painting fabric

Painted Upholstered Chair: Graphite, Old White

Painted Upholstered Chair

Amy Howard inspired my painted upholstered chair project. Safe to say, I wouldn’t have done it had I not viewed this photo on her Facebook page. She transformed this sofa at Lucketts Spring Market. I love the gold leaf accent band.
Amy Howard Lucketts Demo 2017

My upholstered chair languished in our climate-controlled warehouse unit — I had forgotten about it. The fabric didn’t speak to me when we bought it, but the chair was structurally sound. I especially liked its cabriole legs with detailed wood carvings and the hairy-paw feet.

I decided to replicate Amy Howard’s project by painting the fabric and wood, and highlighting the carvings with dark wax and touches of gold leaf. As the pièce de résistance, that magnificent blaze of gold.
Upholstered chair unpainted
Overall, the fabric was in excellent condition. I simply vacuumed it.The embroidered fabric would create an interesting pattern once painted. This sun-dappled closeup shows the embroidery.
Upholstery embroidery fabric painting
Screech! Stop! Fling that plan out the door.

I talked to our son, Michael, and his girlfriend Raven. Both work Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery. They quickly quashed my gold-leaf enthusiasm. Shiny doesn’t sell well in Jacksonville, they advised. No gold leaf, not even to highlight the wood carvings. Also, stay away from colors. Stick with black or white if you want to sell this.

Unknowingly, they snatched away the sole reason I wanted this project.

Nonetheless, full speed ahead with the revised, more sedate, version of a painted upholstered chair.

Although Amy Howard inspired me, I had Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Graphite on hand.

Here’s my technique for painting fabric with ASCP:

  1. Add approximately 20% water to your paint and stir
  2. Spray water on the section you’re working on
  3. Use a rounded brush — I used one of Annie Sloan’s — to push the paint into the material. A circular motion works well. You don’t want to simply brush the paint onto the top of the fabric
  4. Apply about 2-1/2 coats
  5. Sand lightly with 320-grit sandpaper and wipe off paint dust with a damp cloth
  6. Apply a coat of Clear Wax

This photo shows me starting out. I’ve already spritzed a section of fabric and begun to paint. You can see how important it is to push the paint through the fabric and the embroidery. The pattern will remain visible — and look good.
Painted Upholstered Chair

After 2-1/2 coats of paint, light sanding, and waxing, I achieved this look shown below. Just so you know, David and I carried the chair outside because — like every afternoon — it looked cloudy with a high chance of rain. Perfect for a quick photo session. Alas, once we started taking photos, the sun came out and created weird bright and shadowy spots.

Painted upholstered chair
Back to the project. After I finished painting the fabric, I moved on to the wood. I tried Paris Grey but it failed to create the sharp contrast I sought. Not to be deterred, I repainted the wood in Old White. Much better, and the Paris Grey served as an excellent primer. I applied the paint thickly to create texture.

On went Clear Wax and I decided to test out Annie Sloan’s Black Wax. Since I couldn’t incorporate the drama of gold leaf, I wanted to highlight those beautiful carvings:
Black wax on Old White
Annie Sloan Black Wax Oldl WhiteThe hairy-paw foot is so defined and striking:

painted upholstered chair
Here’s the final product. A black-and-white-painted upholstered chair, as Michael and Raven recommended. No gold leaf band, no touches of gold. Let’s hope their advice translates into an appreciative shopper.

Painted upholstered chair graphite old white

This chair, I must say, turned out much better than the previous one I painted. That one  sustained rain damage and never fully recovered: Removing Water Stains from Painted Upholstery.

Thanks for stopping by, see you next time!

Ann Marie and David

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Removing Water Stains From Painted Upholstery

Take a look at my nightmare — my dark secret that I’m mortified to show you.

Water Stain on Upholstery

Yes, it’s a water stain on the seat of a rather pricy antique chair. My scarlet letter of shame.

Below, we’re looking at a Victorian Renaissance Revival Chair with an Eastlake influence. Built of gorgeous walnut wood, this chair was manufactured around 1870-80.

