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A Respectable Makeover for an Antique Chair

My Hubby has this chair.

His great grandfather took it apart, rebuilt it and refinished it in the 1960s.  I have no idea how old it is.  What I do know is that it is uncomfortable and, to be frank, kind of clunky.


But it was sacrosanct, so I never considered painting it.  In our old apartment, it lived in my office until one day Hubby sat in it.  Did I mention it’s uncomfortable?  We replaced it with a cushier chair, and this one moved to our storage locker.  In our townhouse, it has lived only in the basement.

Itching to give the basement a look that is a little less “this is where furniture comes to die,” I finally asked if I could paint the chair.

Hubby said yes!!!  

So this came to mind:

Vandongen Dingen; Matter; Anthropologie; Charlotte Love

But Hubby said no.  

Darn, so close.  But I agreed: I didn’t want this family heirloom (one of Hubby’s few sentimental pieces) to look cheesy or too trendy.  So I asked about black.  Because the legs were already black, I reasoned, it was hardly deviating from his great grandpa’s plan.

Hubby said yes!

Source Unknown; Vandonden Dingen; West Elm; Pink Peppers

I chose a super cool matte black for a more modern look.  And it’s perfect.  Although still uncomfortable (I’d been hoping it was all in my mind, generated by my feelings of “blech” about how it looked).  Here’s a sneak peek:

Here’s How:

I lightly sanded the chair with a fine grit sandpaper and then wiped it clean with a dry cloth.  Easy-peasy.  Then I splurged on a paint+primer in one:

I learned the hard way I needed to be much closer than usual for this paint to work.  Otherwise, it dried mid-air and just coated the chair with black dust.  Of course, after I compared can labels, I realized the 6 inch difference between this and my usual paint.  Always read the can!!

Using many very light coats, I first sprayed the underside, waited 48 hours and then flipped it over to paint the top.  To make spray painting easier, we hammered little nails into the legs, so it “floated” a bit.  That way, the paint didn’t glue the chair to the cardboard.

I recently had to empty the whole living room to shoot a project for a magazine (details soonish) and while the space was empty, I snapped some photos of the chair. Doesn’t it look like an art gallery in here?



Then I moved the chair to the dining room to see how the light was there.  It has been sitting there since, not yet banished to the basement . . .


Maybe too many photos of a matte black chair?  It’s just that this is a BIG moment for me, a real turning point of no longer living with things that irritate me whenever I look at them.  The chair and I can now be friends.

P.S. I linked up at the DIY Show Off Project Parade & POWW 100



  1. Kucorgó anyámkája
    July 18, 2012 / 12:02 pm

    Gyönyörű lett! Nem volt sok a kép, öröm volt nézegetni 🙂

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      July 18, 2012 / 12:43 pm

      Köszönöm 🙂 Aggódtam, hogy túl sok fotó.

  2. M
    July 18, 2012 / 12:22 pm

    My grandmother has a chair almost identical that my grandfather made – I would do the same thing! Turned out great!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      July 18, 2012 / 12:42 pm

      Thanks!!Maybe all these grandpa's took a course in uncomfortable chair making?

  3. Interior Design Musings
    July 18, 2012 / 12:45 pm

    So fabulous! I think sometimes I try to hard to make a DIY change, but there is something to be said for an "understated" redo. It is so so good. PS: I am loving my gold/cream dish from your easy shop. I will post pictures of it soon when I do the reveal of my freshened up master bedroom. One thing I would love to see in your etsy shop is some of your fabulous ability in the artwork department! Those pieces in this post are amazing. M.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      July 18, 2012 / 12:52 pm

      Sometimes I am slightly disappointed for not having done trendier makeovers, but when I do, I inevitably grow tired quickly. More classic makeovers have enjoyed more longevity in the decor. But i think I need my next makeover needs to be a little brighter! Maybe a hot pink chair?!?SO happy you love the dish! I do have plans to add some art, more homemade textiles and jewellery etc., in the new year (but the paintings in this post are actually by Hubby's grandpa – Bert Weir ( It's just scary to put my humble work out there.

