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Fabric Painted Chairs

I spotted a Craiglist ad for some chairs a couple of weeks ago. A store in the area was closing, and they were giving them for free. 

I was interested in some swivel office chairs the original post had, so I went to pick them up and do some other errands in that area.

Well, when I arrived, the swivel chairs were gone!
These were the ones left. There were also some cabinets and more plastic office chairs on the other side.

Hmmm, I was not interested in those "leather" chairs :)  I grabbed two with fabric material.

I thought about using them in my office, but that room serves too many purposes right now, such as an office, guest room, and storage space. There is still a bed in there since we had a guest... who knows when! That's why I brought the chairs to the family room. When my husband saw them, he said they looked like hotel room chairs. I couldn't agree more :/ And right then and there, I began thinking about how to change them.

The color was OK, but they were too dark for my space. They look better in these pictures with all the light purring in. I didn't want to reupholster them. Too much work + fabric ;)

I decided to paint the fabric, using these chairs as "guinea pigs." I have another set of chairs - wingback chairs that I was thinking of doing the same, but I was hesitant to do it to those chairs since they are of better quality.

This is how it all went:

First, I painted the wooden parts. Two coats of homemade chalk paint.

I also use homemade chalk paint to paint the fabric. 

As the left picture below shows, only one coat covered lots. That first coat of paint took me like two hours to complete on only one chair!

I used a Purdy paintbrush to paint most of that first chair. I had to come back to paint the tufted back with a smaller brush, going between the folds and inside the holes; that was the hardest part.

For the second chair, I didn't use the Purdy brush. Wearing a plastic glove, I painted it with my hand. My fingers worked better to apply paint in all those folds. Painting it this way was faster since that material absorbed LOTS of paint, and with my hand, I just slapped the paint on.

I waited 24 hours for the paint to dry, though it felt dry at the end of the day. 

They looked horrible! 

At that point, I even considered throwing them away, but I continued because so many people have done this, and they had given it good reviews!

The second coat made them look so much better. Look at the difference!

I used the paintbrush again with the second coat. This coat of paint went on faster than the first one, as the fabric wasn't absorbing much product.

 I decided two coats were all they needed. Both chairs got two coats of paint.

They looked good, but they were outrageously rough! 

The fabric had turned into sandpaper. 

I brought them back to the garage for a good sanding as soon as they were dry.

It was like 24 hours after the second coat. I began using a sanding block on the back of the chairs, afraid that the blue color would show up, but no. :) 

They sustained heavy sanding without any damage. The sanding worked wonders. I gave special attention to the seat and the armrests; I didn't want anyone with scratched arms!

See the difference:

After dusting them very well, the wooden parts got waxed. I'm still trying to improve my work with the dark wax ;)

And they were DONE!

This is my view on this whole project:

It took work. I thought upholstering them would've been easier (well, 50/50 because removing staples isn't easy, either). The first coat of paint took forever, and the sanding was exhausting.

Do I like the look? Yes! When I'm in the kitchen and at the far end, I see my new pair of white chairs; they look lovely, just like in these pictures. I like how they are not shiny; I didn't want any shine on the fabric, that's why I didn't apply wax on it.

Do I like how they feel? No. They are not rough. They are smooth, but they feel like plastic material. When my daughter sat for the first time on one of the chairs, she said: "it feels like I'm sitting on an old marshmallow" I guess that's not too good ;)

I'm going to keep them right here where they are. If I see any changes, I'll update this post.
For the wingback chairs, I'm going to skip the paint treatment; they're going to be upholstered.

The chairs were painted with homemade chalk paint -custom colors - Find the recipe HERE.


