Inexpensive Dining Room Chair Upcycle with Situational Flair – Part One


I toyed with the idea of “upcycling” furniture and contemplated various large projects for some time before an opportunity was pretty much dropped in my lap. My friend was downsizing her father’s household items, and no one seemed to want an older dining room set. Now granted, it’s terribly old-fashioned and out of style, but the underlying structure of the furniture is great! It is good, heavy, and excellent quality furniture that is much sturdier than most furniture manufactured these days. Since the set wouldn’t sell, my friend was ready to just donate to whomever would pick it up. And that turned out to be…me!

I am definitely ready for the challenge of upcycling an old dining room set to either sell or gift once I’ve completed the project. For now, I am just going to focus on re-doing the chairs. Throughout the process of completing the first chair, I quickly discovered it was an easier project than I thought it would be, but also more time-consuming than I had planned on. However, I really enjoyed getting the first one done, and I will be following the steps laid out below to finish up the other five chairs in the very near future.

Original Chair

As you can see, it truly is outdated, but with some tender loving care, it will soon be updated and fit for a contemporary dining room!


This particular project is actually two distinct projects in one – renovating the wood part of the chair and re-upholstering the seat of the chair. Removing the seat of the chair is easily done simply by taking out the four screws underneath that keep it attached to the base of the chair. Once you’ve separated the seat from the rest of the chair, set it aside to work on during Part 2 of this series.

Part 1 – Upcycling the Chair Body

One of the reasons I chose to work on this project was the quality and type of materials I had a chance to work with. The wood base of the chair is strong, durable, and easily painted through a variety of methods. Whenever possible, I use some type of textured paint and/or I create texture during the painting process as it makes it much easier to camouflage any paint runs or blemishes. In other words, I don’t have to paint carefully and perfectly in order for it to look nice! This time I decided on two different texture styles. The first style I chose came about by the spray paint I happened to find on clearance at my local Walmart. Since I liked both the texture and color it offered, it became the coordinating factor for the entire dining room set I will be remodeling eventually.

Rust Oleum Paint spray

Step #1 – Paint the chair with the chosen base coat. Conventional spray paint is notorious for its tendency to run and make a mess of things. This, in turn, creates more work and takes extra time to re-spray in order to look right, so I prefer to use textured paint to save myself some time and frustration. If I was re-doing this set for myself, I would not have chosen this color and theme because it doesn’t match my personal décor. However, the silver pewter color is pretty, and since this will eventually be sold or given as a gift, it works great!

While I make an effort to carefully cover the entire chair with the first coat and following touch-up coat, I don’t stress about it because the second painting technique will soon cover any flaws in the silver paint.

Step #2 – Paint the chair with a decorative/textured coat of paint. The decorative painting method I use most often for both small and large painting projects is a sponge painting technique that creates a faux, marble-type look. The marbling effect is extremely easy to create and can be done in an unlimited variety (and number!) of colors.

First, you need a decent sponge with medium-sized holes. Small kitchen sponges can be used with smaller projects, but when it comes to furniture, a bath sponge like the one pictured below works perfectly. This particular one can found in the bath and body department of a big box store or in the paint and hardware department.

straight-edge sponge

I cut a piece off in order to get a straight-edge sponge for the sharp interior corners of the chair itself. The larger portion works well for the majority of the chair, but any spot of the chair design that is difficult to reach will need the edge of the sponge to apply the contrasting paint color appropriately.

I chose black as my contrast color. Black and silver is a classic color combination that is both retro and modern and can fit a variety of decorating style preferences. Begin by applying 2-3 “blobs” of black paint on a section of the chair. You don’t want to do any more than 2-3 spots at a time because the paint will dry too quickly and you won’t be able to create the marble-effect we are looking for.

applying 2-3 “blobs” of black paint

Once you’ve applied the daubs of paint as pictured, use the sponge to lightly apply splotches of black to blend in with the silver. You will probably go over the silver paint 2-3 with a saturated sponge in order create the color contrast necessary. If this is the first time you’ve used the sponge-painting technique, you may find it a bit of a challenge to find a balance of how much paint you use and how much you sponge over the silver. However, you will quickly discover how to saturate the sponge with just the right amount of paint. With just a little bit of practice, you will also find out how much applying to do with the sponge to make it fit your particular preferences. When I first started using this technique, I decided to practice on a cardboard box. All it took was “marbleizing” one box until I was very comfortable sponge-painting my first furniture project years ago.

Chair ready to be paintedchair back

Another reason I like using texture- and sponge-painting techniques is because it is easy to cover and start over if I don’t like the final product. For example, I originally planned to make this a 3-color chair by sponging on a layer of gold paint in order to make it more appealing to Saints Football fans in my area (their colors are black and gold). I’ve seen other décor that used all three colors and looked very attractive, but I did not care for how it turned out with this chair.

Striped chairPainted chair without cushion

Once I finished one chair with all three colors, I decided it was just too busy to use for an entire dining room set. And since I used textured painting techniques, I didn’t need to sand it down and remove all of the paint in order to start over. All I had to do was cover it with another coat of silver spray paint, and re-apply the black paint – easy-peasy!

Painted Chairs

And there you have Part One of the dining room set renovation! You can see the pattern of sponge-paint that I am happy with, but it can always be adjusted according to taste. The last couple of pictures also give you a sneak peak of the re-done chair seat…just continue to Part Two in order to get the step-by-step directions of the seat upcyle.

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