Hubs purchased this harp back chair for me on a whim when he was picking up a sewing machine for his new vintage sewing machine repair hobby. I don’t think he realized that we were in for another wooden chair repair. Undoubtedly, he was too awestruck by the ugliness of the fabric to notice! But I would’ve bought it too! It has beautiful lines and that harp detail!
The missing piece on the bottom of the back leg wasn’t obvious until looking at the chair from the back. Seems like we’re becoming experts at how to fix a broken chair leg! For this one, we have to fashion a brand new piece.
Do it Over Designers
Today we’re taking part in the Do It Over Designers blog Hop hosted by Ann at The Apple Street Cottage.
We’re a group of bloggers who take something old and/or unused and ‘do it over’ into something new. These items can be found in closets, barns, garages, yard sales, thrift stores, you name it! Don’t forget to check out the other projects at the bottom of this post. And be sure to drop back in throughout the week to visit them all!
Before we get into the tutorial, don’t forget to get your DIY mojo on at Birdz of a Feather and subscribe! You can also follow us on Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.
Wooden Chair Repair
First, Hubs makes a template by tracing the back leg onto a piece of cardboard. Then he draws the angle of the missing piece to complete the outline.
Can you tell Hubs was gardening when he dropped what he was doing to template the leg? Below, you can see that he has to make a tenon to fit into the slot on the leg.
Once the template is done, Hubs rips off the outer fabric. It’s always fun to unveil the layers of fabric hidden underneath.
At this point, I took over to properly pull out the staples with a staple remover. While I did that, Hubs sanded back the finish on the chair to prep it for paint.
Before painting, we’re going to repair the leg first and make sure it’s good and solid. Here’s the piece ready to go.
Add regular wood glue to the surface of the wedge and tenon, as well as the chair leg. Then clamp together and let it dry.
We swear by this two-part wood filler.
For an invisible repair, mix equal parts together and add the wood filler along all the joins.
Once sanded smooth, it’s ready for paint.
Good as new (or maybe even better)!
How to Repair Veneer
There’s a tiny but noticeable piece of veneer missing on the harp back. We have a whole post about how to fix veneer. But since the wood on the harp will be a beautiful contrast and I’m leaving it natural, we have a slightly different fix for that. Fill the gap with wood filler and carefully sand smooth. Avoid sanding the thin veneer around the repair.
Because they are invaluable for touch-ups like this, if you do any kind of furniture upcycling, get yourself a set of stain markers. Find one that closely matches the colour of the wood by testing on a paint stick. Then touch up where you filled the missing veneer. You can even blend if necessary.
Milk Paint the Chair
Do you ever get stumped by what colour to paint your furniture finds? In the case of a chair makeover, I think the easiest way to find a colour is to take inspiration from the fabric! In this case, either the green or golden yellow will look great.
I love this fabric. You might recognize it from this office chair DIY.
Since green is my favourite colour, I’m going with that! Mix equal parts milk paint powder to water and mix until combined.
Since I’m not painting the harp detail, I tape along the edges with painters tape, and wrap the rest in moisture resistant paper. That will prevent accidental paint mishaps on the harp.
Start with the chair lying down horizontally. I like to use a large round brush for applying milk paint; I feel it gives me more control.
Apply Hemp Oil
To seal and protect the milk paint, I apply hemp oil. There’s a full description on the best way to apply hemp oil on this painted rocking chair.
Hemp oil brings out the richness of both the natural wood and paint. It makes the milk paint buttery soft. So I much prefer it over conventional finishes! There’s nothing better for an authentic look and feel.
The last step is re-upholstering the chair seat. No skimpy padding for me! I’ll show you how to reupholster similar chairs in a future post (check out how to reupholster a dining chair).
But until then, if you’ve ever wondered about the different types of upholstery foam, this brand new video from across the pond is excellent:
Before and After Wooden Chair Repair
Here’s a reminder of what we started with:
And here it is now. What do you think?
As you can see, there are so many pretty colours that can be pulled from the fabric. Which colour would you have chosen?
UPDATE: after restoring this lovely vintage chair, we found the perfect new home for it. It fills my heart with joy to have someone enjoying our work for many more years to come. See these DIY chairs for more makeover ideas!
Pin Wooden Chair Repair
Pinning is always welcome and appreciated!
