Painting Upholstery

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I tried upholstery spray paint years ago with pretty good results, and I've been wanted to try painting upholstery with a brush for a while too. I got a pair of little white swivel club chairs a few months ago for $30 for the pair. I love the shape of the arms, but the fabric was pretty dingy and old. I knew I would want to reupholster these eventually, but I didn't know what room they'd go in and I wanted to wait to choose a color/pattern. These felt like the perfect candidate for painting the upholstery.

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I followed these instructions and used textile medium and Valspar paint from Lowes which is actually acrylic paint. The color I chose was Sunburst Orange from Benjamin Moore. It's a bright, fun coral that's perfect for accent chairs.

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The basic idea is you mix textile medium with really, really watered down acrylic paint (so you can buy craft paint if you don't have a huge surface area to cover like I did with two chairs). You spray the upholstery with a water bottle and then softly brush on the paint mixture.

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You have to do several coats with drying time in between and you sort of have to find that sweet spot of even coverage and not too crispy from the paint. These chairs are a little stiff, but if you use a sanding block to knock off any uneven bumps and to loosen up the paint a little, it ends up feeling sort of like canvas. Not exactly like silk velvet, but not too bad.

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I wouldn't do this with special chairs that you're going to sit in all the time or a primary use sofa, but it's a perfect option for accent chairs or (and maybe especially!) dining chair seats.

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Have you tried painting any of your upholstery? How did it work out for you? I'd love to see any links if you've posted about it.

42 comments:

Rachel Rardon said...

Great project! I like how the subtle pattern/texture shows through even after being painted. Gorgeous coral color!

Splendid Market said...

That is incredible, I've never tried it, but would not hesitate in the right situation. A coat of paint has really brought those chairs back to life!

Kelly Still Employed! said...

I haven't tried it but I bookmarked a tutorial on this years ago and have always been curious. Oh and great pillow! I have the same one in a lighter grey/silver.

Helen said...

I tried this with an ottoman and I was surprised at how well it came out! You're right - it's not something you'd want to do on a chair that you use all the time but it's a great option for more decorative pieces!
http://www.mrsbomb.com/1510/painting-a-fabric-ottoman/

Eco Chic Sense said...

Love the colorful transformation and how the paint highlights the gorgeous texture. Definitely what I call an eco chic project!

Haley said...

This looks great! I love how you can still see the chevron texture. I tried painting my own chair about two years ago (http://halestorm23.blogspot.com/2012/01/painted-chair.html) and am currently in the process of reupholstering the same chair. I don't think I wet my chair enough or painted thin enough coats. Otherwise, I feel like this is always a great project for when you're waiting on enough money or the right fabric for a reupholstery job.

Patricia Villamil said...

I would be worry about the staining my clothes by sitting or rubbing against them. They look stunning but is this feasible?

Maywyn Studio said...

Beautiful. Thank you for the tips.

I painted a chair. ugh, I made a huge mess. Best to scrub areas that might be greasy like where the head rests and the top of the arms first with dish liquid, rinsing well. I set the chair up right too soon. The paint migrated darker towards the seat. Not a bad look though.

citygirlarts.com said...

Cool! I haven't painted upholstery, but I did use Ben Moore Starburst Orange on this cute hutch: http://citygirlarts.com/2013/08/29/ive-got-a-groovy-kind-of-hutch/ I was tickled to see you have discovered this great color, too! Leslie

Laura - Essaie Blog said...

I painted (this same tutorial!) a pair of wingback chairs of my mom's...took them from 90's-hunter-green to a more updated peacock blue. Worked so well! Right on about the texture, kind of rough and canvas-y feeling...but works just fine for the chairs. We added a throw pillow for the comfort factor and all was well.
Did the spray fabric paint cover well? I've been curious about using it, but didn't want to have to buy 60 cans to cover a square foot, ifyouknowwhatImean.

Love that bright coral colour!

msemersonj2010 said...

I did a chair thanks to that tutorial as well!

http://www.hypheninteriors.com/chairs

I'm "Reader without a blog Julie." I scored the chair for $30 on Craigslist and simply love it.

The pattern in the fabric on your chairs makes them infinitely cooler. Love it!

Julia said...

I had a teeny tiny blog that I used to keep, and only had a handful of posts, but I did paint a chair. It turned out pretty good, and actually I like the texture of the fabric better now. Its a nice smooth canvas and it doesn't feel "painty" at all:

http://littlepinkhome.blogspot.com/2012/01/how-to-paint-upholstered-chair.html

colleen said...

love how this looks in your room!

Ms. Weatherbee said...

Very interesting and informative - thanks for sharing this cool project! I'm just curious - do they feel a little "crusty" when you sit down?

Anonymous said...

I went a slightly different direction, in that I used fabric paint. I bought a vintage sofa, burn tested the fabric and determined it was mercinized cotton, and then went to town painting. I used a heat gun to set the paint. It's been a year, and we love it. No change to the fabric texture, the pattern shows through. It looks to me like washed silk, which is kinda what I was going for. https://plus.google.com/photos/100008232896049278526/albums/6023006239437449361

Nina Leung said...

