before and after

before & after: three chair makeovers

by Kate Pruitt

We had a bevy of chair projects in our inbox, so I thought, why not share another trio of cool chair makeovers? The first one comes from Chyanne, who spotted this chair with an unusual back (and yucky upholstery) at a garage sale. After a heavy dose of sanding, staining and reupholstery, she wound up with a very charming mod chevron chair—this would certainly catch my eye in a furniture shop. Great job, Chyanne! — Kate

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

Time: 5 hours

Cost: $35

Basic Steps: I sanded all of the old, chipping varnish off – which took about three sanding sessions. Then I applied a light stain, and a couple layers of fresh varnish. Lastly, I recovered the seat cushion with the chevron fabric. I love wood. Sometimes it takes a little extra elbow grease to restore a tired old wood, but it is totally worth it. Chyanne

See the other two chair makeovers after the jump!

I think it would be so fun to design the interior of a food establishment, and what would be more fun than one that specializes in baked goods? There’s almost always a dose of whimsy and delight in bakery interiors, and these dip-dyed chairs by Pilar are no exception. Pilar was helping her sister outfit her new bakery, Frosted, and she had the genius idea to modernize some thrifted chairs by adding a fresh coat of white and dipping the legs in cotton-candy pink. I love them! Perfect for a bakery. Nice job, Pilar!

Time: 8 hours

Cost: $125 for chairs and supplies

Basic Steps: We used white paint, spray primer and painter’s tape that was leftover from the construction of the bakery. Two of the chairs had been painted black, so they required a coat of primer. After priming, I applied 2 coats of white to each. After all had dried thoroughly, the legs were taped, and I flipped them upside down and painted just 1/3 with Glidden Pink Ballet Slipper paint. The next morning, they went right into the bakery!

My advice is get some extra hands and a babysitter! I had my niece’s help for a bit, but otherwise it was just me with a paintbrush and a very BORED 3-year-old. And priming is always a good idea in the long run. Don’t skip this step. — Pilar


I’ve always liked the look of aluminum chairs, but never found them quite comfortable enough to justify choosing them over something else. I appreciate the way that Jessica and Charlie have renovated this set of old Goodform Navy chairs — the padding looks nice and cushy, and the smart asymmetrical stripes and color palette offer a nod to the history of the chairs but also provide a nice modern, industrial look. Nicely done, guys!

Time: 2 weeks (on nights and weekends)

Cost: $200

Basic Steps: For starters, these chairs were in overall good vintage condition. Besides some minor scratches on the aluminum and completely dry-rotted foam, there were no major blemishes on these beauties. Knowing that these chairs are somewhat hard to come by (especially in good condition) and the fact that we had five of them, we really wanted to do something special. We finally settled on modern military to the max. The first order of business was to remove the armrests, seats and seat backs to sand down the aluminum on each chair, removing all the grime, grit and minimal scratches. This was a long, grueling process. Once they were to our satisfaction, we wiped them down and clear-coated them. Next, we cleaned up the armrests and re-attached them. The foam on the seats was so dry-rotted, we had to chisel the foam off of the metal seat; let’s just say it was not pretty. We used authentic military wool in gray for our fabric choice, but that wasn’t enough. We custom screen-printed a modern, yet distressed, chevron design in red and white on the seat backs and a small red accent strip on the front left corner of each seat. From there, we reupholstered the seats and the seat backs, and viola, new life! — Jessica and Charlie

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  • I love all three but the first chair with its unusual back is my favourite. The pink tips are fab its such an easy update too! x

  • I just love these chair makeovers. It’s such a basic piece of furniture, but it can make all the difference in an interior!

  • Great chairs. I love the cleanness of the first chair. The pink dipped legs of the second or so charming.. and the third chair was so unexpected.. a great surprise.

  • Actually, I changed my mind: I love the chairs! Saying that they were prettier before being painted was really idiotic. I apologize!

  • Oh my goodness! If only we still had the awesome aluminum chair from when I was little! Those turned out so cute!

  • I love that first chair. That fabric choice really makes it. I also love how they gave the chairs that dipped in pink look.

  • Does anyone have details on how to restore the aluminum of the chairs? I have 2 similar Goodform chairs that REALLY need some help.

