Another one of those whims you get sometimes

There are a number of possible titles for this post. I’m not quite sure which one works the best. Here are some possibilities.

Part 2 in the series, Things You Never Thought You Could Paint

Reupholstery for items of furniture that you don’t care enough about to actually reupholster

Why Ben shouldn’t leave me unattended at night while he goes off to translate obscure 12th century rabbinic texts if he knows that all the children are in bed and I’ll be left to my own devices

A cautionary tale

This is what my chair looked like at the beginning of the evening.


You see my dilemma right? I mean, here we have a chair that is completely blah. Not bad – kind of fun in a very blah kind of a way . . . I mean, it could almost remind you of an art deco club chair except that it’s nowhere near as cool . . . but it’s definitely lacking in zing. No get-up-and-go spirit, no peppy attitude here. I bought this chair at a charity sale for 5 pounds, so I have no real stake in it. It’s just a thing to sit on so that if we have company, we don’t all have to sit in a row on the pink couch. And I didn’t have the fortitude to try and reupholster the thing – mostly because the upholstery was in perfect condition, and it seemed so tiring to think about ripping it all off. I hate ripping upholstery off. I really loathe it – but for some reason I persist in doing it. I always feel this awful compulsion to rip upholstery off of things. Well this time I very sensibly said no. No upholstery ripping will occur. And so it didn’t. This chair sat here and looked blah for quite some time before I had finally had enough. I’m not quite sure what snapped – but Ben was going to be gone for the evening, and I was casting about for something festive to do. So I called Lizzie who is always my design consultant in moments like this.

I love having a sister whom I can call and say, “Hey there. I’d like to paint the upholstery on my chair because it’s a very hideous khaki color. Remember you told me about how you can paint lace without making it all crunchy? How would you go about this?” And she doesn’t snort or poo-poo or say, “You want to do WHAT?!” She falls right into line with my thinking and gives me all of her hot tips for how to paint fabric without making it crunchy – and how she would adapt the technique if she was using it on an upholstered item. It’s a very helpful resource to have a sister like this.

So yes. I painted it. And it was one of those things where you end up in a ridiculous predicament and start to wonder how on earth you ever got yourself into this. I whipped up a batch of paint and started merrily painting away . . . but midway through I ran out. And my initial paint came from WalMart which is half way round the globe – and what on earth was I supposed to do with it now!? The crucial factor that I had overlooked when I started this project, was that although I had plenty of paint to cover the square footage involved in this chair, I had not reckoned with the soakage factor. The paint doesn’t just spread over the surface, it soaks in quite a bit. And thus, I ran out of paint.

I was determined to not have Ben come home to a halfway painted chair and a wife unsure of what approach to take next! He was going to mock me mercilessly anyway – but I would much prefer to be mocked mercilessly about a fun, cute chair than a sad, piebald chair. So I scrounged about, mixed a bunch of weird things together, and came up with a sort of half-decent match. But if you drop by sometime, you have to promise not to compare the color on the sides of the chair with the color on the front. Pretend it’s the light and the shadows that make it that way.

So here it is at the end of the evening. The way it looked when Ben got home from his raucous good times with medieval Hebrew.


Also – that big beast of a thing in the back. That’s our court cabinet that I was trying to describe the other day. That’s what’s on the chopping block next. I’m thinking glossy cobalt blue. I’ll see what Lizzie advises.

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19 thoughts on “Another one of those whims you get sometimes

  1. 1) I actually think it’s a very cool looking chair in whichever color, but it looks like the kind I’d never be able to get up off of.

    2) You painted an upholstered chair! How cool is that?!

    3) Ten points for using the word “piebald.”

  2. See…and all this time reading your post I thought you were going to paint the ARMS of the chair–the wood party. But your idea is way cooler. I’ve never considered painting upholstery before. I love the color!

    There is a hideous gold uphostered and wood rocking chair that my parents have at their lake house. (It’s similar in style to your chair–probably 60’s or something. It even has a matching ottoman.) They’ve been trying to give it to me but I can’t stand the color (and also can’t figure out where I’d put it). BUT, if I PAINTED it…that might be really cool. Can you share your exact technique with us, please? I’m sure my attempt would just turn out all crunch and uncomfortable!

