As part of operation renovate the outhouse into a liveable space you’ll know that so far I have in no particular order…….. Rendered the walls. Re pointed the stone wall. Fixed the leaking roof. Fallen through the leaking roof! And reglazed the sash window. This leaves two things as yet to do. Finish off the floor, more on that another time. And finding a couple of chairs and a table for morning coffee or for late night drinks. I have been stalking Facebook Marketplace for weeks now. But everything I like goes in seconds, is too expensive or too far away. And then an ad popped up from a local restaurant about to refurb and I was on it! One hour later I am the owner of two chairs and a table. Want to see how to upcycle a mid century dining chair the RFW way? Then read on.
my mid century dining chairs waiting to be upcycled
The chairs and table I have bought possibly don’t go with my ‘Gran Caffe’ of Italy theme but ya know…. Needs must when the Devils on horseback and all that. Sometimes you just have to work with what you have. And thinking outside the box when it comes to decor has become second nature to me. Being on a budget has a tendency to get those creative juices flowing so to speak. So anyway, meet said chairs and table. Looking a bit sad aren’t they? Definitely in need of some TLC.
the chairs are very reminiscent of the famous Hans J. Wegner CH20 Elbow Chair
I have in fact, not one, not two but three favourite Gran Caffe’s of Italy. My favourite has to be Gran Caffe Florian which sits in St. Marks Square in Venice. In fact it’s the oldest coffee house in the world and probably the most expensive too! Next up is Gan Cafe Gambrinus in Naples, possibly also my favourite city in the world. It’s buzzing with life. And although once infamous for its crime rates is now as safe a city as any. And finally Caffe Gilli in Florence. A stones throw from the Duomo, it’s a perfect spot from which to people watch. So with no chance of visiting Italy anytime soon I thought I would bring it to me as best I can with 25p and a sprinkling of good luck.
My mid century dining chairs looking much better once sanded down
The chairs have in fact got as they say ‘good bones’. In fact they are very reminiscent of the famous Hans J. Wegner CH20 Elbow Chair. But what to do with them? At the moment they definitely look like weary contract furniture. And although heavy and made from solid beech are finished in a spray on pretend, naff as f*ck walnut varnish. So first things first we need to prep the chairs. And by that I mean give them a damn good sand. In fact I used 40 grit on these initially and worked my way up to 120 grit which gives a great surface finish ready for the next stage. Though as you can see the varnish is stuck in the grain which makes the next stage a much easier decision. As in what to do with them?
getting ready to paint the chairs with rustoleum sating furniture paint
Now had these come up beautifully I would most likely have stained them as the wood grain is beautiful and it’s a shame to hide it. However they haven’t. Although they are now as smooth as a babies bum the varnish left in the grain would detract from the end result. And so that leaves me with paint. But what sort of paint to use? At first I toyed with chalk paint and a finishing wax but decided against this as the chairs are in a high traffic area. So some quick googling leads me to Rustoleum Satin Furniture Paint. It has good reviews and what’s more I can buy it locally. You know how it is when you have a project, you want something and you want it now. I’m all about instant gratification 🙂
A tiny £5.50 pot of rustoleum satin furniture paint was enough for two chairs!!
To be honest I was quite excited to try it. I’ve heard good things about Rustoleum paints but haven’t used any of their newer paint formulations before. The Satin Furniture Paint has some great reviews too. And well it didn’t disappoint that for sure. Having a texture akin to double cream it simply glides on with ease. And the pigment is highly concentrated too. A little really does go a long way. In fact one small 125ml tin (I had to but small as the large size isn’t stocked in my local DIY Superstore) costing £5.50 was in fact enough for 2 coats on both my chairs. It really does have exceptional coverage.
yay, the first mid century modern dining chair on it’s upcycle journey with its first coat of paint
And even though I have sanded my chairs down the instructions say no priming or sanding is necessary for most surfaces. Unlike chalk paint there’s no need to wax or varnish over it once dry either. And talking about drying it’s quick. By the time I got to the bottom of the first chair the top bit was dry. The best bit though is that’s it’s water based so no need for messy brush clean ups and it’s also almost odour free too. Literally just paint it on and leave it to dry for a perfect finish. Not a single brush stroke in sight!
now to add that bit of something special!
Now to be fair the chairs look great as is but this is a ‘Me’ makeover we’re talking about. And this upcycle wouldn’t be complete without some gold leaf utilised somewhere. And so hey presto let’s get jiggy with the gold leaf. In fact I’m gold leafing the whole seat base itself. A golden throne for my Gran Caffe 🙂 Now normally I used oil based size when I gild but this time I’m using an acrylic size called Wundasize from A S Handover. It’s a great acrylic size for when you want speedy results but can only be used for indoor applications.
Applying ‘size’ to the seats bases of my mid century style chairs
Paint on with a paintbrush ensuring you’ve covered all the areas you want to gild. Try also to apply the size as evenly as possible. And then leave it for 15-30 minutes depending on ambient conditions for it to reach tack. Tack is basically the perfect amount of stickiness for gold leafing. And it’s much easier to tell this point with acrylic size than oil based size.
when the size reaches tack it becomes clear and is ready for gilding
Basically the size goes clear as it dries. When the surface you want to gild is completely clear you are ready to proceed to the next step. To be extra sure use a finger knuckle and drag it gently over the surface of the size. If tack has been achieved your knuckle will make a squeaky sound as it drags over the size. And now you are ready to gild.
Applying the gold leaf to the mid century dining chair base
Now carefully cover the whole area in gold leaf. I’m using loose imitation leaf which considering I’m in a outhouse was a bit of a stupid decision tbh. Honestly it has a mind of its own. And so given the gentle breeze in the outhouse this is not my finest work! I should most definitely have used transfer leaf which would have been quicker and less testing. Once you finally have your area covered it’s now time to make it pretty. Using a soft brush (old blusher and powder makeup brushes are great for this) gently tamp down the leaf every where. Use a gently dabbing action with the side of the brush to make sure all the leaf is well stuck down. And then using the bristle ends swipe away any loose bits that are left.
And there we have it. All that’s left to do is give the gold leaf several coats of varnish to protect it. And hey presto, that’s how to upcycle a mid century dining chair the Raspberry Flavoured Windows way. What do you think? So far they’ve held up well to use. And the table got a bit of a makeover too. I stripped it right back and painted the based with the same Rustoleum paint. The top I felt would be too much in gold and so that was treated to a layer or two of Osmo oil. I’m chuffed with how it’s all turned out. And the best bit is that the total cost to me was only £36.50 for everything including the table and chairs.