Painting Upholstery

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I tried upholstery spray paint years ago with pretty good results, and I’ve been wanted to try painting upholstery with a brush for a while too. I got a pair of little white swivel club chairs a few months ago for $30 for the pair. I love the shape of the arms, but the fabric was pretty dingy and old. I knew I would want to reupholster these eventually, but I didn’t know what room they’d go in and I wanted to wait to choose a color/pattern. These felt like the perfect candidate for painting the upholstery.

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I followed these instructions and used textile medium and Valspar paint from Lowes which is actually acrylic paint. The color I chose was Sunburst Orange from Benjamin Moore. It’s a bright, fun coral that’s perfect for accent chairs.

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The basic idea is you mix textile medium with really, really watered down acrylic paint (so you can buy craft paint if you don’t have a huge surface area to cover like I did with two chairs). You spray the upholstery with a water bottle and then softly brush on the paint mixture.

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You have to do several coats with drying time in between and you sort of have to find that sweet spot of even coverage and not too crispy from the paint. These chairs are a little stiff, but if you use a sanding block to knock off any uneven bumps and to loosen up the paint a little, it ends up feeling sort of like canvas. Not exactly like silk velvet, but not too bad.
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I wouldn’t do this with special chairs that you’re going to sit in all the time or a primary use sofa, but it’s a perfect option for accent chairs or (and maybe especially!) dining chair seats.

 

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Have you tried painting any of your upholstery? How did it work out for you? I’d love to see any links if you’ve posted about it.
  1. Great project! I like how the subtle pattern/texture shows through even after being painted. Gorgeous coral color!

  2. That is incredible, I've never tried it, but would not hesitate in the right situation. A coat of paint has really brought those chairs back to life!

  3. I haven't tried it but I bookmarked a tutorial on this years ago and have always been curious. Oh and great pillow! I have the same one in a lighter grey/silver.

  4. Love the colorful transformation and how the paint highlights the gorgeous texture. Definitely what I call an eco chic project!

  5. Haley

    This looks great! I love how you can still see the chevron texture. I tried painting my own chair about two years ago (http://halestorm23.blogspot.com/2012/01/painted-chair.html) and am currently in the process of reupholstering the same chair. I don't think I wet my chair enough or painted thin enough coats. Otherwise, I feel like this is always a great project for when you're waiting on enough money or the right fabric for a reupholstery job.

  6. I would be worry about the staining my clothes by sitting or rubbing against them. They look stunning but is this feasible?

  7. Beautiful. Thank you for the tips.

    I painted a chair. ugh, I made a huge mess. Best to scrub areas that might be greasy like where the head rests and the top of the arms first with dish liquid, rinsing well. I set the chair up right too soon. The paint migrated darker towards the seat. Not a bad look though.

  8. I painted (this same tutorial!) a pair of wingback chairs of my mom's…took them from 90's-hunter-green to a more updated peacock blue. Worked so well! Right on about the texture, kind of rough and canvas-y feeling…but works just fine for the chairs. We added a throw pillow for the comfort factor and all was well.
    Did the spray fabric paint cover well? I've been curious about using it, but didn't want to have to buy 60 cans to cover a square foot, ifyouknowwhatImean.

    Love that bright coral colour!

  9. I did a chair thanks to that tutorial as well!

    http://www.hypheninteriors.com/chairs

    I'm "Reader without a blog Julie." I scored the chair for $30 on Craigslist and simply love it.

    The pattern in the fabric on your chairs makes them infinitely cooler. Love it!

  10. love how this looks in your room!

  11. Very interesting and informative – thanks for sharing this cool project! I'm just curious – do they feel a little "crusty" when you sit down?

  12. Anonymous

    I went a slightly different direction, in that I used fabric paint. I bought a vintage sofa, burn tested the fabric and determined it was mercinized cotton, and then went to town painting. I used a heat gun to set the paint. It's been a year, and we love it. No change to the fabric texture, the pattern shows through. It looks to me like washed silk, which is kinda what I was going for. https://plus.google.com/photos/100008232896049278526/albums/6023006239437449361

  13. I had no idea one could paint upholstery. What a fantastic way to be able to use something until you know what to do with it. I love the orange color you chose. It looks great! Thanks for the instructions on how to do it.

  14. This is definitely something I've wanted to try, but have never had the right piece to (something light enough). That color is just beautiful!

  15. I am in the process of painting two vintage velvet club chairs I bought for $25 at the Goodwill (this is going to be temporary until I can afford to have them reupholstered professionally); but so far, it's turning out well ( I'm using Sherwin Williams dark night)

    • Gerri Strathman

      I want to paint mt velvet couch but am afraid it will be too stiff. How are your chairs?

  16. smash

    How fun, I have never heard of this! It seems like it would be perfect for a bench in a hallway or something that wouldn't get tons of traffic. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Anonymous

    I saw a blog post some time ago where a sofa was painted black. It had a great looking decorative wooden frame. It looked fantastic!
    Super chic!

  18. What a great idea! Would have never thought to paint fabric.

  19. Awesome tips, Jenny — as always!

    x Lily
    whilemyboyfriendsaway.blogspot.com

  20. I want o try to paint chairs, YES. I'm actually sharing a project tomorrow where I painted curtains with really watered down Valspar paint and fabric medium for a watercolor effect. I tried it without even knowing that it is acrylic paint. I thought it was latex as well. Learned something new.
    And I'm glad that it is acrylic because that's what you actually need for fabric medium ;) perfect. Thanks.

  21. I've been trying to get up enough nerve to try this. I have been concerned about a crunchy texture. These chairs look great!!

  22. Kate

    Wow. I never thought of painting upholstery. You brought those chairs back to life by doing that. :)

    Kate, aka Thriftburgher

  23. Bec

    I would never have guessed! They look awesome!!

  24. I've never even considered that this was an option for refreshing upholstery! Thanks for the tips!

  25. um THIS is an amazing idea! You're right- an accent chair or something not being sat in all the time would be perfect! I can't wait to try it!

  26. Anonymous

    After ten seconds of your website loading, I was redirected to a Twix that said, "returning to content in 39 seconds." I felt like I was on Hulu or something. Not the kind of vibe you'd expect for a blogger.

  27. Anonymous

    Is there grout between your floor boards?

  28. I did an accent chair in BM gray and it turned out beautifully. Love the orange!

  29. I LOVE this! Thanks so much for sharing. I can't wait to try it out! I paint wooden furniture but I think I will tackle this next!
    Kristel
    PrettyPhilosophie.com

  30. There are so many projects I could use this for, but I think the first one would be the chair rail for my daughter’s bedroom.

  31. Agree with this article, very informative. We can make our Upholstery looks like new by just changing fabric. Fabric quality and colors are also very important. I have just visited Rana Textiles Mills website and found beautiful and quality oriented fabric for upholstery over there. You can Buy Best Upholstery Fabric from here.

  32. I Love the Diy idea and this post is providing so much inspiration but if you dont have time for DIY like me, you should check out furnishr.com. It is a design service that helped me find the right pieces of furniture to make my house look amazing.

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