Sitting Pretty: 11 Amazing Chair Makeovers

Chairs are hospitable and versatile. Adding a couple of great chairs is an easy and affordable way to give a space a new look—plus, chairs are a cinch to reposition and move around as needed. This friendly adaptability is perhaps what motivates DIYers to habitually pick them up at thrift shops, auctions, and flea markets, or to resurrect them from the trash. In the hands of our 10 featured aesthetes, artists, and chair visionaries, this collection of broken and antiquated seats have been fortified and revamped with paint, fabric, trim, and a helping of TLC. Witness how, thanks to the patience and skill of these wonder-workers, each piece has been transformed into a better version of its former self.

  1. Scratched Up

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    aestheticoutburst.blogspot.com

    Inspired by a fiberglass chair makeover that she saw online, artist, crafter, and home renovator extraordinaire Abbey Hendrickson, of Aesthetic Outburst, turned to a similar but “yucky” chair that had been sitting dormant in her mudroom and prepared it for a facelift.

  2. Spruced Up

    2/23
    D08a368635a1e855ca2bcd0a7aa881bb

    aestheticoutburst.blogpost.com

    Armed with gold and cherry-red spray paints, Hendrickson coated the retro chair with fresh color. At one point, she wondered if her chair was a genuine Eames and was worried that repainting it may be the wrong thing to do. Her concern was fleeting, and soon enough, the gross, unused chair became a lively new perch.

  3. Old Gold

    3/23
    9d12a774313ce9e942f4aa90ede6daf1

    wildchairy.com

    “I often have a chair for quite some time before I find the perfect fabric for it,” says Wild Chairy’s Andrea Mihalik. Such was the case for one neglected vintage French Provincial chair Mihalik found at auction. “This chair definitely took its time in telling me what to do with it!”

  4. Paradise Punch

    4/23
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    wildcherry.com

    As soon as she spotted Schumacher’s bright medallion print by Trina Turk, Mihalik knew it was the right fabric for the chair, particularly given the way the vibrant colors and the tan background complemented the chair’s original finish.

  5. Rocking Roost

    5/23
    2657865f4673b2056e375ad156015887

    ericfausnacht.com

    For Eric Fausnacht, artist and fowl tender, a chair is really just another canvas. When he found this rocker—sturdy and comfy, but drab—Fausnacht saw it as a prime candidate for paint. The chair’s stylized gooseneck arms dictated his choice of subject.

  6. Egg-specially Fine

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    594a441b4b1e12195adbfffcfb27bdce

    ericfausnacht.com

    Fausnacht paints from his own photographs, culling a rich inventory from his backyard farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. After at least three layers of paint to prep (and conceal) the original fabric and primer, the resulting chair is as much a work of American art as it is a comfortable spot to nest.

  7. Buttoned Up

    7/23
    F007d068f7a83db18fe2cc0e172b275a

    wildchairy.com

    Andrea Mihalik, of Wild Chairy, snapped up this sweet Victorian side chair the moment she spied it. “The shape of the chair was very curvy and womanly,” she says, “and I wanted to do something special with it.”

  8. Laced Up

    8/23
    90f4d71488a50cb0606b115ac36a643f

    wildchairy.com

    Inspired by a pair of flirty black rain boots, Mihalik gave the chair a coquettish spin. Dressed in a luxurious ombré boiled wool and framed in high-gloss black, the voluptuous piece displays a provocative, corset-like lacing in the back.

  9. Regency Remodel

    9/23
    Dfafe5e1ab7f171ade9ecc503d9cd688

    tammysmithdesign.com

    When illustrator and all-around crafty gal Tammy Smith planned a studio renovation, a pair of vintage Hollywood Regency chairs were part of her vision. Though the crushed velvet looked fine to the eye, the cushioning was crunchy to the touch. Smith says, “It felt like it had rice inside, because all the foam had disintegrated.”

  10. Hollywood Star

    10/23
    Cf0ff51299922f1c9713ca300b3603d8

    tammysmithdesigns.com

    To start, Smith tore off every last bit of fabric and padding, and sanded down the exposed wood. The luxe finish on the frame is the result of many thin coats of spray enamel, sanded in between applications and finally buffed with paste wax. The neat array of 58 tufts is testament to Smith’s sheer patience and—to her surprise—the enjoyment she found in drilling each one out.

  11. Roadside Rescue

    11/23
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    thesalvageboutique.com

    All dressed up and fighting the urge to stop at a roadside heap, diehard upcycler Kathy Cruz, who co-runs The Salvaged Boutique with her sister, Karen, finally succumbed. “I am so glad my fear of being spotted by someone I know didn’t stop me,” she says of the vintage vanity chair—her favorite garbage pick to date.

