Making our old chairs new again — or at least less old

We purchased our dining room set from the former homeowner, and ever since we moved in I’ve longed to recover the stained and worn fabric of the dining room chairs. Mauve traditional tapestry-inspired floral patterns are simply not our style. The green fabric in the trash can is what we found under the current pattern when we started stripping the chairs down.

But what color to choose? My kitchen is accented with red, and the living room is pretty neutral with some burgundy or red accents due to the rug and pillow covers. I thought for months over a dining room color scheme, and nothing sounded right. Then we painted and installed our new (old!) dining room chandelier, and black and white just seemed right.

New (free!) Chandelier west

I purchased some inexpensive fabric with a black-and-white pattern and made my first sideboard and table runners (plus three matching placemats with the leftovers). That only confirmed my decision. But canvassing the area fabric stores (which are limited) resulted in absolutely no options! So I went online to several sites, and purchased or requested samples. If you are buying fabric online, getting samples is ABSOLUTELY worth it. We finally chose a lovely white-and-black slightly flocked geometric pattern from The sample cost $5, but they sent a large swatch; I even mailed half of it (about 8″by 8″) to my mom, who has more upholstery experience. She loved it too.

But how to see if it would hold up? One night while eating lamb roganjosh, I took out our top two fabric choices and rubbed them with lamb covered in sauce. I left the stains for a while then treated them exactly the same (first cool water, then Spray ‘n’ Wash). The results were dramatic. My secondary fabric immediately faded and the white portion retained the stain horribly. My first choice fabric cleaned up perfectly, and the pattern is so tight that I could hardly tell if there even was a stain. SUCCESS!

So I ordered four yards and it arrived on my doorstep a few days later.

With the cost of the foam, which was a little more than I thought (about $16 per yard), this project cost a total of roughly $120  — about $20 per chair plus our labor and staple gun costs.

While my parents were here, we recovered all the chairs.


Steve: When we were finished, the black and white pattern combined with the chandelier and other black/white items was the final nail in the coffin for the light taupe (Roman Plaster?) paint color above the chair rail and the darker shade (that really turned out greenish brown) below the chair rail in the dining room. Neither of us really enjoyed the colors in the dining room from the day that we put them on, but with the transition to a classier monochromatic palette in here, it really made the room feel gross and way too earth-tonish.

I mean, I really couldn’t take it anymore. Like, had to get rid of it immediately.

So we nailed down the colors we wanted to use and I started repainting the dining room literally on the day Rachel’s family left town, and finished up the next night. (Hence her last house elf post.) It’s the same grey that we used in the second bedroom above the chair rail, and a slightly darker shade from the same chip below the chair rail. Both look infinitely more classy than before.

These pictures don’t quite do it justice, because the lighting in the room and even my flash still gives it a weird cast. I need to take pictures in the sunshine, but it sets well before we get home these days.

These few little projects have left us with a dining room that we enjoy significantly more than we did before. And the grey is so classy, and matches the white (with red touches!) in the kitchen so much better than the pukey old brown palette of earth tones.


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