  4. Designwali
    July 18, 2012 / 12:45 pm

    Looks fierce. You got mad skillz. If you lived closer I would beg you to teach me stuff. 🙂

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      July 18, 2012 / 12:53 pm

      Awww, thanks! But a lot of it is trial and error. Lots of error.

  5. Jeanette @ This Dusty House
    July 18, 2012 / 12:46 pm

    I can see the problem with comfort. This looks like a kitchen chair to me, one you eat in, leaning forward, never leaning back. The arms, however, may be too far forward to that too… However, it's pretty! And I love the change. Also, great tip about hammering nails into the legs to keep it off the floor! Definitely filing that tidbit away for later use!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      July 18, 2012 / 12:54 pm

      It's also hard on the bum. Like sitting on a piece of cement. Ouch. Happy to pass along a useful tip. I think I read it somewhere . . . it was my first time doing it and it worked wonders!!

  6. ournextgreatadventure
    July 18, 2012 / 12:57 pm

    That looks great! I love chairs with history (even if they are uncomfortable). Would a fun (trendy?) pillow help with the comfort?

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      July 18, 2012 / 1:00 pm

      Thanks! Yes, a pillow is in the works. I was thinking pink silk, but we'll see. I need a little sewing fairy . . .

  7. Ashley
    July 18, 2012 / 2:38 pm

    That matte black is gorgeous! I have some old chairs that I have plans to redo…I was going to remove the finish and re-stain but it's turning into way more work than I'm interested in doing for a $1.25 chair (seriously). I might just have to go matte black!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      July 18, 2012 / 10:13 pm

      Staining can be such a pain! But I'm sure they will be gorgeous (and worth the effort). Can't wait to see what you do!

  8. thompson
    July 18, 2012 / 6:01 pm

    what a great makeover! love the matte choice. well done!

  9. Miranda
    July 18, 2012 / 7:12 pm

    It. Looks. AWESOME!!!!! (Kinda like everything you do!)What an improvement. The matte black was a genius move.And hey… since it's a bit uncomfortable… and also happens to be sitting in a corner…. why not make it a "time out" chair ?!?

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      July 18, 2012 / 10:14 pm

      Thanks Miranda!! You're makin' me blush :PTime out chair for Hubby?? LOL.

  10. Kelly @ JAX does design
    July 18, 2012 / 7:18 pm

    Well, if it can't be comfortable, it can at least look good! The matte black finish gives it a much more modern look. I'd be tempted to do a little silver dip job on the bottoms of the legs – maybe your husband won't notice :-)Great idea to use the nails to hold the chair of the ground while you spray painted it.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      July 18, 2012 / 10:15 pm

      Ha ha! Dollars to donuts he wouldn't notice!! I just don't like the style, how the back legs are different, so I think a little dip might emphasize that and draw attention there. But I'm game for dipping all the other legs in the house.

  11. KatieQ
    July 18, 2012 / 7:38 pm

    Thanks for the great tip about using the nails on the legs of the chair. I never would have thought of that and have the newspaper stuck on the bottom of a few chairs to prove it.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      July 18, 2012 / 10:16 pm

      Oh, I've done that before too. I was happy this little trick worked.

      • Annaeseed
        July 21, 2022 / 12:50 am

        How did the spray paint hold up over time?

        • July 21, 2022 / 11:42 am

          Really well! 10 years later I still have this chair and it still has this paint job. BUT I think it’s partly because it’s uncomfortable, so it doesn’t see a lot of use. I have successfully spray painted a lot of things over the years and some tips: scuff sand first (if the item will be used a lot), always use a primer or primer + paint combo, follow manufacturer’s instructions to the letter – particular re-coat times and humidity!

  12. Ashley@AttemptsAtDomestication
    July 18, 2012 / 8:02 pm

    It looks really good! My grandmother has a ton of these chairs in her basement, we use them for extras during the holidays and they are soooo uncomfortable, usually a cushion or pillow under your tush helps for a bit!

  13. Erica {let why lead}
    July 18, 2012 / 11:02 pm

    I really like how flat the paint is. Great touch!