Crochet for a Cure
If you haven’t heard, we’ve just launched a pattern shop, where we’re donating 100% of our proceeds to Alzheimer’s. You’ll find patterns, like our Air Planter Pods – great for Mother’s Day – and tooth fairy pillow (shown below), available to purchase as a donation to our Alzheimer’s fundraiser.
Do it Over Designers
Visit these other talented bloggers for more do-it-over transformations!
Beautiful, Sara! I love the way the harp stands out now. It really is a showstopper!
Thanks so much Kim! It’s always nice to keep a bit of the original charm of a piece.
Sara, you and your hubby have some serious woodworking skills! Your chair makeover looks fabulous! And I love the fabric you chose for the seat. The colors blend in so well with the frame. And I didn’t know about hemp oil and its’ qualities, either. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks Gail! I’m definitely a hemp oil convert now!
Great project. I visited your veneer post. I have a very old radio cabinet my hubby found on the roadside.
I think I am going to have to pull it off an use wood filler. It’s very bad but is a great piece.
I’m planning to paint it anyway.
Thanks Cindy! Even if you’re painting it, if the veneer is intact you can still play around and practice so when you want to save the veneer from another piece, you’ll have some experience 🙂 Either way, have fun – hope to see it on an upcoming Do It Over Designers hop!
Very nice!! So many people would have just trashed that poor little chair, it looks beautiful now!
Yes, we have a sweet spot for runts of the litter, so to speak!
That is an amazing transformation, Sara. From the leg repair to the new fabric it’s all beautiful! I have to learn about hemp oil now since I’ve never heard of using it for furniture.
Thanks Ann! I LOVE hemp oil; combined with milk paint, it gives such a buttery finish unlike any other.
This came out fabulous and is so pretty! Great tutorial, too!
Thanks so much Patti!
Wow, what an amazing makeover. I love the way you left the harp wood, it makes it stand out as the focal point and that fabric is gorgeous. I really appreciate the tip for repairing a chair leg, this method is so much better than the one I use.
Thanks Anita! What method are you using for your repairs now?
Sara, this is a gorgeous makeover. I love the look of the milk paint and the pretty cushion fabric. Green is my fav as well. You always make it look easy.
Thanks so much Alys! You look stunning in green – didn’t you wear a green dress (one of many) to that wedding in Canada a few years ago?
Sara, what a memory you have. I wore a gorgeous, full-length green dress with gold embroidery on the neckline. I’ve had the chance to wear it one other time. (We’re all in jeans and sweats these days, eh?)
What fun we had at that wedding, and how amazing, too, to dress up like that.
I think you had several dresses for that event, didn’t you? You looked fabulous in everything! Yes, it’s jean and sweats and even pj’s around here!
I did! One traditionally sari in aqua with gold trim, the green dress and a third skirt and top in royal blue, embroidered with birds and flowers. I have that one on my dress form in my bedroom. It’s a work of art.
Did you make any of them Alys?
Not a one! It’s funny to think I once sewed for a living. We have a large Indian population in the Bay Area, enough to support a huge dress shop for all Indian occasions. The sales clerk set us up with three outfits each, made the alterations, told us how to wear them and for which event, etc. It was an amazing experience.
Wow, she looks amazing, Sara. I love how you’ve celebrated the harp detail and given her a totally new, high class look. She really is gorgeous.
Thanks Michelle! I love it when a plan comes together 🙂
Your new chair is gorgeous. I love the new fabric – so much better than the previous version. And your tutorial definitely taught me a few things.
Thanks Donna! So glad you learned something.
I love how you kept the harp in stain color great idea! I have a table that has harps on each side!
I love how the hemp oil makes that part look so rich!
From trash to treasure makeovers are so fun! Love this one.
I know – sometimes even I can’t believe the transformation – lol!
love the colors you used! beautiful.
You would never even guess it was the same chair. Thanks for the step by step transformation and all the details. Amazing job, Sara.
Thanks so much Meegan!
Sara, this turned out amazing. What a find on that chair. You guys did an amazing job. The before and after, is WOW!!!
Thanks so much Brooke! I love making over chairs because the transformation is always like night and day!
You guys did such a great job on this chair restoration. A trash to treasure upcycle indeed! The paint color and fabric you chose is to pretty and I love the stained harp detail. You’ve piqued my curiosity with your wood filler technique and I must try it out.
Thanks so much Marie! That wood filler never lets us down.
Sara the chair looks amazing with your repairs, new material and color. Great job!