  1. Ahhh amiga que buen post ,, yo he estado varias veces por pintar telas ,, pero al ver tu post y todooooo el trabajo que te ha dado m, creo que mejor re tapizar ,, ahora hay que considerar que el re tapizado igual es harto trabajo,,, tus sillas quedaron un lujo a la vista ,, pero si tu hija sintió algo extraño ,, entonces su textura debe ser rara no? ,, yo creo que igual valió la pena ,, ya que están bellísimas ,, ahora eso si con tu explicación ,, me queda más que claro ,, que no lo haría je je

  2. I think they are beautiful. I have always wondered if the painted fabric would be rough. I have read if you use fabric medium, it is not. I used it on my painted pillows and the design I painted on the pillows was a bit stiff and I'm not buying it! But I think they look great and are perfect for "spare" side chairs!

  3. They do look lovely. I've been thinking of trying to paint a chair as well and still not sure if I want to, thanks for the honest opinions.

  4. What an amazing transformation! I think you did a great job. Thanks so much for sharing your tutorial.

  5. Great tutorial, I have a hunter green wingback chair that I've been wanting to paint or buy a slipcover for, thanks for your honest opinions on it!

  6. Free????! Wow! They look so good Cristina and I agree about the change of color! I've read other posts on painting fabric but never really tried it. Thanks for the tips!

  7. My biggest question about painting furniture like this is if it turns out crunchy. When you sit does the fabric give or crack? They look great!!

  8. Thanks ladies! Ronda, the chairs felt crunchy before sanding them, now they feel stiff but they still "give", so far they haven't cracked, I'll update the post if that happens. The material looks a lot to me like that of plastic tablecloths without the shine.

  9. I bought a chair at a thrift store just to try this particular paint technique. After reading this I am just a little hesitant about painting it. Thank you for your honest opinion....Cathy

  10. I love your honesty with this post. The chairs "look" very pretty.

  11. I love them!! If they're in a room where there won't be much sitting, they're perfect!! So FUN!

  12. Sooooo pretty! I love them. Great to know that they can be sanded!

  13. First of all I can't believe you got them for free!!! Good job. Secondly, they look amazingly gorgeous. And thirdly, I have seen chairs painted and I wondered how they would be to sit on, if they would be scratchy or not and you answered that too! Thanks for all the great info on this post! They really look beautiful!

  14. Thanks so much for the honest tutorial on how this project worked for you! The chairs do look so pretty but the "sitting on an old marshmallow" cracked me up!

  15. Wow. That was quite the saga! Seriously. I was sitting on the edge of my seat reading this post. And I would have never thought to paint fabric with chalk paint!

    :) Linda

  16. Superb about this fabric painted chairs! Everything is perfect out there and I think everybody will like this and that's why I will take this as a Office Chairs for my own office and hopefully my staff will feel comfortable for sure. Good one:)

  17. Beautiful transformation, Cristina! You're daughter's comment was so funny :)

  18. You did a great job on these chairs, Cristina, and they look wonderful in the photos. I appreciate your honest assessment of the entire process.
    Mary Alice

  19. Thanks for this review of the process. I've wondered how painted fabric would feel. They sure look pretty.
    I love your blog and have put you on my blogroll. I love seeing what you are always up to.
    Let's Add Sprinkles

  20. What a cool project! I have heard of painting fabric chairs but wasn't really sure it was realistic but these look fantastic! Great job!

  21. I've been hesitant to try painting fabric on chairs and this has made me decide to give it a pass. Thanks for letting us know how it went for you!

  22. Cristina,
    Oh, my goodness!!!
    The transformation is amazing!
    Thank you for sharing about the feel of the fabric with the finished results.
    I've been toying with the idea of painting over fabric on a chair for my creative space,
    but I want to be able to relax with a cup 'o tea and a magazine in the space.
    Sounds as if I need to consider uphosterly instead!!!

  23. I've painted a chair cushion with ASCP right out of the can. Not a comfortable feeling cushion cover. Then I read a tutorial and learned I should have thinned the paint with water and used a fabric medium. That's what I'll do next time--when i paint the seat upholstery on my Habitat bargain dining room chairs.Lucky for me mine have plain seats and a very simple upholstery style…nothing as labor intensive as your two.