Iris Abbey

Generally I’m cautious about painting antiques. If I do, I undergo a bit of intense self-examination:

  • Does it have sentimental value?
  • Is the piece tight, with no wobble?
  • What kind of wood was used?
  • How much structural repair is needed?
  • Does the wood have minimal scratches, dings, dents?
  • Does the fabric enhance the piece?
  • Will paint make the piece more appealing in a contemporary home?

My initial, and now silly, problems lay with the fabric and heavy feel to the wood. The fabric was OK but not great and my lackluster upholstery skills deterred me from tackling a project like this.

Victorian Renaissance Revival Chair

Other options? I could paint the entire chair using Annie Sloan’s Old Ochre.

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Old Ochre

I stirred the paint, measured some out, and cut it with water. Then I grabbed my spray bottle and filled it with water. I’ve discovered that spraying the fabric will help the material absorb the paint instead of allowing it to just sit on top.

The chair looked much better with the fabric painted — and the texture still came through. The photo below shows only 1 coat; I painted 2 coats.

Victorian Renaissance Revival Chair

I worked outside in the shade of our 10×10 tent, noiselessly painting the wood Old Ochre. I can’t remember the reason now, but I had to run a errand. I debated lugging the chair into the house but it’s so heavy and unwieldy. Instead, I pushed it into the center of the tent and took off. I’d be quick.

Rain. A sudden afternoon downpour, so common in Florida summers, over as quickly as it began.

Sturm by Adolf Sätbli
Sturm (Storm). Adolf Stäbli, around 1895

Upon my return I leapt from the car and sprinted (actually more of a jog) to the tent. The damage was already done. Horrified, I stared down at the water stain on the chair’s seat. Towels. My first thought was towels. Maybe with enough towels I could blot the water and limit the damage. If only it were that easy.

Water Stain Damage

I paused to send photos of the stain to Pat Stone-Smith, my Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (ASCP) stockiest at Mid-Life Crisis by the Beach. She, in turn, carried my desperate questions to the national ASCP reps. They advised

  • setting the chair out in the sun to dry (this was the easy part);
  • buying a can of Kilz and spray it on the stained fabric.

As long as I’m sharing my mistakes, here’s another: Since I’d never heard of Kilz, I phoned those nice folks and asked which of their varieties I should purchase. “We don’t guarantee it will work on fabric, so we advise you not to use it.” Oh. Better listen to the experts.

The chair dried quickly but I didn’t touch it for weeks. David finally brushed shellac on the seat cushion, assuring me the paint wouldn’t penetrate. Still I waited, sorrowful.

One bright day I mobilized. I mixed a half-and-half solution of Old Ochre and water. After 2 coats I could still see the water stain. Argh.

Kilz Original Aerosol

As I became increasingly desperate and perhaps a bit unhinged, David bought a can of Kilz. We put plastic and newspaper all over the chair, everywhere except the seat cushion. Then we sprayed a white covering on the Old Ochre and, mercifully, the water stain disappeared. The Kilz created a a white hide but eliminated the stain. I waited several more days.

I put 2 coats of Old Ochre and water on the cushion (4:1 Old Ochre to water) and studied it closely.

I was back in business, as you can see:

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Old Ochre


Out came my stencil. I spooned out a little Louis Blue into a container; next to that I doled out some Aubusson Blue. I didn’t mix the paints. I simply dabbed my stencil brush into Louis Blue, followed by Aubusson Blue (or vice versa), offloaded the paint on a paper toweling, and stenciled.

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Old Ochre

I waxed the entire chair with Annie Sloan Clear Wax. I lightly applied Dark Wax to the carved areas and, although I generally don’t distress, I gently took several swipes . Here it is in the dappled morning light; the sunlight’s causing a few uneven splotches.

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Old Ochre

Originally I intended to put him in our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery but we’ve both been through a lot, Chair and I. I am keeping this beautiful boy in my living room so I can watch how well the paint, wax, and Kilz interact together. So, all is well.

We love your comments. Do you have any tales of terror with your own projects? Please don’t hesitate to share!

Ann Marie and David
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