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Duncan Phyfe Chair Makeover

A thrifty chair gets a Parisian makeover

A thrifty Duncan Phyfe chair gets a dose of TLC to bring it back to its former glory.

Hello, my friends! Back in December when I was working on the Paris room makeover for my daughter's friend, the last element to tie the entire project together was getting a nice chair to replace the folding chair she was using. Nothing wrong with a metal folding chair, but I knew we could come up with something better.
I went searching through many stores like HomeGoods, Target, T.J. Max, etc. and they all have office chairs that range from $60-$100. Those were very decent prices, but the problem was that most of those chairs came with a rolling mechanism. Since this was a carpeted room, the wheels on those chairs were kind of a problem.

I then went in another direction. Enter here: thrift stores! I spotted this set of Duncan Phyfe chairs in the first store that I visited. The chairs looked OK, but one of them was in such a bad condition that I just walked out of there to find something nicer. 

Well, I came back a week later and the chairs were still there, this time they had a whooping discount: 75% off which brought their price down to only five bucks.  Ha DEAL!
drab chairs in thrift store

I brought both chairs home and immediately started working on the one that was in better shape.


Turning the chair upside down and using a screwdriver or drill, remove the screws holding the seat in place.

That tag was still stapled to the chair. Made by Bernhardt Furniture Co. from Lenoir, North Carolina.

Duncan Phyfe chairs
Milwaukee Drill |

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This chair was in good shape, with no swinging or loose parts. The next task if the chair is in that type of condition is to disassemble those loose parts, sand, clean, and glue things back together.


I went straight to sanding the entire chair to remove the old stain.

Before going any further, this is the moment when you have to know what type of finish you want to apply to the chair. 
Do you want to paint the chair or do you want to stain it? The amount of sanding will vary depending on the type of finish you want to go for.

If you want to paint the chair's frame, a light sanding to remove the glossy finish would probably be more than enough. After you clean/remove dust you can apply a primer and then the paint.

If you go the stain route, you have to go down to the bare wood. More sanding is necessary to get to that stage.

Since I wanted to apply a new stain, I had to do lots of sanding. 

I began using a sanding block -120-grid, but it was taking way too long and that's why I reached out for my orbital sander with the same grid paper.

Duncan Phyfe chair makeover
DeWalt Sander | Sanding blockEar Muff |

I used the sanding block on hard-to-reach spaces. I also used simple sandpaper to sand in between those little crevices/details the chair has.
Duncan Phyfe chair makeover

You can see the difference here:
Bare wood sanded and stained chair


After dusting the chair frame very well, it's time to apply the new stain. I went for this Varathane Dark Walnut that I've been using lately, I like it a lot.
Duncan Phyfe chair makeover - stained
| Varathane Dark Walnut Wood Stain |

First, I gently stirred the stain to mix it well, grabbed an old sock, and began loading it with stain. The next step was to dab the stain all around the chair with the sock.
Here, I was giving it the first coat.
Duncan Phyfe chair makeover

Once that first coat dried, I lightly sanded the chair with 220-grid sandpaper, dusted it, and gave it a second and then a third coat of stain - following the same steps.
Duncan Phyfe chair makeover


I didn't get any pictures of this step. After lightly sanding the chair one more time and dusting it. I applied a coat of clear wax. Then buffed it. 


I used the same foam, wood, and padding the chair came with. But, I also added another layer of padding to make it extra cushiony.

I first added all those layers of padding, setting them in place with my pneumatic stapler.
Duncan Phyfe chair makeover

Then, the fabric was stapled in place, tucking in those corners.
Duncan Phyfe chair makeover


When I brought the chairs back inside the house to install the seat, I couldn't help but notice those little grooves/detail the chair had. That's when I thought of a way of highlighting those areas.

I searched my craft area for gold markers and paints, this gold leafing pen seemed like the perfect option for this task.
Duncan Phyfe chair makeover
| Gold Leafing Pen |

I tried to have a steady hand, but I painted the outside of those crevices many times. Here on the front of the seat, the gold paint was way out of that line. However, no worries at all. As soon as the paint was dry, I sanded those areas and applied more wax.  
Duncan Phyfe chair makeover
A thrifty chair gets a glam makeover

Here you can see it in the Parisian bedroom.
A thrifty chair makeover

I love those soft curves this chair possesses, and now with the gold accents, she looks so glam! :)
a thrifty chair gets a glam makeover
Blush Pink Blackout Curtain | Irregular dots wall decal | Pink Throw Blanket | Desk |

A thrifty chair gets a glam makeover -

I hope you have enjoyed this chair makeover. There were a few other projects completed in this room. Check them out:

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  1. Beautiful! My favorite DIY projects are when I can take a dated, abused old piece of furniture and transform it into something lovely and useful totally rocked this! I have done so little lately...puts me in the mood to "create" again!

    1. Beck, many times when I'm working on a piece like this, I think what you would do in that type of situation! You have taught me so much with the vast array of projects you've tackled. You're an inspiration! And no, you haven't done little, it's just different. Look at your new house, it's completely transformed!

  2. Great job -- so glad you didn't paint the chair - I think that is way overdone. Many times the natural wood is so much more elegant -- just like this chair.

    1. Thanks Jayne! Indeed, painted furniture has been very popular lately and I do love it, specially when the wood is way too damaged to restore. This chair wasn't the case and she took the stain really well.

  3. Beautiful job and so glad you opted to stain! Love the gold detailing - perfect finishing touch, Cristina! I spent my weekend stripping veneer that wasn't salvageable off a small waterfall sideboard. Your project looked a lot more fun!

    1. I think those gold accents set her apart, hopefully in a good way. :D
      Ha stripping veneer isn't a fun job. I've heard you can use a heat gun to soften the glue. Looking forward to seeing how you bring new life into that sideboard.

  4. The devil is in the details! Love how you accented with the gold pen:)

  5. What a great transformation. I'm just getting ready to try my hand a recovering a similar chair. This is super helpful.

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