Reviving a thrift store French chair

Reviving a thrift store French Chair

Dear Diary,

Some time ago I bought a petite, sweet little French chair at a thrift store in desperate need of love and care.  She was brown, wonky, and had ugly pink covers. But oh her shape and style called out to me.  I had striped her and wasn’t sure where I would put this little beauty, until my friend fell in love with her, and she went to live with her…. I could always visit you know.  Let me show you how this sweetie had two transformations in two years.  This is the story of Reviving a thrift store French Chair….

I never took a before-before picture, of the ugly thrift store before the two changes….but in this post, you see her sitting beside the bed where my friend first covered her in a lovely floral to match her guest room before a little make over a few weeks ago.  (See the post in the link for the reveal)

The chair was painted white, but when I moved it out of the guest room and  relocated it to a small lounge study nook, the white was to stark and needed to be softened and muted to suit the rest of the decor.  It was painted a muddy ivory – “piano” from Dulux.  But I never leave it just there you know…(this photo was taken after the pink floral was striped….the second time since her stay with us) 😉

These little chairs have a lot of detail.  Detail one just don’t see so well when only painted in one flat colour.

It needed to be “antiquated”  and there are many ways to do this, like waxing for instance, but I used what I had on hand.  My favourite and I believe one of the easiest ways to do this, is to use a Scumble medium used for colour washing walls and to do other faux finishes with.  My recipe for this finish is 1 x part acrylic scumble medium, 2 x part water and 1 x part Raw amber acrylic craft paint.  Mix well and apply to the pre-painted chair.


The scumble is applied roughly and generously, making sure it goes into all the crevices and detail of the chair.  Let it sit for about 3 – 5 minutes and use a damp soft cloth like an old t-shirt to wipe away the excess, leaving some scumble medium in the detail and a little on the surface of the chair.

Whilst that dries (it takes quite some time as this is the purpose of the scumble medium), proceed to cover the chair.  This chair has been covered before so the foam was in good condition, I just added some wadding.

When covering with the chosen fabric, make sure the tension is even, and as I have explained in my previous tutorials, start in the middle on one side, pin a few, move over directly across and do the same, then left and then right.  Do this in rotation until its pinned all around and evenly taught.  You will have to look over to the front constantly to check for pleats and bubbles and unevenness.  The fabric I chose for this chair is from the Jaclyn Smith Range in Embroidered Baldino Pecan and online available from .

Once the seat is done, the rear of the back is next on the list.  The plywood was fairly thin, so use very shallow staples like a 6mm.  Once done, put the rear into the frame and staple to the back with longer staples.  (See second pic.)  Oh, and can you see the paint has dried and set into the pattern?  Beautiful isn’t it?

Now the back-rest foam can be placed down, followed always with wadding.  The fabric is stapled down in the same pattern as always.  Cris cross and evenly stretched. Work your way around the back in little bits to make sure you don’t pull harder one side than the other.     

Once the back is stapled down, you can finish with what ever trim your heart desires.  I love working with piping but felt this fabric is ornate and glamorous, that it needed a little more pizzaz than usual.  I opted for gold trim rope, also from and removed the lip to hot glue the rope to the back of the chair.  I covered the joined part of the rope with a piece of the same fabric, neatly folded to make a bias binding-type ribbon, and stapled it so you can’t see it.

   The rope finishes the chair off beautifully, and gives a professional, and classy look to the chair.

There you have it, all done, beautiful new, revived and ready to serve proudly in her new study nook.  (I will show you that next time)

The detailing of the antique paint technique is just stunning, and changes the feel of the chair dramatically.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and see how Reviving a thrift store French Chair need not be daunting, but in a few hours you can transform your very own thrift store find with a little paint and bit of effort.

Next time I will show you how to recover a lovely lampshade that I found on Gumtree (something like craigslist for my US readers) that compliments this chair and complete the study nook.  Reveal coming in the same post!

Till next time,





Article by Teresa

Australian Interior Designer / Decorator & Photographer. I share my style, my creativity and love for all things decor.

This Article Has 2 Comments
  1. Elma Koster says:

    Lovely little lady!! Beautiful!!

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