It’s no secret that we love working on projects together (like starburst mirrors made out of silverware …or drunken cowboys made out of plastic cacti), but we also enjoy putting our own unique spin on things. If you’ve been with us from the beginning, you know that our first project on the blog was a pair of dilapidated Goodwill lamps that we split up and each made over in a different way. It was so fun to see what we each came up with for the exact same original lamps:
Since then, we’ve always been on the lookout for more paired items. When we came across two down-and-out cane chairs on a recent thrifting excursion, we decided it was time for another bitter friendly faux competition.
Here’s what we came up with!
Colorful two-toned chair (Sage)
My chair came with an awesome pricetag:
I didn’t love the light wood tone, though, and the whole thing felt a little drab.
Since I suspected that Naomi would be keeping hers its natural tone to make the awesome shape the star, I decided to do something a little more colorful. You probably think I painted it turquoise, and who could blame you? Also, who could blame me? But actually, I decided to shake things up and try something outside my normal comfort zone: green. I love a rich kelly green, but haven’t used it in my decor at all. I figured this chair was the chance to try it out! I also wanted to add a lighter shade of green for some contrast.
Spray paint seemed like the way to go for this project, so I grabbed one can each of a darker green and a lighter green from Michaels, both in gloss.
The chair was in pretty good shape, so I skipped straight to painting. (I could have primed and thoroughly sanded first, but…I didn’t.) First I applied several light and even coats of the darker green over the whole chair.
I let that dry fully, and then it was time to apply the second layer. I wanted to experiment with a two-toned look, but rather than going for a “dipped” look on the legs like I see so often, I decided to make a color block in just one top corner. To create the effect, I used painter’s tape to create a diagonal line across the top.
To protect the rest of the chair, I taped on a plastic trashbag.
Then I applied a few coats of the light green to the top corner.
I quickly removed the tape while the paint was still wet to prevent peeling, but I did have one place that peeled a little. To touch up the original dark green, I sprayed some spray paint into a paper cup and then used a small craft brush to fix up the area.
I was left with a colorful two-toned look:
It’s a little crazier than I normal go, but I like it as an accent chair to add some color and interest to my more neutral spaces.
Natural Wood Chair with Butchers Twine. Yes, you read that right. (Naomi)
I was totally into my chair when I bought it. I LOVED the beautiful tone of the old wood, the cool shape, the delicate, almost spidery structure, and the price: under $4!
But that affection faded a bit when I got it home and took a look in the saner world outside of the thrift store. It was VERY wobbly and pretty decrepit, with wood pieces coming off, broken supports, and a totally ruined cane seat. I wasn’t sure I could get this piece into a condition to sit on, let alone make it look good!
Still, in the name of blogging
and not letting Sage win without a fight, I soldiered on. To start, I cut off the extra pieces of wood from where supports had been broken, and sanded down the edges to form a smooth surface.
I also cut one of the spines from the chair-back off, as it had already lost one on the other side, and I wanted it to be symmetrical.
Next, I had to remove the old caning. I wasn’t sure how to do this, so I started out using an X-Acto knife. Bad idea; it was taking forever. I switched to the blunt instrument of a screwdriver, and it was completed in like 15 minutes.
The only really annoying part was working all the remaining cane pieces out from all the little holes. But I knew that I would need them clear to attach the new seat.
I also tightened the screws holding the piece together (there were two attaching the back legs to the seat) and added wood clue on the joints that were coming apart to prevent it from wobbling so much.
Because I am a pro, I rigged up a very sophisticated mechanism to hold the joints tight while the glue dried. I just tied some twine as tightly as I could, and then twisted it with the screwdriver until it was taut, and let it sit overnight.
I was pretty blown away by how much of a difference these small fixes made. The chair doesn’t wobble AT ALL now, and actually felt totally safe to sit on. (Oh, you know, besides the fact that thee is no seat.)