I had no idea one could paint upholstery. What a fantastic way to be able to use something until you know what to do with it. I love the orange color you chose. It looks great! Thanks for the instructions on how to do it.

Gwen, The Makerista said...

This is definitely something I've wanted to try, but have never had the right piece to (something light enough). That color is just beautiful!

Elizabeth Kallembach said...

I am in the process of painting two vintage velvet club chairs I bought for $25 at the Goodwill (this is going to be temporary until I can afford to have them reupholstered professionally); but so far, it's turning out well ( I'm using Sherwin Williams dark night)

shari said...

I did paint an accent chair a few years ago.I hadn't a clue about such a thing, back then. So, did not use fabric medium. Still, it all worked out fine! I too knew that the chair need reupholstering, but didn't want to do it yet, so what was to lose?
you can see at:http://abundantpicnic.blogspot.com/2011/02/cant-hurt-to-try.html

smash said...

How fun, I have never heard of this! It seems like it would be perfect for a bench in a hallway or something that wouldn't get tons of traffic. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I saw a blog post some time ago where a sofa was painted black. It had a great looking decorative wooden frame. It looked fantastic!
Super chic!

Kristin Fleming said...

What a great idea! Would have never thought to paint fabric.

Lily L-M said...

Awesome tips, Jenny -- as always!

x Lily
whilemyboyfriendsaway.blogspot.com

Darilyn said...

I painted my floral couch a blue-grey using Tulip Soft paints and posted about it here!

http://darilynjeter.blogspot.com/2013/11/oh-hey-i-painted-my-couch.html

I follow lots of blogs, but yours is my favorite!

Julia Konya said...

I want o try to paint chairs, YES. I'm actually sharing a project tomorrow where I painted curtains with really watered down Valspar paint and fabric medium for a watercolor effect. I tried it without even knowing that it is acrylic paint. I thought it was latex as well. Learned something new.
And I'm glad that it is acrylic because that's what you actually need for fabric medium ;) perfect. Thanks.

Andrea said...

These little chairs are perfect. Love the color you chose too. I painted an upholstered ottoman and it turned out great. I used the same tutorial you did.


http://oakridgerevival.blogspot.com/2012/05/oh-yes-i-did.html

Linda@ Lime in the Coconut said...

Ooooh lovely color. YES...my daughter and I painted a loveseat in her room. You can check it out here. I did recover the bottom seat in cotton duck...with a zipper. To make it a bit softer.
http://coconutsandlimes.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-story-of-cheapo-re-do.html

I have an orange leather chesterfield that I keep eyeing wondering if I can paint it white!!

jennifer said...

I've been trying to get up enough nerve to try this. I have been concerned about a crunchy texture. These chairs look great!!

sarah m. dorsey said...

I love the color - it's perfect!! I painted a eames shell chair upholstery with rit dye and had good luck! http://sarahmdorseydesigns.blogspot.com/2013/09/dyeing-and-upholstered-eames-shell-chair.html

Stiltskin Studios said...

http://www.stiltskinstudios.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-painted-couch.html?m=1

We used Amy Howard One Step Paint, sealed w wax then burnished....looks and feels loke soft leather!

Katie @ Red House West said...

Your chairs looks great! I love the color you chose. I painted the upholstery of a tulip chair that was completely trashed. I don't love the result - it's scratchy and oddly shiny in spots - but I can actually use it now and that's a great improvement!
http://redhousewest.com/2014/04/14/a-project-in-which-i-avoid-a-slum-of-legs-and-also-learn-to-temper-my-diy-expectations/

Kate said...

Wow. I never thought of painting upholstery. You brought those chairs back to life by doing that. :)

Kate, aka Thriftburgher

Bec said...

I would never have guessed! They look awesome!!

Amy Kitch said...

I've never even considered that this was an option for refreshing upholstery! Thanks for the tips!

Stephanie said...

um THIS is an amazing idea! You're right- an accent chair or something not being sat in all the time would be perfect! I can't wait to try it!

Anonymous said...

After ten seconds of your website loading, I was redirected to a Twix that said, "returning to content in 39 seconds." I felt like I was on Hulu or something. Not the kind of vibe you'd expect for a blogger.

Amanda aka MamaRobot said...

Incredible! I had no idea you could paint upholstery!

Anonymous said...

Is there grout between your floor boards?

Jessica@CapeofDreams said...

I painted some outdoor chairs that my husband found in the trash. I figured that I had nothing to lose and so far I am happy.

http://www.capeofdreams.com/curb-sale-chairs-update/

Stephanie Ayer said...

I did an accent chair in BM gray and it turned out beautifully. Love the orange!

Karisse Kristel Schilling said...

I LOVE this! Thanks so much for sharing. I can't wait to try it out! I paint wooden furniture but I think I will tackle this next!
Kristel
PrettyPhilosophie.com

Karisse Kristel Schilling said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

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