! Last week I was working on a similar china closet as you and your sister, and this week I picked up 6 of those chairs. I am keeping mine too, which means I am going to fix up my current ones for sale. Now if I can only keep my husband from breaking the cane. He has been known to do that, the brute.

    I’m looking forward to seeing the finished china closet. I switched color on mine and had to buy more Paris Gray. I still have Casement on the inside to show off my blue and white dishes.


    1. Your color choices sound lovely, and very similar to what my sister has done. She used French Linen on the outside, and Casement on the inside. Now, if I could just get her to finish it!


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