With the structure intact and all the junk removed, it was time to clean the frame. It was feeling lazy so I just put it in the shower, ran some water over it, and then wiped it down with a rag. This is NOT a best practice for making over wood furniture, FYI.
Fortunately Brad was out of the house at this point (he has much stronger feelings about cleaning wood furniture with water-based products than I do). In fact, the first time he’ll learn about this little escapade is here in this post. (Hi, Brad!)
I let it sit for a few hours to dry, and then broke out my favorite products for bringing old wood back to life: Howard Restor-A-Finish (affiliate link — read our policies) and Feed-N-Wax (affiliate link — read our policies). I talked a lot about how great this stuff is in my post about making over an old set of drawers, so I won’t go into all the details here. I’ll just show you the difference a single coat of the Restor-A-Finish made on the front leg of this chair:
After a generous application of both of the products, this chair was looking much better. Even the seat, which was really rough and sad where it used to be covered with the caning, was looking pretty good.
Next, it was time to construct a new seat. When I bought the chair I had been planning to just do an upholstered seat over a piece of plywood cut into shape, but I decided to do something a little crazier and try a making my own seat out of twine or rope.
I bought some butchers twine from the hardware store, selected because it was one of the cheapest options, and because I thought the light color would look nice against the dark wood of my chair.
I brought home two rolls because I didn’t want to run out, but I ended up using less than one (they were 370 feet each). The ends frayed easily, so to help me thread it through the holes in the chair, I made a makeshift “needle” by wrapping some painters tape around the end.
I had no idea what I was doing, so I just tied it off in the middle of the seat and got started.
I decided to wrap some of the front-to-back pieces around the outside of the frame. I thought this could look kind of cool, and I also wanted the seat to be full enough to form a tight weave and provide enough support to sit on.
To prevent myself from going crazy trying to feed too much twine through at once, I strung it in small chunks, making sure that when I tied it off, the knot ended up beneath the seat. I made sure to pull it as taut as I could as I went, but it was impossible to get it perfect.
I had been imagining a tight and very orderly weave, but I had to ditch that plan when I realized that there was an uneven (by a lot) number of holes in the front and back of the chair. Instead, after a little math, I decided to try a configuration that would create an interesting pattern.
It’s hard to see since it is sitting a little wonky in that picture, but I was going for a tighter set in the middle, with it spreading out as you go toward either side.
To start the side-to-side weave, I just tied it off at a back corner and carefully threaded it over-under across the row.
It was pretty slow going, but was an enjoyable exercise with bad television playing in the background. I was very careful not to miss a thread, because that sort of mistake would have been a PAIN to take back, but would be very visible in the final project. I regretted the one mistake I made in the original front-to-back weave (can you spot it?) but I sure wasn’t going to undo everything to fix it.
Fortunately, I liked the way the weave’s pattern was turning out, so that kept me pretty cheerful through the tedious process.
By the time I got near the end, the twine was becoming very tight. I had pulled it as tight as I could before, and now the up-and-down from the weave was upping the tension. for the last few rows, I had to pry up the threads by hooking them with a paint can opener to be able to string under them.
Once it was done, I took a little while to straighten out the weave, and then stepped back to admire my handiwork!
I am pretty happy with the way it turned out! It definitely doesn’t look normal, but I do love the contrast between the light twine and the dark wood, and the cool pattern that I was able to create in the front. I’m pretty proud of how the final seat looks.
And the finish really came back to life. The cuts I had to make to take off the broken pieces aren’t that noticeable.
And it is actually pretty comfortable! Through the weaving process, I was able to get it to a pretty high amount of tension, so it is not bad to sit on. Here it is holding up an 8 pound weight. Much less than a person, but you can see that the twine is hardly flexing.
I’ve currently got it set up in my dining room, where I love the wood tone against the rug and white trim.
These kinds of chairs are so common in thrift stores (and usually pretty cheap). Please rush out and buy a bunch yourself, and let us know what you come up with!