Several months ago, I came across a set of cane back dining chairs at a local thrift shop that I just fell in love with. The charming leg carvings weren’t overly ornate, and the brass finials had just the right amount of tarnish to add some intrigue. Most importantly- the a strip of cane down the back was exactly what my living room was missing. I’d been looking for a cane chair in good condition to makeover for months. Cane furniture is perfect for small spaces because it allows light to filter through, creating the illusion of transparency. Finding an entire set of 6 cane chairs was like hitting the jackpot. Unfortunately, I couldn’t fit all 6 chairs in my little space, so I settled for just one, and negotiated the price to $15. I was a thrilled!
My cain chair had a few minor bumps and bruises. A slight tear in the cain meant I would need to replace it. The ugly upholstery covered in torn plastic screamed old lady. And the entire chair seemed to be covered in a layer of residue, 20 years in the making. It was the perfect makeover piece. This project took me several months- mostly because I was waiting on back-ordered pre-woven cane. I also realized I took far too few photos of the process, so I will do my best to explain my process clearly.
For the Chair
Step 1: First, I removed the seat and finals by unscrewing them from the base of the chair.
Step 2: Then, the chair took a nice long bath in some Minwax Hardwood Cleaner (follow package instructions to properly clean your wood).
Step 3: I removed the damaged cane from the chair back, using this video tutorial.
Step 4: This is where you would replace the cane with some pre-woven cane and spline (I purchased mine from Vandykes Restorers) using this video tutorial. I, however, was waiting for my cane, which was on backorder for several weeks, so I went ahead with the project, then came back and did the cane last. I also realized too late that Iordered the wrong size spline for my groove. But since I wanted a distressed finish to my chair, I reasoned it was okay to go without.
Step 5: When the wood was prepped, I rubbed a tea light candle along the edges of the chair that I wanted to be distressed, for an antiqued look. I focused on corners and details.
Step 6: In a well-ventilated area, I sprayed the chair base with some antique white spray paint I already had laying around. I sprayed the chair in sections, and using baby wipes, I carefully wiped away the candle wax as I went. Since the paint dries quickly, you don’t want to paint too much of the chair at once. To achieve more distressing (like if the paint has dried to much), lightly rub sandpaper around the desired area to remove paint.
Step 7: Once paint dried, I sealed in my handy-work with Minwax wipe-on polyurethane.
For the Cushion
I discovered a sample size of some discontinued European designer upholstery in a scrap bin at Mood. I loved it, but it wasn’t quite wide enough to cover the entire seat of my chair. My heart was set on the fabric though, so I found some complimentary trim, and decided to sew a cushion instead of taking the easy way of just wrapping fabric around the removable seat.
First, I used the wood seat (foam removed) as a stencil for the top of the cushion. It just fit, with only the tiniest seam allowance. I cut it out, then matched up the remaining fabric with the top, bottom, and sides of my cut piece (for pattern continuity) and sewed all five pieces together. I then replaced the foam, then wrapped my new cushion around the seat, stapling it on the underside of the wood with a staple gun, and re-screwing it back into place.
I am so pleased with the finished product. Though I was hesitant to distress the chair because the look is more shabby-chic than I typically like, I really enjoy the touch of parisian detail it adds to my living room.