I’m working on some chairs at the moment and have reached a point where I’m going to need to change my approach in order to get the effect that I’m envisaging.  I always have a crystal clear picture of what I’m aiming for, and I don’t always get it first go….

These chairs were bought for a more cottagey, beachy look – they were always going to be either painted, limed or stripped.  In their original state they have a kind of mid-century Danish look.  In fact, one of my friends loves them just as they are.  They can always go back to this in another life, but currently they are destined for a new incarnation.

dining chair before recycling

The first unexpected issue was the difficulty I had in unscrewing the rush seats.  WOW – those screws were tight.  42 screws, and over 2 hours later… and a very sore hand.

I decided on a paint finish – the room they are going in already has quite a bit of wood, and stripping them wouldn’t get the country look I’m going for.  I thought white with the rush seats might be a bit predictable, so a soft french grey seemed the best choice.  I sanded well – very well – and put on a first coat.

As these are dining chairs, and take a lot of bashing, all advice says go for enamel paint.  This is higher VOC, so generally I don’t like it.  But I have had issues in the past with emulsion chipping off much-used chairs – and not chipping in a delightful shabby-chic way – chipping in a large piece of wood showing underneath way.

SO here is the first coat.

doesn't cost the earth part painted chair

While the first coat has gone on well, I can see I’m not going to get the soft look I’m wanting.  It’s going to take more work.  I’m going to need to add layers to get the depth and variation I need.  Because I’ve used an enamel paint, it really limits my options for distressing – I can only use oil glazes – which while beautiful – do take a long time to dry.  They are also very messy. 

I’m thinking I might need some raw umber or payne’s grey in a glaze, rubbed back, to give the softness I’m looking for.  Alternatively, I could do a wash with a dilution of the enamel paint, mixed a bit darker.  I’ve also read that you can use shoe polish!!  I’m going to need to paint a test piece of wood and try these out for size.

This was one of the images that is calling to me:

grey rush chair

It’s a bit more silvered, but has lovely tonal variety.  Any suggestions on how you might achieve this?

I’ll share my success or otherwise tomorrow.  I also have other thoughts about painting words on these chairs, but more of that later…