  3. I admire your creativity and style, but the poor court cabinet? It looks so beautiful as is. Are you sure? Your children will one day take it to an antiques road show, and the fellow will sigh and say, “If only you had kept it the original color, it would be worth….” πŸ™‚

  4. We just used orange grout on a tile floor, and I was feeling ultra cool about it. Superior, really, till this.

    Out of my league, Anna in NH

    PS I shall be awaiting the non-crunchy painting technique (since pom poms aren’t working out so great and my kids broke their heads on the crash pile. :))

  5. I have to say that I love the color, too. And, I would also like to know, not only your recipe for the upholstery paint, but how you kept the paint off the wooden parts. The fabric seems so snug against them.

  6. Wow, Bekah — this is really neat!! I think you are one of the most creative persons that I know (and brave)! Good job!

    Aunt Monica

  7. I’m with Sheila . . . I was wondering the same thing about the piano you were brave enough to paint. (By the way, I was appalled at the mere thought of actually painting a piano, until I saw the photo! It’s wonderful! I suddenlly have this deep need to buy an old piano just so I can paint it!) But how in the world did you keep the paint from dripping onto and between the keys? Unless you (gulp!) didn’t??? πŸ™‚

  8. This was fun to read because my husband’s grandmother is a firm believer in painting upholstery. In fact, every chair, couch, and ottoman in her house has been multiple colors.

    What’s even more interesting is that she believes in paint more than she believes in housecleaning. That means when the floors, walls, or upholstery get dirty, she just paints over them! She also hasn’t yet mastered the art of not making it “crunchy,” which means that as the weather gets hotter (she lives in L.A. and doesn’t have air conditioning), the furniture sticks to you…more and more…the longer you sit in it.

  9. Love it! What a fun, creative idea! These posts of yours about painted chairs and pianos and such, always give me a little burst of creative flurry…until I get home and realise that I have no pianos and chairs to paint, the laundry is stacked a mile high, dinner needs to be made, and my painting projects never turn out how I envision them. πŸ™‚ Nevertheless, I still love reading fun posts like this.

    P.S. I’m with Addy on this one, that court cabinet is positively glorious just the way it is, (Side Note: As I type this, covetous little thoughts are creeping into my heart. πŸ™‚ ) must you really paint it bright blue?

  10. Not just us, but those crazy designers on some of TLC’s decorating shows… I saw them paint upholstery on a show once (way back when we had TV) and theirs was crunchy.

    Anyhow, brave, creative, and wonderful! I’m afraid I’d have just stitched up a punchy little throw pillow and called it quits. Nice work!

  11. It hurts every bone in my little English body to think of you painting the simply beautiful court cabinet! Still, it’s your cabinet, you paint it and I’ll find a corner to weep in!

    But love the chair – total coolness!

  12. Oh, please don’t paint the court cabinet. My hubby restores antiques. Surely you can find someone who will tell you how to gently strip it (NO acid bath, puhleeze) and French polish it. Now, that would be a great skill to add to your already long list.

    In Him


  13. Beautiful color! I’m wondering, though, what happens when it gets wet or the person sitting in it gets hot. (Now, I realize I grew up in an un-airconditioned house in hot, humid East Tennessee…) Will the color also soak into whatever the person is wearing? Will the upholstery get funny watermark patterns? I sincerely hope not as the whole thing looks like a great idea. I agree with everyone else…please share your method for non-crunchy paint finishes! I am sure I could come up with a fabric painting project without too much prodding. πŸ™‚

  14. I LOVE the chair!
    As for the cabinet, I too cringe at the thought of painting it, but if you really must…..
    Maybe bright yellow with cobalt blue detailing on the doors and drawers? Or red with light blue to match with the piano!

  15. NO WAY! I know I’m way behind here as this was posted last November, but I really don’t believe you can PAINT UPHOLSTERY! I notice you haven’t posted the recipe… come, come now…make me a believer.

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