As you might remember, I’ve been on the lookout for dining room chairs so that we can sit at the farmhouse table I refinished.  Surprise!  They’re here!

When I was searching, I was a little worried that the kind of chairs I wanted, at the price I was willing to pay, would not show up in any reasonable timeframe.  I wanted:

  • traditional, attractive styling – not all straight lines
  • dark stained wood, though a dark painted finish might be ok
  • under $150 for four chairs

As I searched Craigslist and visited a few thrift stores over the next month, I realized my criteria were very hard to come by all in one place.  I found ugly cheap chairs.  I found expensive pretty chairs.  I found tables with chairs not sold separately.  I found light stained chairs for the right price but the wrong color.

And then one Friday at 5pm I found a brand new Craigslist ad from a local antiques warehouse saying that they had a bunch of junky antiques in temporary storage which they needed to clear out by the end of the weekend.  I was knocking on their door when they opened on Saturday morning.

Long story short, I haggled the beardy fellow down to $75 for four semi-antique white oak chairs that had ALREADY BEEN re-glued, stripped, and totally sanded by a professional antiques restorer.  And they were awesome.

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They’re super sturdy, but look at the fetchingly slim ankles on these girls.

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Front and back views:

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I decided to stain them a nice dark brown, just shy of black-brown.  I felt that since my table is mid-to-light orangey brown, contrasting darker chairs would be grounding in my white dining room.   Also, that was my favorite combination when I was pinning inspiration photos.

The stain I used was Minwax Dark Walnut.  I love how the grain showed up after staining!  There are lots of variations and tiger stripes in the wood that catch the light.  Because Minwax oil stains have a bit of sealer built into the product and the chairs are not going to get the same kind of abuse as a tabletop, I chose not to apply any kind of additional top coat but simply rubbed them down with Howard’s Feed N’ Wax.  (I’m fine with them collecting some handling marks from time and use.) The chairs had been so nicely sanded by Mr. Antiques Restorer that they felt silky and finished even before the Feed N’ Wax, which is not always the case with freshly stained wood.

As for the seats, they were originally caned but I took them in a different direction.  I made a cardboard template for the seat bottom (shown) and then cut the base out of 3/8″ plywood.

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The bases are secured to the chairs with bolts through special threaded metal tubes the Chief installed.  This way the seats can be removed and replaced whenever necessary without wearing out the fastening mechanism.

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On top of the wood base is glued 1″ high density upholstery foam, wrapped in high-loft batting.  I traced the template shape with a sharpie and cut out four foam seat pads with my bread knife, then cut the batting in roughly the same shape, about 4″ wider all around.

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This was all glued and stapled in place over the 3/8″ plywood seats, then they were covered with Joann Fabric’s best-quality vinyl “leather”.  I wanted a wipeable surface that could take children sitting on spaghetti and adults spilling wine!

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I bought ALL these upholstery supplies with 40-50% coupons or sales because these are expensive items!  Never buy anything over $5 at Joann’s without a coupon or a sale, say I.

Before I show you what we have, here’s one of my top inspiration photos.  I love the look, though I can’t go that girly in our house.  I also hope to make something like that swagged thing out of a drop cloth.  I think it will add a lot of warmth to the blank wall we have without being as predictable as art or a mirror.

And now…. TA DA!!  The most beauteous dining room our household has known.  The eventual plan is to build a bench or banquette against the wall so that we can seat up to 7 at our table.  What you see there in the pictures is actually the headboard of the full sized bed we used to sleep in.  I doubt we will actually convert it to a dining bench but it makes a great placeholder while we have other parts of the house in disarray.

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For now… I’m grateful that sit down dinners have become a reality again!  No sooner did we start eating in chairs at the table than we started saying grace again and having conversations over the food, something that somehow fell by the wayside in the interim.

Have you ever had four months of dinners on the sofa while getting a dining area together?  Or done any transformative chair reupholstering?  Do share!

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