thrift store chairs update process
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Dining Room Chairs Makeover

In this post I will show you how to update dining room chairs with new paint, and upholstery. It’s the process I followed to take dingy thrifted chairs and turn them into a bright addition to my kitchen.

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how to update dining room chairs before and after picture

When I built my dining room table I needed some new chairs to go with it. Originally I planned to build benches, but I realized that while benches look great, they just aren’t very comfortable. So I searched high and low for chairs that fit my aesthetic and my budget.

I came up with nothing. 

Finally, from the depths of Facebook Marketplace I found a set of 5 chairs for around $40. They weren’t the look I wanted and I really needed 6, but I was desperate at this point after going months without any chairs to sit at the table. So I snatched them up and got to work.

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Buying on Facebook Marketplace

thrifted dining room chairs before dining room chair makeover

Once I picked up the chairs, I realized they were pretty gross. The seats had lots of stains, they were dirty and they did not smell great. They also had lots of cobwebs, so who knows how long they had been sitting before I purchased them.

But, they had potential. And that’s what really matters, right?

(Also, I was desperate at this point. We had gone several months without anywhere to sit in our dining room!)

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thrifted dining room chair, brown seat and chair frame

RELATED: 5 Quick Tips for Thrift Shopping Success

How to Update Dining Room Chairs

Clean the Chairs

My first step to update these gross dining room chairs was to remove the seats and clean the chair frame. The seats were easy to remove. With the chair flipped upside down there were 4 screws holding the seat onto the frame, one near each corner where the diagonal braces are in the picture of the chair frame below.

cleaned thrifted dining room chair with seat removed

After I removed the seats, I cleaned the chair frames with a rag and some water. They were mostly just covered in dirt and dust so water was enough to get them clean. 

Paint the Chair Frame

I knew that I wanted to paint these chairs, but there was no way I was going to take a paint brush to all of those spindles. I didn’t want to spend the time to get in every nook and cranny and I also didn’t want a lot of brush marks. So, I decided to go with spray paint.

spray painted dining room chair for update dining room chair

I used Krylon Chalky Finish in Colonial Ivory. I was able to get it for a good price through Michael’s with a military discount. It’s also on Amazon in several shades. I used about 6 cans of spray paint for the 5 chairs. I had to do several coats for each chair and felt like the paint came out a bit thin. 

spray paint used to update dining room chairs

But, the good thing was that I didn’t have to do any sanding! It’s been almost 4 years since I painted these chairs and they still look great! 

After I spray painted the chairs, I used Minwax Wipe on Poly Finish to protect them. I chose a wipe on poly, because I knew I would struggle using a brush to apply polyurethane on the spindles. The wipe on poly can be applied with a rag and is super easy to use. Just make sure to wear gloves.

Cut New Seat Bases

When I removed the seat bases to update these dining room chairs, I threw away the foam and the fabric cover for the seat cushion. They were pretty gross. As you can see in the picture below, even the boards for the seat bases were stained. Because they were so badly stained I decided to cut new bases from some 3/4″ plywood that I had in the garage.

stained seat bases from thrifted dining room chairs

To cut the new seat bases, I traced an outline of the old base onto a piece of plywood with a sharpie. Then cut along the line with a jigsaw to create a new seat base. I have an inexpensive Black+Decker jigsaw,  and it works fine for all my projects. Because of the condition of my chairs I cut new bases for all of them. 

RELATED: How to Cut Shapes with a Jigsaw

If you’re working on updating dining room chairs, hopefully your seat bases are in great shape and you can skip this step!

Reupholster Seats

To recover the seats I layered a piece of 2″ upholstery foam, a piece of cotton batting and my fabric on top. I wish I had photos of this process, but I completed this project a few years before diving into Mama Needs a Project and didn’t document all of my work at that time.

This was my first time recovering chair cushions and it was surprisingly easy! It is definitely doable for a beginner. I found a lot resources for the upholstery process on YouTube and Pinterest.

updated dining room chair

This is the exact foam is used.

This is the exact batting I used. But, if you don’t have any other uses for batting, I recommend getting a smaller size. You will have LOTS left over.

You will also needs a staple gun to secure your fabric to the bottom of the seat frame. I have an inexpensive one similar to this that worked just fine.

reupholstered dining room chair seat

Choosing Fabric

I chose an upholstery fabric for my chairs that feels a bit like canvas. I wanted something heavy that would last. I chose a darker color so that it wouldn’t stain as easily. 

If you’re unfamiliar with fabric, I recommend going to a physical store to pick out your fabric rather than shopping online. It is helpful to feel the weight and texture of a fabric in store. It can also be difficult to judge the color of a fabric on your computer screen. Lastly, people who work in fabric stores are generally super helpful.

dining room chair update before and after photo

How to Update Dining Room Chairs

So that’s it! And 4 years later these chairs are still around my dining room table. The paint and upholstery have held up great to constant use, even with a toddler.

This project was pretty easy and totally worth it. I hope you’ll tackle your own dining room chair project and I would LOVE to see the results. You can share your projects with me by tagging me on Instagram or Facebook.

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