Chinese Chippendale Chair Makeover

A couple of weeks ago I was up really early doing an MOT on the car, and I had to wait a while for them to do it, so I went for a walk around my town.  There is a furniture junk shop, which occasionally has some OK bits in it, and I meandered in for a nosey.  At the back of the room, on its own was a chair.  Not just any chair, but a Chinese Chippendale one.

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This is the Jonathan Adler chair currently selling at £795

For those that follow the blog, you may remember my lustings for a set of Jonathan Adler Chippendale chairs.  I managed to find a set of similar style bamboo chairs when I revamped my dining room and gave them a makeover, you can read about it here.  Whilst they are lovely, they are quite large and not totally the real thing.  The real ones are wood carved to look like bamboo with grooves and notches.

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This is my earlier bamboo chair makeover

But this morning, this was the real thing.  It is made in solid carved maple with a very girly upholstered seat, and I think it is late 20th century.  Incredibly well made and sturdy, and the shape was totally the one it should be.

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The man in the shop told me it had come from a very smart house in a very smart village nearby.  And I could have it for £15.  I kept a straight face and asked him to set it aside.  He then mentioned there had been another 5 but they had already been sold individually…. GAH!  I could have wept, but never mind I still got one at least.  I then skipped off to collect my car, and didn’t even mind that it had failed the MOT and needed new tyres.  As I waited to get the car fixed I was already scheming on what to do with my new chair when I got it home.

So here it is on its arrival home.  It is very 80’s looking in colour and fabric.  So straight away I removed the seat and stripped it back.  Underneath is another fabric nasty, but I will leave it as a base for new upholstery.

Colours for upholstery

Previously I did my dining room chair versions painted white with groovy Thibault orange, orange and green irate fabric and cut velvet cushions.  But this new chair needs to be moved around the house, where colours are darker and more traditional.  It will probably start off in the sitting room.  I am having an armchair upholstered at the moment for the same room in a large scale raised velvet damask and velvet, so I have some spare fabric available.  The colours are spiced orange and neutral taupe.  Thus it makes sense to use some of it on the chair as it will live in the same room.

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Colours for the wood

Again, I don’t want it to look like the dining room chairs, although these chairs do look great in crisp white or a zingy bright colour.  I have a few pieces of painted dark charcoal furniture which I really like so I decided to do a modern take on an ebonised Chinese chair.

And so, out comes the trusty Annie Sloan chalk paint.  I have a pot of Graphite which is like the magic porridge pot in the fairytale.. It just keeps coming and never runs out.

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A good sand was done all over first, as although chalk paint doesn’t really need it, this chair will get used a lot, so key areas that will be handled such as the armrests need to be have the paint really well attached.

A wipe down, and coat number one was put on, diluted 20% with water to get a smooth finish.

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This paint dries very fast and looks very matt and chalky.  After a couple of hours it was bone dry so I applied another coat which was not so diluted.  Once that was dry, I applied Annie Sloan clear wax all over the painted areas with a brush so I could get it into all the nooks and crannies.

Once that it done it is buffing time.  This is where you can chose how much lustre you want with the finish.  I use a simple J-Cloth and polish away.  You can almost feel the wax harden as you go.  Once polished, leave it to harden more overnight.

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Reupholstering a drop-in seat

This is where staple guns are the most amazing invention.  I simply cut a square of fabric about 3″ larger than the seat pad, and made sure the design was centred on the fabric that will become the cover.  Then you place that face down on your working surface, put the seat upside down on top and start pulling the fabric over and stapling it.  I always start on each corner first with a holding staple and work diagonally so the fabric is pulled tight.  Do the sides first and leave the folding corners until last

When you get to do the folded corners, its a bit like doing a hospital bed sheet.  My seat had a shaped corner to the front so it was a little tricky, but you can always undo the staples if you are not happy until you get the neat edge you want.  Pull it really tight as you staple.  You need to get the seat to drop back into the chair frame so it cannot be too bulky.

The finished chair

Here she is… the whole project took a weekend, and out of that only about 6 hours was working on it.  Much of the other time was waiting for the paint and wax to dry, interspersed with some Netflix box set bingeing….  I love it, and when I get bored with it , it will be really easy to repaint and re-upholster.  Long live junk shops!

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