Finally, a Dining Room I Can Use!

October 18, 2011

One of the first pieces of furniture I bought after I purchased my apartment was a dining room table. I was out exploring the antique and vintage stores on Queen street East when I spotted a mid-mod teak table that I liked. It didn't come with chairs, but I figured I'd be able to find some easily enough somewhere else.
Teak dining room Table
My mid-century dining room table
Fast forward more than a year, and I still hadn't bought any chairs. If I wanted to use my table my seating choices were limited to my desk chair, or a small stool that I'm pretty sure my mom bought at Ikea when I was still in junior school (does that make it an antique?)
Limited Seating choices
A year later, and these were still your only seating choices

It wasn't that I couldn't decide what style of chair I wanted, it was that I'm cheap, and my dream chairs are decidedly not cheap.
White Eames DSW chair

My dream chair is the Eames DSW in white. Unfortunately at about $400 a chair it was miles out of my price range. I wanted the original fiberglass version - there are molded plastic knock-off versions available but I don't like them nearly as much, and they're still about $150 each which is too much for something you don't love. I needed another plan.

In April, while talking to my mom, she mentioned that she'd seen a version of my table featured in Style at Home magazine, and she suggested I take a look.
Style at Home - April 2011
Style at Home - April 2011
Isn't it great? I love the stark black against the warm wood. This picture was the inspiration for my biggest furniture project to date. A few weeks later I was in a Salvation Army Thrift store when I spotted these:
Windsor style chairs at the Thrift store

I think they must have come from a restaurant as there were a couple of dozen chairs scattered throughout the store, and I spent a good hour testing all the chairs to get the best four (some were quite wiggly).

Deciding what type of paint to use was my next step. In an ideal world I'd have a backyard or garage where I could have spray painted the chairs, but as I don't have either I needed a slightly less messy method. My original plan was to use regular black paint, and then add a top coat of glossy varnish, but a salesperson at Benjamin Moore gave me another option - high-gloss black paint.

First I took my chairs outside to the back of the building and cleaned them. I used a scraper to get the gum of the bottoms (eww!) , and then washed them using TSP. Next I sanded them thoroughly to remove some of the clear varnish.
Gum stuck to the bottom of a chair
Why do people do this?? So Gross!
I decided to prime them first using primer I had on hand, but I'm not positive this step was necessary, and might actually have slowed this project down as the primer was pure white - quite a difference from the black paint I applied next.

The black paint took me three coats (I think - I lost count), and it was a rather major undertaking. The problem was I had to make sure to paint the entire chair, so I had to turn each chair over, paint the bottom, flip it around once it was dry and then paint the top. After a while I was really sick of working on the chairs.

After what seemed like weeks of work, my chairs were finally complete and ready for use.
Black Windsor chairs around a Teak Dining Table

Here's a quick before/after of what I accomplished:
Dining chairs - Before and after black Paint

I think they look much better then when they started.

Here’s what this project cost:
  • 4 thrift store chairs: $40 at the Salvation Army Thrift Store
  • Sandpaper and TSP: $0 - I had it on hand
  • Foam Paintbrush: $1.09 at Canadian Tire
  • Coronado High Gloss Black Paint: $21.99 at Primetime Paint and Paper
For a total cost of $71.28 (tax. included) I'm pretty pleased with my new dining chairs. While I still wish I could have the Eames chairs, at a fraction of the cost of one I think these are a splendid substitute.

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  1. It's really lovely! Worth all your hard work.

  2. These chairs look great!

  3. Your dining room looks like an inspiration picture now!! Everything looks fantastic!
    Almost more than your finished product, I like the caption about the gum...why *do* people do that?? lol!

  4. Wow! Our chairs need a face-lift as well... I might just go with black because yours look amazing! :) Great find and great work!

  5. Very nice! I like how un-fussy they are.

  6. You did a beautiful job on the chairs!

  7. I just don't get it - Maybe people still believe that old wives tale that if you swallow gum it will stay inside you for 7 years?

  8. Sounds like you prepped them really well and they look great too.

  9. Gorgeous! I think your chairs are actually better than the Eames chairs!

  10. Just a quick question for you. I am a blog reader from New Zealand and was wondering what TSP is? Would love to do my chairs like yours but lack the courage to do so. I'm not crafty or handy at all so something like this would be a big ask for me. Thanks, Catherine

  11. Hi Catherine,
    TSP stands for Trisodium phosphate. It's a cleaner that's good at removing grease.
    Hope that helps - good luck with your chairs. It seems intimidating before you start, but the end result is well worth all the effort!

  12. I feel your pain with the chairs! I'm working on 4 ladder back chairs (it's been weeks to be honest) but I'm using ASCP in graphite. Chairs are a pain in the rear end to be honest and I would "NEVER" hand paint chairs again! Now I just need to wax them!

    Yours turned out lovely!


  13. Love a windsor chair...they are certainly classic and look great with the table. Score.

  14. the black windsor chairs are classic and look fabulous with the wood table.
    fyi- i have the style of your "dream chair" but bought knock offs from which were much mroe affordable and are so comfy!

  15. [...] dining chair project was one that seemed to take FOREVER, but I’m happy with the end result. Next time I [...]

  16. Hi ... I love your chairs and have loved black with wood FOREVER. So I wondered how they were holding up. My husband is opposed because he thinks they will chip easily.

  17. I found this post on and had to see how you painted those chairs. I got some of the same at a thrift store and found them a monster to kind of glad it was an ordeal for someone else and it wasn't just me.

  18. Haha! Yes, they certainly were a pain to paint - but oh so worth it - don't you think?

  19. Hi Tracy,

    I have to say that they held up pretty well. They did get some minor scratches over time, but nothing too bad. That said, I like alone, and I don't have children or pets, so it might be different in your home. I expected some dings so I kept some paint on hand, but I think if you prep the chairs well, and use quality paint you should be okay. I should mention - I used latex, but I've heard that oil paint is more durable (I had to paint indoors, and didn't want the smell of the oil). Talk to you local paint professional for advice on the best way to do it.

    Hope that helps,


  20. Hi Michelle,this is the first time reading your blog.nice and simple.good job.enjoyed. Lakshmi

  21. Kathleen WilliamsJune 11, 2013 2:49 am

    Michelle, I enjoy your projects and can-do spirit. Thanks for sharing. As for Catherine's being intimidated about such a task, my father once told me, "When you have a big job, just BEGIN--and outlive it." Kind of live it down. I think of this often when I feel tentative and intimidated.

  22. Popping over from CSI to let you know those chairs are looking good! Nice job!

  23. LOVE LOVE the 2 color theme on a table and chairs! It just stands out, and most people can envision it until they see it. Great job!! Thanks for sharing on CSI Project "Thrist Store Turnaround"!

    Shelly @MinettesMaze


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