  12. Cool Stool

    12/23
    B4906119789ed833f92a624fa525a9e1

    thesalvagedboutique.com

    Kathy worked alongside her mother to revive the chair. Together they reattached the back, fortified the wood seat, and freshened up the chair with new batting, paint, sprightly fabric, and pom-poms. The old casters worked just fine.

  13. Great Frames

    13/23
    535e191756530c4cf5d7faac243fd044

    jenniferlanne.com

    Jennifer Lanne is a fine artist who paints moody landscapes imbued with old-world romantic charm. When she picked up a pair of funky carved chairs for $40 at a garage sale, she imagined covering each with a painted scene. “I thought it was a fun way to live with art,” says Lanne.

  14. Master Pieces

    14/23
    078d49ef9037400cb249fee69e0d6fc8

    jenniferlanne.com

    Lanne’s multistep process includes distressing and waxing the canvas to create an original work of art intentionally aged to look centuries old. Waxing also makes the canvas more durable and pliable, which enhances the canvas's ability to function as upholstery. For the seats, Lanne divvied up a crewelwork coverlet, added fluffy batting underneath, and secured the fabric with a staple gun.

  15. Turn Around

    15/23
    72512454a9c5bb38caa7c74b6691c37c

    chairloom.com

    From top to bottom, these vintage barrel-shaped swivel chairs, with their poufy channelled backs, read like blue blobs. Though descended from a classic design, the tired, faded chairs didn’t turn many heads. The gals from Chairloom, however, in conjunction with Coldren Design, came up with a plan.

  16. Spinning Winner

    16/23
    890bd1cac87fb598257fb1eb8c87c3e6

    chairloom.com

    Custom chrome veneer applied to each chair's circular base gave the pair an instant glamour lift, while Madeline Weinrib's lyrical Ivy Blockprint fabric, handmade in India, lent an artisanal quality to the chairs and added to the overall beautification. “This is one of the transformations we live for!” the Chairloom gals say.

  17. Wood Not

    17/23
    Dba6a6a29b80e8deefc9d91564fc22da

    Courtesy Furniture Makeovers / Chronicle Books

    At Knack Studios in Greenville, South Carolina, Barb Blair exercises a no-fuss approach to making over furniture. Her first book, Furniture Makeovers, captures a sampling of Blair’s crafty industriousness. This boxy wood chair, coveted for its shapely frame and folklike character, was one of Blair’s lucky victims.

  18. Blair Flair

    18/23
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    Courtesy Furniture Makeovers / Courtesy Chronicle Books

    Blair used brown wax to both tone down and warm up her chosen paint—a playful turquoise. “Wax is my finish of choice when I want to add natural age and depth to a piece without adding a lot of shine,” Blair says. She then transformed the solid drab seat into a Bavarian beauty. So as not to detract from the vivacious print, she painted the upholstery tacks to blend with the wood.

  19. Just Meh

    19/23
    Ac6f6836847c4bdf5976f297a17c00cb

    missmustardseed.com

    Marian Parsons, the DIY decorating dynamo, author, and retailer also known as Miss Mustard Seed, will not sell any furniture that she wouldn’t want to use in her own home. She therefore felt compelled to update these Craigslist French tapestry chairs that were in decent enough shape but not good enough style.

  20. Oh Yeah

    20/23
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    missmustardseed.com

    Once the decorative tacks were removed, the fabric stripped, and the foam exposed, Parsons could begin anew. After adding extra batting for increased comfort, she fit antique linen grain sacks on the fronts, chose a new fruity indigo print for the backs, and trimmed them out with ivory gimp that she simply hot-glued into position. The original wood frame, aged to a warm patina, was left alone.

  21. Garden Variety

    21/23
    A9da779d25b5ae72199f1eb1d6f1e81e

    gardenhousedecor.net

    Fine-art photographer Cheryl Maeder of Gardenhouse, who also delights in remaking furniture, saw the potential in this old and ornate aluminum outdoor bench when she first set eyes on it. “While its very shabby-chic appearance may have been fine during the '90s, I wanted to update it with a fresh ‘vintage-gone-modern’ look,” Maeder says.

  22. Natural Wonder

    22/23
    06b5beb1f3cbaeaeee7002eb72b7f2a7

    gardenhousedecor.net

    Respectful of the piece’s Victorian roots and Art Nouveau ornamentation, Maeder went for a main fabric whose pattern hewed to the era but whose crisp chroma was bold and contemporary. The silver powder-coated finish protects the seat and also emphasizes its texture. Maeder says, “For me, re-creating furniture is a lot like making a work of art.”

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