  • All of them are gorgeous! The screen-printed design of the aluminum chairs is perfect <3

  • I’d love more info on restoring Goodform chairs, too. My desk chair definitely suffers from decayed foam but I’m dreading the mess of opening it up.

  • Hi Kay! We sanded the Goodform chairs with steel wool, which removed all the grit and grime, even minor to moderate scratches. I’d suggest gloves and a respirator (or some sort of inhalation protection). It takes quite a while, you’ll have to be patient, but it’s worth it! If you can manage to remove the arm rests to get up underneath them, I’d encourage you to go for it. After sanding, we gave them a good wipe down and hit them with some spray clear coat for added protection. Hope this helps! Good luck!

  • I can’t find a superlative quite good enough to express my appreciation of these chairs…so many good decisions and a wonderful final result! Bravo!!

  • I would also love to know where the grey chevron fabric came from. Love the transformation.

  • Thanks for sharing. All the chairs look great. My favorite is the wooden garage sale find that now has a chevron print seat. I’m inspired!

  • i have a similar problem to kate – i have a goodform, with the same arms as the redone chairs, but the back is a vinyl(? – it’s some sort of man made material) swivel back, and it’s a spring seat rather than flat metal. super comfy, but the foam is like sawdust.

    how hard is it to take these apart? i really really need to, but i’m intimidated like woah.

  • Jessica & Charlie: beautiful job!

    I actually have a pair of Goodform chairs that I’m in the middle of reupholstering myself.

    I’m a bit stuck though … how did you attach the new fabric to the freshly scraped metal seat & back pans? I’ve seen a tutorial using Barge cement glue, but I’m a bit hesitant to do that in case I have to remove the fabric for cleaning some day.

  • Hi Catherine, These kinds of chairs are fairly simple to take apart, it’s the putting them back together that can be a pain. Usually, there are two screws near the bottom of the seat back that hold it in place, along with two tabs near the top of the seat back that are inserted into slots in the frame. It’s generally a two man job, but very doable. We haven’t done one with a spring seat, so I can’t give you much guidance there, but what I can tell you is… once you get it all apart and have new foam and fabric, use an industrial spray adhesive (upholstery adhesive if you can find it) to adhere the foam to the metal and the fabric to the foam, it just keeps everything in place. To fully install the fabric, wrap it around the edges where there are little metal tabs (they’re a part of the metal frame) that you fold the fabric into and hammer down, a little adhesive here never hurt either! Hope this helps! Good luck, be strong!

  • Hi Jocelyn, we used upholstery adhesive to adhere the foam to the metal frame and also to adhere the fabric to the foam. You can usually get by with a general industrial adhesive found at your average hardware store. You’ll know it’s the right stuff if it sprays somewhat like silly string, like it’s casting a web. You’ll notice in the after pics of our chairs that the seat is actually contoured. We could not have achieved that look without the adhesive. The fabric an foam would have had to float over the seat frame and would cause the fabric to wear more easily, as it would move up and down when in use. If you ever have to remove the fabric for any reason, you’d still be able to with a little tug. Hope that helps!

  • All of the chairs are amazing! I am in the process of refinishing 6 dining chairs and this is really inspiring. What color of stain did you use for the first chair? I’m having trouble finding the right color. Thanks!

  • Great makeovers. Esp. love the first one. So unique! I would have never thought to do the Chevron fabric, but it is perfect.

  • All I can say is Awesome!!! It’s not always easy to have that vision of what something can be! These are great transformations that are do-able! Thanks for a little inspiration :)

  • Love love love that first chair. The work you put into into that wood shows…it looks lovely.

  • Awesome inspiration ideas!!! I have a few chairs that I have been wanting to re-do but kept putting it on the back burner. This is just the nudge I needed :-)

  • I always love the redo, but I have issues with how much these redo costs are. It isn’t worth it at all to me. I’d consider myself a fool for spending that kind of money. My most pricey redo was for my kitchen high back stools. I paid 25 for the pair and they were boring grey fabric and basic stain. I had a beautiful velveteen skirt I found at the good will bin, so chump change, a nice coat of black paint on hand 3 hours later, a happy me. Lol

    • Raven

      I understand your point of view- but I hope that people also understand that our readership represents a broad range of income levels. And while we focus primarily on low cost makeovers, every now and then we like to show the other end of the spectrum.


  • Did you find that some of the arm rest on the military chairs were cracking (needed replacing). where did you get replacements.