before and after

before and after

by Grace Bonney

it’s always fun to see what people can do with their own two hands, some paint and a little fabric. d*s reader joanna had owned this chair forever (her mother-in-law found it on the side of the road in baltimore) and carried it with her to new hampshire when she and her family moved. she explained that she “finally” painted and recovered it using a high gloss yellow-green paint and amy butler fabric. i think the chair looks fantastic- especially when you see what it looked like before! (see below). thanks to everyone who takes the time to send projects like this my way- it’s endlessly inspiring to see how talented and crafty you guys are.


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  • Thank you! I was afraid of doing something wrong and then realized it’s all in fun…and that revelation guided how I chose the paint and fabric.

    I found a swatch I liked from Walmart paint called Breadfruit. but I had it color matched in another brand. The chair got at least 4 coats (and would have done more if I wasn’t working on a self-imposed deadline). I wanted it shiny, shiny, shiny!

    (I had actually painted it a glossy blue first and while I absolutely LOVED the color, it didn’t compliment the fabric.)

  • Normally I’m not a fan of yellow, but that is such a bright and cheery chair! I love that, and it makes me wonder what I could do with some of the old pieces my family keeps in various basements.

  • Joanna- Did you sand or prime the chair before painting? I have a bench I want to paint, but am not looking forward to sanding!

  • Julia, I did not sand. Not only because I hate sanding, but also because the chair is so old and I have lead paint fear. (OK, so it wasn’t painted before, but maybe refinished with something clear…I know I’m stretching.)

    I did wash the chair down well and vigorously prime–two coats, just to make sure it stuck. I keep giving latex based primers a chance and then kicking myself for it. So I’d stick to a good oil-based primer.

    Anna, I did not do the upholstery myself, but that is next on my list of “to learn” skills. I’ve been searching for a class up in my neck of the (literal) woods, but haven’t had any luck yet. The husband/wife team who covered the chair did a fantastic job. It cost $200 for the labor and supplies, not including the fabric. To me, TOTALLY worth it.

  • Looks lovely. I was thinking to use Amy Butler nigella fabric for my sofa, but I was told by a specialist that it was too light for upholstery… Did you do some backing or just use as is?

  • You did an amazing job! it looks fantastic! I’m curious though if it’s an Ethan allen chair..my grandmother had a set from the Early seventies that looked *very* similar to that chair in its before state.

  • The fabric was used as it. It’s the from the home decorator weight line, and my upholsterer didn’t object. I don’t anticipate it will get tons of wear (although it’s our dog’s favorite lounging chair…eek!), though.

    I do not think it’s an Ethan Allen chair; I haven’t seen any marking or identification on it. I think it predates that time (or else took a pretty heavy beating during that time).

  • Yikes, am I the only person who hates it? At first I thought it went from that frightening yellow and turquoise to the really great dark wood and red upholstery… I was shocked to find out it went the other way (although the red fabric does, of course, need replacing).

    Well, to each her own! It always pains me to see wood painted over anyway :)

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