    Your chairs look great….nothing like hotel chairs. Maybe you'll find others to work on in the future?

  24. Wow they look amazing!! I never would have thought to try sanding them...I painted some chairs years and years ago back when Dark green leather was all the rage LOL any way they looked great for awhile but the paint peeled off and then they looked yucky...I should have sanded them! I love yours! I would love to have you join me for my Centerpiece Wednesday linky party and share this post with us. Come on over 

  25. Que maravilla, un gran tutorial con el paso a paso muy útil, el cambio es espectacular, han quedados unas sillas preciosas,
    Buen trabajo

  26. Beautiful !!!
    I'm in the process of painting to fabric chairs also - they have tufting too lol
    ( ran out of paint so their on hold - but their looking better already )
    Your turned out amazing - incredible transformation !
    Hope all is well Cristina!
    Coming by via Common Ground

  27. They look terrific! And the fact that you got them for fantastic.I was tempted to paint some peeling vinyl chairs I wanted to save but I chickened out. Maybe I will give it a try after all.This was really informative.Thanks for sharing the ups and downs of painting fabric.

  28. what a difference some paint can make! These chairs are Lovely! Very upscale looking and hey free is the best! Great job :)

  29. They look great! A marshmallow, lol. Sorry they are not more comfortable. Maybe you will find a really pretty throw to set in each to make them more cozy. Our weekly linky at Bacon Time just started over, would love for you to join us, if you have not yet this week. :)

  30. this is perfect timing. i have been seeing people try this and not really disclose how it feels when they are done. i wonder if the fabric type has something to do with it? i love your daughters description!

  31. I think they look great! Good to hear the description of how it feels, too, because I feel like most people just kind of gloss over that part. Haha.

    Stopping by from Thrifty Decor Chick!

  32. They look great. That white color really changed the look of the chairs. I don't know if I have the patience to paint chairs since I hated when I stenciled fabric curtains which took forever! The finaly look does make me think twice about painting fabric again. Again good job.

  33. I think they look fabulous!! very sophisticated and classic! I guess there are worse things to sit on than old marshmallows!

  34. Kudos to you for giving the paint a try and sticking with the project to the end! They look beautiful! Love all the info about the project and your very honest feedback!
    Thank you so much for sharing.
    XO Barbara

  35. They look wonderful! Thanks for sharing the process.

  36. They turned out fantastic, even if they do feel like sitting on old marshmallows, lol. Can't believe you scored those for free! Great find and beautiful transformation, pinned :)

  37. You saved me agony, I have been contemplating doing this same thing - and they would be used, so a nice feel is essential. Thanks so much - your chairs do look awesome, though. : - )

  38. I have painted a old rocking chair, and I absolutely love it...and sitting on it is not that bad. I didn't use chalck paint, but regular latex paint diluted with water...did few more coats than you did. Yes, takes a long time, but the chair was free as well, and the paint was only $1 from the Restore.

  39. I've perused the comments - but i saw nothing addressing what (if anything) of a protective coat u put over? I've been chalk painting awhile now ( I've only ever used homemade chalk paint) but for the furniture I hope to sell or use in my bedroom- I wax over the chalk. I read quickly that you used ASCP on your island in the kitchen - did you use her wax too? I know these are dinning room chairs - but also looking at your beautiful kitchen - I've tossed the idea around about painting the cabinets ( super cheap junk they are :/) painting them would give such life - but not sure about the protective coat - the kitchen is truly the most abused room in our house . Greatly appreciate the feedback.

    1. Hi Amy, These chairs were painted with home made chalk paint too. Wax was only applied to the legs. I didn't apply wax to the painted fabric because I didn't want any shine. I'ts been more than two years since I painted those chairs and I'm still using them. The seat is kinda soft now, the back part not too much. The paint haven't cracked at all.

      The island was painted with ASCP and yes, I used her wax to protect the paint. I haven't have any troubles with that finish, but I wouldn't use that same finish for the cabinets. You can protect them with AS-Lacquer.

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