A few weeks ago, I asked one of my kids to get something from the dining room table. “What?”, he answered-confused by my request. “The craft table”, I corrected myself. “Oh”, he said. Yes, our dining room had become the place where the kids would do their daily coloring, bead work, drawing, craft making, and dare I say—sometimes even painting! Gasp! It’s a big table with a lot of surface space, in a room we don’t use daily, with bonus comfy chairs. While I was happy to see the room had sparked lots of creativity in my kids, I wasn’t happy to see what had become of my beige linen chairs.
In all honesty, maybe it was wishful thinking to have purchased these six years ago with twin babies, but I did it and now I had to live with them because I wasn’t about to buy new chairs for my dining/craft room with four littles in the house.
If you’ve read my book, you know I’d already painted the cream legs of my dining room table because my current home has more grey tones in it, and the colors just didn’t gel together. Now, I needed to complete the look with some chairs that didn’t look like shit or original Kid-cassos (see what I did there). I planned on replacing them with some inexpensive chairs because reupholstering them would have cost more than I wanted to spend, but then my very DIY-ish mother suggested I paint them.
Paint the fabric? I’d never heard of this. So, I Googled, watched a few tutorials, ordered some paint and a brush on Amazon and got to work. Lucky for you, I’m going to give you a play by play on how this went down in case you, too, have some fabric furniture that is looking a little well loved these days.
Here are the supplies you’ll need if you want to do this too:
Wax or matte clear top coat
3 mm sandpaper
I didn’t get to painting right away because most of my chairs are rounded and needed a very intricate tape job, which took days to do because, well, I have a newborn baby. Once that part was done, here’s how the paint part went down.
First, I had to dampen the fabric with water using a spray bottle. You will need a lot of water for this, so do what I did. Use a recycled glass cleaner bottle rather than a small, dinky spray bottle you might have in your bathroom for your hair.
The paint was prepped in advance because I decided to slightly lighten the charcoal gray with a little bit of white. Mixing 1 part paint to 2 parts water, apply the paint to the fabric with your brush. The paint mixture will be really thin and should go on really easily. You’ll likely need two or even more coats of paint because of this. You are essentially dying the fabric.
Once the first coat dried, I took a piece of sandpaper and gently brushed the fabric to make it a little less stiff. Then, I repeated the painting process. To be honest, I repeated again after that too. I didn’t feel like my coat was super even, so I did it three times until I was happy with the results.
My end cap chairs have nail heads. I debated taking them off and then putting them back post paint, but that sounded like a ton of work, so I just painted right over them. I have to say, I kind of like the result too.
The last step, or so I thought, (I told you patience was necessary) was applying the matte clear coat. This is supposedly a protection coat for stains and water. I’ll let you know if that’s really the case in six months, or six minutes after my kids sit down on them. This I mixed with equal parts water and put a thin coat on with my brush. I also dampened the fabric in advance with the spray bottle before painting. Once I’d painted the clear coat on, I took an old white tee-shirt (I used one of my husband’s old undershirts) and, in a circular motion, just kind of worked it into the fabric, rubbing some off as I did. I wanted to ensure there were no streaks from the brush, and that it didn’t mess with the finish I’d already perfected…after THREE COATS.
As I proudly peeled off my painter’s tape, I noticed there were a lot of drip marks on my wood though-ugh! I had noticed this happening while I painted, but I was quick to spray them with water and wipe them away wet, so I thought I was in the clear. Wrong—the paint is so watery and the fabric gets pretty saturated, that inevitably some color ran onto the wood parts of the chairs while they were drying. I purchased some Goof Off (you don't need a lot, but I couldn't find a smaller container to link for you) and applied it to the paint dripped spots with baby Q-tips, which are a little bigger than regular ones, but still small enough to get in small crevices. These worked great to remove the paint from the wood. Keep in mind, this chemical is super powerful and really smelly, so do this part outside and don’t let the chemical touch anything you care about, including your hands. To be honest, this part was kind of a pain in the ass, especially when I thought I was done once I’d removed the tape, but c’est la vie.
Super excited with the finished product and got really inspired by this process to potentially paint other furniture. I saw a lot of tutorials of people painting silk chairs, velvet sofas, and even tweed couches. I feel like this is such a great way to give kid stained furniture a slightly longer lifeline before investing in new and expensive pieces, especially while you still have littles running around your casa. Painted furniture for the win here in Casa Lonic.