Furniture · Our House

A Kitchen Chair Refresh

I’ve got a simple and quick DIY for you on this Transformation Thursday. Is that a thing, or did I just make that up?

I recently painted my kitchen chairs to refresh my dining space and many of you were interested in a tutorial on how to do your own DIY chair update. This is a relatively simply DIY that just requires a few materials and a little patience. Below you can see our original chair color pallet – Andrew built the black toddler/preschooler chairs and we bought the green stick chairs at a flea market years ago.

The Prep

If you’ve heard me say this once, you’ve probably heard it 1000 times; but the prep is the longest, but most important step! You will set yourself up for success if you do your due diligence during this step. If your chairs are already painted, then a light sanding should suffice. If your chairs are coated with some sort of varnish or polyurethane (or any other clear coat over stain) then its best to remove the finish down to the wood so the paint can adhere better. For this project, both sets of chair were already painted, so I sanded them with 150 grit sandpaper until the surfaces were smooth enough to meet my standards.

Ready for Paint!

The stick chairs were previously painted with a brush, so the finish had a brush stroke texture to it that I feel gave it a little bit of character, so when sanding, I only sanded enough to rough up the surface while keeping some of the texture from the original paint job. The kids chairs were built by Andrew, my husband, about a year and a half ago and then painted with cheap inexpensive Krylon paint that just didn’t hold up well. I’m a firm believer that with paint, you get what you pay for. Also, not all paint is equal. Make sure to buy your paint based on what you are painting – for furniture, you typically want a paint that will dry with a hard finish, like an enamel, as opposed to a latex paint. Please don’t make the same mistakes I have – I’ve painted way too many furniture pieces with latex paint (because it’s what I had on hand), only for the paint to wear off with the first thing I set on them. If you have this same issue, you can always finish them with a clear top coat, but that just adds another step.

But back to the sanding. If your piece has any flat areas, you can use an orbital sander, but any spindles or curvy areas will need some good ol’ fashioned elbow grease. Just put on some good tunes or your favorite podcast and get to work. I used the orbital sander where I could, then switched over to hand sanding, which took me a few hours for 4 chairs; this is by far the longest part of this process. After sanding the chairs with 150 grit sandpaper, I did another quick pass with 220 grit sandpaper, then wiped the chairs down with wet microfiber cloths. If you feel your piece is still ‘dusty’ after using the microfiber cloth, you can also wipe it down with a tack cloth to remove any remaining dust particles.

The Paint

When I painted Sam and Ellie’s bathroom vanity (you can read about it here and here), I searched around for a quality paint designed for furniture and cabinets that would stand up to constant use and abuse. One of my biggest pet peeves is to paint something, only to have the paint scratch or chip at the first thing that accidentally comes in contact with it. Since these are the chairs we use everyday, I needed something that dries hard and has good adhesion. So, I choose to use Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel (in satin), because I liked the finish so much when I used it for the vanity. This paint is made for cabinets, doors, and trim and is their hardest drying paint. It also goes on silky smooth.

Once the chairs were sanded and cleaned up, I set up my paint station. Now, you can certainly paint your furniture with a brush, but if you already have an air compressor, I highly recommend my Critter Siphon Gun. I bought this back in March (on sale for less than $40!) and I would buy it again and again. We’ve had several other sprayers, but for small jobs like furniture, this sprayer cannot be beat. And its wayyyy cheaper than the other sprayers we bought. And bonus, its super easy to clean too! Because these chairs have so many slats and spindles, painting with a brush would have taken much longer than the 1 hour it took me to spray two coats of paint on four chairs.

Again, this is right after painting, still wet.

And a side note about my painting station, usually when I am spraying something, it helps to elevate the piece I am painting. I typically cover the ground with drop cloths, then use a folding table or saw horses, covered with another drop cloth, to set the furniture on. This helps save your back from having to bend over too much. Also, with things like chairs or tables with turned legs, I like to start with the piece up-side down, then flip it over and spray it right-side up. This allows me to get into all the crevices, spraying from several angles so nothing gets missed. And always make sure to paint in a well ventilated area and/or wear a respirator.

All dry now.

I chose Sherwin Williams’ Caviar in satin for the chairs, and sprayed on two coats of paint. This paint does need some curing time, so even if its dry to the touch, let it fully cure for 36-48 hours before use. I made the mistake of bringing the kids’ chairs back into the kitchen for them to use about 10 hours after I painted them and there was a little smudging of the paint on the seat of the chairs. It’s nothing that most people will ever notice, but as the person who saw how pristine they looked after painting, it was a little disheartening. I left the adult chairs undisturbed for a good 48 hours and had no issues with the paint finish.

And that was it!


I think unifying the chairs in black brings a sort of sophistication to this space that wasn’t there before. Next up, a kitchen table refresh. Now that the chairs are all unified with black paint, I’m not loving the yellow legs of the table anymore. I feel this is the beginning of one of those ‘you give a mouse a cookie’ situations where one thing leads to another, which leads to another, and so on. I’ll keep you posted on any changes we make to the kitchen table to keep the dining area cohesive and cozy.


Have you painted any furniture lately? I’d love to hear about it. Comment below or connect with me on instagram @elleandjaydesign.

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