We used a midcentury modern color scheme even though the design of the piece suggests another era. This gave us a more interesting and eclectic look.

Step 1

Chair Before Refinishing

Completed Antiqued Chair

See the Before and After

This chair is indeed an antique made from oak, a very stable material, which looks beautiful when stained. This is most often the approach most refinishers would use and what we most often see when visiting antique stores. The thought of a painted antique usually causes us to cringe. However, when it came to this chair, we wanted to paint it a solid color to open up the possibilities for something unique and interesting.

Please always keep in mind not only to follow all the safety precautions and instructions found on the products that you are using but to have fun and allow yourself to be creative!

Step 2

Apply Stripper and Scrape Off Finish

This chair has been painted many times over the course of its life. The finish is cracking, peeling and unstable. Be sure to protect yourself with gloves, a mask and goggles. Apply stripper to all painted surfaces with a chip brush – we used an old cooking pot as a reservoir for the stripper.

Wait 5 to15 minutes and then use a putty knife to scrape off the paint as it bubbles up. Be sure not to scrape too hard or you may scrape the wood. Work with the grain to prevent gouging the wood. Remove as much of the stripper as possible with the putty knife.

Hint: Another method is to apply stripper to the chair, then quickly cover the entire chair with a large garbage bag. This traps in the chemicals and allows the stripper to work more effectively.

Step 3

Brush Off Remaining Finish

Use a paint pan with a pan liner to dispose of the waste (stripper and paint). On this project we had to reapply the stripper 4 to 5 times. While the stripper is still wet, use the brush to remove paint in areas the putty knife cannot reach and to give it an overall scrub. We used three different sizes of brushes: a brass brush the size of a large toothbrush, a medium brush and a larger brush (the size often used for scrubbing floors).

Once you have the majority of the paint off, wipe the chair down with a wet rag and/or steel wool to remove any remaining stripper and paint, and to prevent the stripper from drying on the wood surface.

Step 4

Sand Down Chair

Sand Chair Smooth

Sand It Thoroughly

The surface of the chair is now ready to be prepared for the new finish. Begin with the 150-grit paper on an electric palm sander to smooth all the areas that you can get to. Use a sheet of sandpaper in the areas the sander will not reach. Always sand in the same direction as the grain of the wood to minimize sanding marks. Move up to the finer 220-grit sandpaper to further smooth out the surfaces.

Step 5

Apply Primer

For our project, we used the color of the primer for the finished look. Oftentimes the primer color is used to create a consistent base color for the final color.

In this step, begin to add your creativity and start to outline the direction for the final look. It can be helpful to use a scrap piece of wood to test different paint colors. This can help you decide whether you like what you see before you commit to the final project.

Step 6

Distress Chair

Sand Smooth and Add Character

Sand Smooth and Add Character

Smooth out the primer coat by lightly sanding the entire chair evenly by hand with 220-grit sandpaper.

This next step is optional. We thought this antique chair would look out of place if the finish looked perfect, so we decided to distress it. In areas that would normally show wear over time, we sanded through the primer with the 150-grit sandpaper. Again, this step is another chance for you to use your creativity. Have fun with it!

Step 7

Add Another Layer of Color and Detail

We were going for a midcentury feel in color on an antique piece. Begin by masking off the areas that you do not want to be the new accent color. This step takes a lot of time and is tedious, but it will be worth it. Be sure to SLOW DOWN, and do not rush this step! Spray paint will find a way through each and every space if it is poorly masked off.

Carefully and evenly begin to add your accent color. Use many light coats, not one heavy coat or you will regret it.

Let the accent color dry overnight. Carefully remove the tape and paper. Use a razor blade to help if the tape begins to pull the finish off.

Step 8

Apply Final Clear Finish

The final step is to protect all your hard work with a clear protective finish. Make sure there is no dust on the chair. Begin with the chair upside down and start to apply light and even coats. Apply 3 to 5 coats of satin lacquer. Take your time here. This is the last step, and soon you will see your project finally come together.

If there are any slightly rough areas, use painter's masking paper in the same manner as sandpaper, as it acts like a super-fine sandpaper and makes the surface slick.

This type of projects always takes 2 to 3 times longer than you may think, especially if the techniques are new to you. Whatever you do, though, don't rush each step. Have a good time being creative and expressing yourself. When you are finished and you receive compliments from your friends and family, you will be glad you did.