  14. How2home
    July 18, 2012 / 11:06 pm

    LOVE the color you choice Tanya! I think the chair is so sleek and chic. Some times the simpler the better right! I bet your husband loves the chair!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      July 19, 2012 / 12:29 pm

      It took him awhile to get used to it. I think at first he was in shock. But he SAYS he likes it now . . . I think he likes that it is no longer an abandoned piece. But, you know, I'm not 100% sure he likes it . . .

    • How2home
      July 19, 2012 / 2:15 pm

      Sometimes it take a while for a guys to like things. I know that b/c my better half hates chevron but i adore it! So I add a touch of it here and there to try to get him to like it 🙂 and its working so far LOL

  15. Martina
    July 19, 2012 / 1:18 am

    Everyone has beat me to it but I love how simple yet chic this chair looks now in matte black. Oh, and that picture of the chair in your empty living room under the two paintings? Yeah, definitely magazine worthy– it's like you channelled all of minimalism chic into that one picture. It's really quite striking.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      July 19, 2012 / 12:28 pm

      Thanks Martina! The townhouse is so small (everyone has seen almost every nook and cranny), I'm having to get creative and take any opportunity to take interesting photos. Hubby thought I was nutty.

  16. Keira
    July 19, 2012 / 2:14 am

    Great makeover! Love the black, and will definitely be using that nail technique –that's genius!

  17. Whitney @ drab to fab design
    July 19, 2012 / 1:09 pm

    It looks fantastic. So simple and classy. I never thought about putting nails in the bottom…genius!! Your home is beautiful, btw!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      July 19, 2012 / 1:38 pm

      Thanks Whitney!!

  18. Carrie Waller
    July 19, 2012 / 1:10 pm

    Really pretty! I'm glad you went for it and painted it…Can't wait to hear the magazine news too!!! How exciting…

  19. Amy
    July 19, 2012 / 1:21 pm

    So bummed i am reading this today and not yesterday morning. There were at least 4 of this chair on the street for garbage pick up yesterday and I was tempted to grab at least one, but I didn't because I didn't see how I could make it look fresh or modern! And Now here it is! I will definitely have to keep my eyes open for the next time. I love the matte black, so great!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      July 19, 2012 / 1:38 pm

      Oh no! That's happened to me too – I get a great idea after the moment/opportunity has passed. I guarantee you'll find others 🙂

  20. Coley @ What You Make IT
    July 19, 2012 / 3:22 pm

    It looks great!

  21. betinahluna
    July 20, 2012 / 11:43 am

    Loving the chairs! Really nice addition to my apartment.

  22. StarletStarlet
    July 21, 2012 / 7:57 pm

    Tanya, the chair looks ultra special and as much as I love the ombre and colorful chairs, I really am glad that you went with all black. You give elegance and somehow a certain touch of glam with the matte black! LOVE LOVE LOVE! And oy oy oy, love how it looks, art gallery style!!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      July 22, 2012 / 1:46 pm

      Thank you!! You always leave the sweetest comments and make me blush 🙂

  23. Anonymous
    August 1, 2012 / 1:45 am

    Ok so I am one of those women who loooves the look of natural wood. I made a knotty pine bookshelf when my niece was born to store all her bottles, diapers, etc. I finally painted/refinished it. She's 13! Yes it took me that long to get okay with painting natural wood. What?I have an important tip for you. You didn't mention it so I don't know if you put a protective coating on top of the black paint (which I looove). Paint never actually cures so you must coat it with a flat polyurethane especially if you plan to put a cushion on it. Without the poly, the paint will literally glue the pillow to the chair a little bit every time you sit on it. And let it cure for about a month before even setting the pillow on it, let alone sit on it.You'll have to post an updated shot after you make your pillow.

  24. Cassie @ Primitive & Proper
    August 7, 2012 / 5:38 pm

    such a classic in every way!

  25. daiseyjayne
    August 8, 2012 / 9:47 pm

    Wonderful, looks like a piece of sculpture!

  26. Anonymous
    March 2, 2014 / 1:17 pm

    Does anyone know the Correct name for this style of chair? I have this exact same chair just purchased at a thrift and was wondering what it's called. love the make over

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      March 2, 2014 / 2:55 pm

      I think it's called a captain's chair. When I Google that, similar styles pop up. But I'm not 100% certain.

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