Captain’s Chairs

Back in March (I think), I saw a Craigslist posting for a thrift store type place that sold old furniture that was purchased from hotels and we visited on a whim. Shortly after, we were loading these in the back of the SUV for $30 a pop.

Ready to refinish
Ready to refinish

I figured it would be a quick refinish, with a light sanding, slap on some paint and reupholster. Done and done.

*Spoiler alert*

Not a quick refinish. And if you noticed in my previous post, I only just finished these a couple weeks ago.

See, I decided to try out a new medium on a suggestion my mom made-spray paint. It would give a nice, clean finish she said. Mmhmm.

To start, you’ll take apart the upholstery so you’re working just with the wood. Keep the upholstery so you’ll have a template for your new fabric.

The cording was just attached with some super glue and pulled off relatively easily.
The cording was just attached with some super glue and pulled off relatively easily.
Remove the upholstered backing
Remove the upholstered backing
Remove the seats by unscrewing from the bottom (keep the screws someplace safe!)
Remove the seats by unscrewing from the bottom (keep the screws someplace safe!)

I lightly sanded to remove the sheen and sprayed a primer to give it a solid base coat

Primer applied - this doesn't have to be perfect or provide full coverage
Primed chair on the right, first coat of paint on the left. As you can see, primer does not have to provide full coverage, it’s just a base coat for the paint to adhere to.

This is where the trouble started. I’ve never worked with spray paint before but read a lot of blogs that rave about how easy to use it is. Not for me! Maybe it was the curves, but I had a really hard time getting an even coat. I either sprayed too close and it dripped, or sprayed too far and applied like a dusty mist-you could practically wipe it off after it dried. And I was using a lacquer finish which was supposed to be glossy but each coat ended up having a dull sheen.

I must have sanded and resprayed probably 7 times. At one point, I must not have followed the directions correctly and didn’t wait long enough for a second coat because the paint started crackling. Remember that crackle nail polish from the 90s?

Faaaancy

Yeah, that was what my chairs looked like. It didn’t matter how much I sanded the crackled sections, they always came back. At that point I reached the ‘F it’ point and decided that they would just be considered ‘weathered’, a perfect fit for the nautical theme! Right? Riiiiight.

Next I reupholstered the seats-this is the easy part which I’ve shown before. Lay the fabric (after washing and ironing it!), lay the seat, pull taught and put a staple on each side. Then, one side at a time, staple from the center to the corner, pulling taught as you, flipping over to check the seat for smoothness.

I had to push pretty hard with my staple gun, the seating material was pretty dense.
I had to push pretty hard with my staple gun, the seating material was pretty dense. Also, not an example of ‘taught’, you don’t want to see those ridges!

In hindsight, I should have done the seat backs first. Because I was using a patterned fabric that should have a seat and back that line up correctly, it would have been easier to match them up if I had done the backs first. Oops.

This is where the trouble continued. To cover the seat back, in most cases, should be pretty easy. You staple a layer of fabric facing outward (to be seen from behind), then attach the foam, then attach the front piece of fabric. Well with these chairs, the ‘lip’ to staple to was smaller than the head of my staple gun. And it’s a curved back. Straight tool. Curved Edge. Doesn’t quite work. Consider this paint drawing to explain (mild imagination required):

Left is the chair if viewing from the side, right is the staple gun. See how the staple would go through the lip? No? Well then just trust me, the staples would go right through the bottom of the lip.
Left is the chair if viewing from the side, right is the staple gun. See how the staple would go through the lip? No? Well then just trust me, the staples would go right through the bottom of the lip.

Clearly, a professional grade staple gun would have saved me many frustrations and would’ve prevented scratches/dents/gauges in my newly finished wood, but a future need for that is slim considering they’re a couple hundred bennies! For now I’ll stick with non seat-back upholstery projects 🙂

Sadly I don’t have any images for the next steps (womp, wooommp) but some google searches on reupholstering a seat back will walk you through it. Hopefully, you’d have more of a lip/edge to staple to.

After you’ve got all the fabric stapled, you apply cording or some kind of decorative trim to hide the ‘seam’. At first my mom made some cording out of extra material but it wasn’t quite the right thickness. A trip to Jo-anne’s yielded some navy rope that matched almost perfectly to the fabric. My mom and I glued it around the back and after letting it dry, put the seats back. And now I have a complete pair of lightly distressed captain’s chairs ;p

Captain's Chairs Complete!
Captain’s Chairs Complete!

One final tip….always use batting. Always always always! Mistake #505 of this project was not using batting. The foam I used for the seat backs was green. If you look at the chair on the left and compare the seat back and the seat, you’ll see the green showing through. D’oh!

The seat on the left looks yellowed, but that’s just the lighting, but notice how the seat and back have the same color? I didn’t have batting so I applied a white t-shirt instead to block the green from showing through.

The seat on the left is the truest to life color though. Overall, I’d give this a 5 out of 10 on quality, but these won’t be high traffic chairs so we’re living with them as they are.

What projects have you worked on lately? Ever had an uphill upholstery battle?

1 comment

    They came out looking great Kelly & Karen!

    A. Paulette | 3 years ago Reply

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