I’ve been working on this post for a few weeks now- writing a little here and there, then putting it down. As promised, this post will round up the chronicles of dining room furniture refinishing. I think it’s appropriate that this post has taken this long to write, this project was by far the longest running, biggest pain in the butt project that we’ve undertaken so far.
Jess and I are big Joanna and Chip Gaines fans and a lot of our style attempts to emulate the farmhouse look. With that in mind, we knew we needed a farmhouse table in our dining room. Jess assured me she could build our dining room table but this was before the purchase of the miter saw and construction of other pieces in the house aka before I believed her. This is the part where I should be apologizing to her profusely- had I let her build our table and found chairs that needed simple refinishing, this would have been much less daunting. But easy projects don’t make good blog posts!
Even though Jess vowed to build the table of my dreams, I kept an eye on Craigslist and OfferUp on a semi-regular basis for a low price farmhouse table. This style is pretty popular right now so I didn’t expect to find much. There were postings for custom built tables but each table (no chairs) started around $675 and went up from there. As I’ve mentioned before, we try to do as much as we can with less and $675 really was not what I had in mind (nor would it EVER happen with Jess- the constant “I could make that for <insert obscenely low amount of money>”) But I get it, I get a certain amount of satisfaction when I finish a piece knowing that we’ve labored over it for hours. Anyway- every time I would find a table I liked, I’d shoot Jess a picture of it. Bless her heart, she takes a lot from me and I am so thankful. She was absolutely set on making a table and she would typically respond, “I like that- is that how you want me to do our design?” One day, though, I found a table that was very similar to the style we planned to build and (you won’t believe it!) it came with four free chairs. I sent it over to Jess, told her her we were insane if we didn’t go take a look because, after all, we hadn’t even been able to find four chairs we liked for that price much less four chairs and a table. All we had to do was look beyond the smurf-blue paint. Here she is:
As you may guess from our sideboard post, we planned to paint the legs and chairs white and give them a distressed look. When Jess arrived to take a look at the furniture, the woman commented that she had just painted the set blue and it had previously been white. All I could do was laugh when Jess told me. We purchased this prior to moving in to our new house. At this point, our little 2 bedroom apartment was starting to look like an episode of hoarders. I had two chairs crammed into the guest bathroom, facing the toilet, which no doubt made me laugh every time I used that bathroom. Feeling antsy to start on projects for the house, I decided to go ahead and start trying to strip the paint from the chairs. I used Citristrip.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect, I had never used a product like this before. Make sure you use this as instructed. I wore gloves and protective eyewear. When I applied the gel to the chairs I was happy I took those measures! The Citristrip doesn’t have a chemical smell, it smells almost like oranges (hence the name), but literally 5 minutes after applying it to the chairs I could see the chemical reaction begin. It gave everything the grayscale (GoT reference!!) effect. Looking back, I was a little ambitious- especially since I was using a product for the first time. I applied it to all four chairs and let them set for 30-40 minutes. If I had it to do over again, I probably would not have used this product at all. First, I don’t have the patience. Second, I made an interesting discovery when removing the paint.
Yes, the table and chairs had once been white, but what the seller failed to mention is that they were red before she painted them blue. This was not an altogether unwelcome discovery. My plan was to have red accents in the dining room because of my Chinese Red Ben Owen focal point. As you can see, the paint stripper removed the paint in various degrees (please note, this photo was taken after about 30 minutes to an hour of scrapping). For this type of project, I would recommend applying the paint stripper to one section at a time. I found applying a thicker coat really helped. I would also only work on one piece of furniture at a time. This is a type of chemical you want to remove completely before taking back into your home I would imagine (especially with pets or small children!) which required an already tired me to wash them down (and waste product) after hours of scraping. This is where an afternoon got me:
After sweating over these chairs for a good 5 hours, I pretty much never wanted to touch them again. And I didn’t until we moved. I let Jess try her luck using the paint stripper again. In true Alex form, I even started sending her pictures of other chairs. My reasoning: these chairs were free. And they were the bane of my existence. What’s the harm? But of course, Jess, the voice of reason, kept me in check. We decided to shift our focus to the table itself. The table didn’t need much. We loved the top, the legs and base just needed to be painted. I wanted to distress the table and have a darker wood show through, which required more paint stripper. I was working on another piece so I put Jess and my mom to work on stripping the paint off the legs. Pretty convenient.
They did amazing work. After stripping (and no, we did not get every spec of paint off), we washed the legs and dried them really well. We then stained the legs using (once again) Minwax Wood Finish Penetrating Stain in Espresso. After letting the stain dry, we painted the legs with Valspar Chalky Finish Paint in “Kids Gloves” to match the sideboard. We let the paint dry for a few days then it was time to distress. I like to use an electric sander with a fine grain sandpaper even for distressing. I will sand any hard to maneuver areas by hand, but otherwise I think the electric sander does just fine. I scuffed up the areas that would typically show wear and tear from ordinary use. I really liked the way it turned out on this table. After sanding, the table was done and just needed to be reassembled which only meant one thing- it was time to tackle the chairs. I did consider leaving the dining room this way:
But Jess convinced me that guests would probably like to eat meals while seated. In the picture above you can see some of the detail on the table. I really love it.
Back to the chairs. We decided if we were going to do the “rustic” thing, we might as well embrace it. We ditched the stripping gel and got busy sanding down all of the chairs with the electric sander. This helped give us a smooth painting surface. I decided it would be pretty cool after painting the chairs white to distress them so some of the red and teal could show through. After sanding, we painted the chairs with two coats of Valspar Chalky Finish paint. After giving the paint plenty of time to dry, we came back with the electric sander and started to distress the pieces.
Here is a progress shot. You can see bits of red and teal peaking through. I was really liking the way the chairs were turning out and eventually we finished them all. The seats for the chairs were covered in a teal/blue fabric. I know I wanted something neutral in the room, but the chairs had more surprises for me. When I went to remove the teal fabric, I found a red/grey/black paisley fabric underneath. Presumably this was from the days of the red chairs, and I thought the fabric would do until I found something more suitable.
Good upholstery fabric isn’t cheap so I watched for Joann Fabric to put their upholstery fabric on sale. Finally, I was able to find a fabric I loved. Employees at Joann are the absolute best and are always happy to give advice and tips on any project. I ended up getting a yard and a half of fabric and it was the perfect amount to cover these chairs (and I only paid $11!) All you need is a staple gun and a flat surface. Try to use upholstery fabric when possible because it has a little stretch to it and its more durable. Pull it as tight as possible when stapling so you wont have sagging or wrinkles in your fabric. If you need to press your fabric first, it’s worth doing.
Here is a finished chair! They turned out better than I could have imagined and I’m so glad Jess didn’t let me ditch them. After weeks of off and on working on this project, I feel like the dining room was really coming together.
We purchased and refinished all of the furniture pictured above for less than $500. I hope our future kids like rustic furniture, because this set is never leaving the family.
Well, I did it! I finally finished this post. Coming soon on the blog: learn how to make an 8 foot floating shelf.
Until then, make good choices!