Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Cane Chairs Completed!

I'm a bit ashamed that it took me so long, considering I purchased these beauts about 5+ months ago, before I started blogging, but I can now cross cane chairs off of my to DIY list!

They are finally done and I am really pleased with how they turned out. However, let me be candid for a second, this project (at least parts of it) was a real bitch.

I'll never try to discourage anyone from taking on a DIY project but I also don't think it's fair to misrepresent a project as something it isn't. It was fun but also quite involved - and upholstery never seems to be as easy as planned...

Before & After:

So as you can see I went with the turquoise damask print and the pink patterned print (the yellow was sold out but I think the pink is even better!) 

And as for the back... hexagons and butterflies!

Before I get into all the gory details here's a brief re-cap of how I got here - it's only fair since I've strung you along for months.

I bought two cane chairs last winter and even before I got them home there was the makings of a good story - you can get the dramatic details here.

Clearly my chairs did not come from a smoke free environment so I tore them apart and trashed everything that a) smelled of smoke b) had food residue on it and c) could not be identified. Check out some of the "treats" I discovered here

I looked for some fabric locally but nothing was good enough for my lovely chairs so I went online - where I was overwhelmed with choice. You can see all the options I contemplated here.

Once the frames were bare I gave them a quick sanding - there's a brief overview here. I used three different sandpapers to prep the chair starting with a coarse grit and moving towards medium and then fine. I had bought a combo pack so I used all three and it worked fine but if you don't want to take off too much wood material on your own project you can probably get by with just the medium or fine grit paper. 

After sanding, I wiped the chairs down to remove all the dust, put down my drop cloths, and started painting. And this is where I ran into my first trip up - besides the gross upholstery that made my skin crawl... 

I should have primed the wood first but skipped this step to save time, funny thing is that I just ended up using more paint to make up for the lack of primer. Next time I will definitely use primer first. As far as paint goes, I used Krylon glossy white spray paint and despite my lack of skill it worked great. I didn't research spray paint or anything, just chose the one that was easy to find and relatively inexpensive.

Clearly I don't have the right personality for spray painting - It took every ounce of patience that I have to apply multiple thin coats and not try to cover every inch of wood all at once. As a person who wants it done right but also right now I had to realize that I couldn't have both - luckily I chose doing it right(ish), which took forever!

It was a bit of a Jekyl and Hyde thing going on while I painted and at times the impatient part of me took over resulting in a few drips on the hard to reach parts of the legs. One thing I've had to accept is that I don't have all the skills and therefore my finished projects may never be perfect. But sometimes, like with these chairs, anything is an improvement. 

I ended up using 5 cans of spray paint for 2 chairs - how many coats this translates into I'm not sure. I sprayed the frames and then flipped them upside down as well to make it easier to reach every area - I also used some wood blocks to lift the chair a few inches off the ground. 

It's starting to feel like summer here so the painting process stretched out for a few weeks when I probably could have done it in just a few days. While I was painting my cushions sat in the middle of my living room - mocking me. 

The seat cushion was in decent shape but the back needed to be replaced. I used 1inch foam for this and also picked up some batting to give a little more life to the seat. 

When it came time for upholstery I started with what I know - the seat cushion. I placed the seat cushion side down on my batting and stapled it to the wood base. I then trimmed off any excess and did this process again with my fabric. This was pretty easy as I've upholstered chair seats before and the cushion shape wasn't too wild. 

After the seat I moved on to the back. I will admit that this part intimidated me - and rightfully so! I'd looked at tutorials online so I had a bit of an idea of what to do but there's only so much you can grasp from pictures and words online. The first chair took much longer because I had to figure out a process and this took a lot of trial and error. 

I ended up cutting a piece for the back of the back - the piece that shows from the rear side of the chair. I tacked it into place with my stapler, one staple on each side, to make sure it was straight before going staple crazy. The hardest part of this step was getting the staples to go into the meaty part of the small strip of wood that frames the back. There wasn't a lot of room to maneuver my stapler and as the fabric became taught all around the back it was even more difficult. 

After the back piece was in place (good side facing out so it can be seen!) I added the foam and then the front piece of back fabric (the one that shows from the front). The easiest way I can explain it is as a sandwich - back fabric facing out, foam, front fabric facing out the other way. Make sense?

If it was tight in there before the foam and second piece of fabric didn't make it easier. I ended up going through a lot of 'failed' staples that either went into the fabric or didn't dig into the wood frame enough. It was really trial and error. 

The hardest part of the upholstery is that you need to be part contortionist to reach some of the spots and put enough pressure on the staple gun. My back is so sore today, I can't really ignore that I'm getting older...

After the back was together I needed to cover the exposed staples so I simply glued on some trim that I found at my local fabric store. I also contemplated nail head trim but I could only find single nail heads and I didn't think I'd be able to line them up nicely to get the look I wanted. 

And that's it! There were some less than proud moments of frustration but in the end they are just what I wanted! I'm going to put the turquoise one in my living room and the pink one in my bedroom - I'll post some pictures once I've had a chance to clean up a bit. 



  1. You did an amazing job on those chairs! The fabric is so bright and cheery. I love it!


  2. Wow, these look fab! Great job. I love the fabric you chose.

  3. How much fabic did you have to use?