The Chair That Started It All

Aside from a few spray painting projects, my true love of refinishing furniture started with a chair. My daughter Maggie was born in November of 2013, and I was in desperate need of a rocking chair for her room at the time. My dad had this one in his basement and was trying to find a home for it…Here’s a “before and after.”

BlendWhile the finish was beautiful, it doesn’t really go with the nursery. Oh, and the upholstery…yikes! (Sorry, Dad!) It just HAD to go.


I love the chair. It’s a solid piece of furniture that has already stood the test of time, but the color and upholstery wasn’t going to work. First I wanted to tackle the wood. I could spray paint it, which would take much less work, or I could re-stain it. I chose to stain it.

The supplies:


Step 1: SANDING! This was my first go with my fancy, new handheld sander. I’ve said “Sayonara!” to the archaic, manual way of sanding, and I’m never going back. Hello, 21st century electronics! I did still need some elbow grease and sandpaper to get in the nooks and cranies. Whenever you’re sanding off a finish, you’ll want to use an 80 grit paper which is more coarse. Then do a once-over with 220 grit to avoid any perpendicular lines against the grain. Here it is all nakie after sanding…


Step 2: WATER POPPING. Yes, it’s really called “water popping…” All you do is wet down a rag (just damp) and wipe it over the sanded wood. I did this a few times to remove all sawdust. The process of water popping helps to raise the grain to better accept the stain.

Step 3: STAINING. This was the fun part, and let me just say…if you don’t spend the time sanding, then you might as well not stain. The prep work makes all the difference. Some people prefer to use a foam brush or synthetic paint brush for staining. I just used a rag. I dipped one side right into the stain, spread it on the chair, and then used a dry rag to wipe up any excess a few minutes later. If you don’t wipe it up, you’ll have drips.

Step 4: PROTECTING. To protect the stain, you’ll want to use a polyurethane or polycryclic. I used polycryclic because it’s less likely to have an orange-y color when it dries. The orange would have ruined the look I was going for. If I had used a darker stain, I would have probably opted for a polyurethane. This was the easiest part of the process. I used a paintbrush and did two coats. Just as if I was painting it. I noticed a couple of drips after the first coat. I just did a light sanding before doing the second coat.

And the frame of the chair is done! Moving on to the cushion.

Step 5: REUPHOLSTERING. The existing upholstery was held in place with at least 100 staples, and OH, MAN! were they hard to pull out. Luckily, my husband was nice enough to put in a little effort too. Once we got out the staples, it just took one yard of fabric and about 50 staples to recover with a staple gun. When reupholstering, you want to make sure you’re pulling the fabric as tight as possible. I just sat on the back of the cushion and pulled the fabric around snuggly. I plan to do a yellow/gray/black color palette in the nursery, so picked this beautiful floral print from Joann’s Fabrics. I just love it!


The cushion just sits in the frame, it didn’t need to be attached to the chair. That will make it super easy if I ever decide to change the fabric!

Here’s the finished product! I love that you can still see the wood grain in the stain. It’s a much softer finish than if I had painted it white. What do you think?



What I learned:

  • Even with the sander, it took about 2 hours to sand off the finish and old stain. Next time, I’ll use a stripper before sanding. Hopefully that will shave off some time!
  • When staining, If you want a deeper saturation of color, you’re better off doing two light coats than one heavy coat. I did two coats since I used a white wash stain.

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