December 6, 2010

Lifelist: Refinish a Piece of Furniture

I'm really excited for todays post, because it's actually been 3 years in the making. A couple of years ago, while visiting our local flea market, I happened upon a pair of Midcentury teak armchairs. I had always wanted a pair of Danish chairs, so I was really excited when I actually found some. The availability of midcentury furniture around these parts is pretty slim, so I made a rash decision to take them home with me.

They were in fairly good condition, but the cushions were a bit flat and the fabric wasn't quite what I was going for. Still, they would do for awhile. Then my dog, who was a puppy at the time, decided that wood chairs were great for her to teethe on. That's when I decided that I would have to refinish them too. I saw a picture in House and Home magazine, where one of the featured homes had a pair of dark stained Danish armchairs, and decided that's what I eventually wanted to do.

I put off redoing the chairs for a couple reasons. 1. living in a condo, we just didn't have the space to refinish furniture in, and 2. I knew that a move was in the future, and wanted to redo them to suit the scheme of the new house. So one weekend in November, under the threat of imminent snowfall I decided to head out to the backyard and get this project underway.

Here's where my dog chewed the arms of the chairs. You don't know how much this bothered my and my husband, to live with damaged furniture like this. We're a little OCD about stuff like this.

My first thought was to use a chemical stripper to get rid of the existing finish. So I went to Home Depot and picked up an extra strength chemical stripper. I glopped it onto the wood and waited to see what happened. After about half an hour, we go these bubbles appearing on the arms, which signalled progress to me. However, the bubbles didn't seem to be occuring elsewhere, and the stripper seemed to be drying out, so I applied another layer to keep the chemical reaction going.

After about an hour, my curiosity got the better of me, and I took a putty knife to the chair to scrape away at the finish. It sure looked like progress to me!

So I started to scrape. The arms were beautiful, and the old finish came off really cleanly. However the rest of the body of the chair didn't have the same success. The finish came off on some areas and not others.

You can see the results here. The finish seemed to come off easier on areas where the chairs would have been touched more often, so the arms, parts of the legs and back spindles. But the rest of the finish remained, and it quickly became clear that I would have to resort to Plan B: Sanding.

The next weekend, I grabbed my Black and Decker Mouse sander, and some coarse sanding pads, and went to work. It took about 2 hours per chair to sand them back to this condition. But it was easy, and the chairs looked fabulous. That mouse sander is awesome, and for regular sanding jobs around the home I totally recommend it. Then it really did start to snow, and everything had to come inside.

I purchased a liter of stain from an industrial coating company, Bellare Industrial Coatings, which was recommended to me. They were fantastic, and I recommend getting stain there for a couple of reasons. One is that all their stain is custom mixed to order, and they have a huge selection of colours, so you can get exactly what you are looking for. Two is that as a professional finish, it's easier to use. I wasn't willing to take a risk with an off the shelf brand from the hardware store. I don't have any photo's of the actual finishing process, because most of it took place at night. But I applied the stain and wiped it off after a couple of minutes. It was a lot easier than I expected to get an even application of colour. The two chairs were stained in one night. Following that I applied two coats of a satin urethane. Also not too difficult, just a bit more time consuming to get a nice even application with no bubbles. And now the big reveal!

Ta da! I could not be happier with the outcome. They look so fabulous, and I'm so proud to say I did all the work myself.

The cushions were redone by my mom. The cushions are actually a spring assembly which makes them extra comfy. The springs were in great condition, but the foam surrounding them was pretty decrepit. We applied 1/2" and 1" thick foam as required, wrapped the whole thing in polyester batting and then stuffed them into the new covers.

I used this great textural woven from Thom Filicia's line for Kravet. I loved how the texture was a bit of a callback to upholstery used in the sixties. But this fabric has a really nice sheen to it, which gives it a bit more luxury.

Now I just have to figure out how to keep the dog off the furniture.