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How to Paint a Chair

If you have ever felt the need to spruce up a set of chairs or give them a new look, why not try a little bit of paint?  Our tastes in decor and color will probably alter throughout our lives, and at some point, we may find ourselves wanting to change the look of our furniture without having to spend a lot of money.  That's where a few handy tips, some tools from the hardware store, and good-quality paint come in handy.  

I know I'm not alone in paying visits to local antique shops, antique fairs and flea markets, and falling in love with pieces of furniture that would be perfect if they were just a different color.  You don't have to walk away from a good purchase simply because it's the wrong color.  

My dear friend, Jeffrey, is forever enhancing his home with collectibles from flea markets and tag sales.  However, certain items aren't always up to Jeffrey's tastes when he brings them home.  He is the type of person who won't hesitate to change the look of something if he sees it appropriate to do so.  

Recently, he had the opportunity to refinish a set of vintage Grange chairs with some milk paint that he picked up at the local hardware store.  When he shared the finished product with me, I knew that I wanted to blog about the whole process, using Jeffrey's helpful tips and great photographs. 

Let Jeffrey show you step-by-step how to paint a wooden chair.  It's a good thing to know how to do, especially if you find yourself wanting to give a new look to some otherwise dull-looking furniture.  

The Grange chair before painting.

Be sure to protect surfaces with a piece of cardboard or a drop cloth, and wear old clothes that you won't mind getting spotted or smudged with paint. Work in a well-ventilated area.

Use a good quality denatured alcohol with an old rag to wipe off any oils, grease or soiling from the chair's surface.  Allow it to dry thoroughly.

Choose a sanding block of a very fine grit to prep the chair.  Lightly sand all surfaces. 

If your chairs have any intricate areas, such as carved spindles, finials, turned banisters or crested rails, be sure to gently sand those sections well.

If you happen to notice any imperfections, fill these in with a wood filler from your local hardware store, and once dry, resand lightly again.

Use a brush or a tack cloth to remove any dust from sanding for better paint adhesion.

I chose a water-based milk paint (premixed) for my application.  Be sure it's shaken well before opening the can.

Use an appropriately-sized paint brush of good quality for optimal results.  

It's now time to paint.  Be careful not to overload the brush with paint.  Wipe it against the rim of the can as you lift the brush to remove any excess.

As you can see with my particular Grange chair, it is going to need a second coating of paint, and perhaps even a third to get it well covered.

Note:  remember to let the first coat of paint dry for at least two hours, before attempting to add the second coat.  

Lightly sand the entire chair between each coat of paint, and remember to use the finest grit of sand paper available, so that you don't remove the layer of paint you have just applied.

Last, but not least, is the application of butchers wax.  Applying a coating of butchers wax not only gives the finished product a nice sheen, but it also helps keep the surface from becoming dull and dingy.

The before and after photos of Jeffrey's work shows you the benefits of taking the time to carefully repaint an old chair.  If you ever find yourself the recipient of hand-me-down wooden furniture from the family, or if you come across a set of wooden chairs at a local tag sale that need some renovation, look to Jeffrey's informative tutorial.  His clear instructions will have your pieces of furniture looking their best in no time. 

I want to thank my good friend Jeffrey, for taking the time to photograph his work and for sharing his expertise with us.  

Excellent work!


  1. LOVE this step by step instruction. I have the perfect chair to tackle! Thanks David and Jeffrey!

  2. Love the color. Interesting that you chose milk paint--a fairly unusual old time paint. A little less durable than acrylic, and much less than oil based paint. I used some that I got for a good price at ReStore, on woodwork, and ended up coating it with Hard Coat Mod Podge to protect it. Butcher's wax seems like a good choice; I've never used it before. I'll have to give it a try. Thanks for all the good tips.

  3. Beautiful tutorial ... The paint colour is lovely!


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