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Chair makeover or when your plans find a mind of their own

OK. I think that a lot of you guys have probably had this happen to you. You have a plan in your head. You gather materials and information. You’re finally good to go. Something happens, your plans are shot, do you forge ahead regardless, or do you let your project take the direction it wants?

I’m going to tell you a story of how this happened to me. Or rather, is happening to me.

As you may be able to tell from my last couple of posts (did you read them yet? Feel free to check them out, the wit and intelligence will blow you away) I refinish furniture for fun and sometimes profit. I found this cool old chair that needed love. I brought it home and stared at it for a few hours. Then, I was inspired! I would give it a new leather seat. I would paint it up. It would be sleek and modern but still have that vintage charm.

The leather on the seat was total dry and cracking


the back of the infamous chair, pre-refinishing


However, the plans involved leather that was either turquoise or yellow. Why? Because those are my favourite colours right now. I think they are favourite colours for a lot of people. So, where the heck was I going to find turquoise or yellow leather? Another inspiration: I’d repurpose an old leather jacket!!! Way cheaper than buying a new chunk of leather and where does one get one of those anyway?? I asked the kind folks on FullCircles Ottawa. No one had an old leather jacket to give me. I scoured the halls of all the local Value Villages. I looked on my favourite buy and sell sites. Finally I found it: a teal leather coat, large, in good shape.

I made a new seat for the chair. I had to take out all the nails from the old leather. I found the newspaper that was used as filler and tried to date the chair. This was a nice distraction and I’m pretty sure it was made in 1922. There was a lawsuit at the Wheat Board, the trains were having issues and a baby was abandoned at the train station in a suitcase. So I get this leather seat finished and it’s time to paint the frame.

Teal leather for the seat


old upholstery nails

Baby in a suitcase! Scandal!


I get stumped. Should the frame be black or white or brown? I decide “white”. I buy paint. I second guess myself. I poll my Facebook friends. I poll my Instagram friends. I go to Pinterest. This chair becomes a social media darling, a celebrity among the moms I know and my long lost high school buddies. Finally, I decide. White paint for you, chair.

And this, my friends, is where my plans said, “That’s what YOU think, sister”.

As I am sanding down the layers of paint, my chair begins to unfold like a flower. A very shabby chic, flea market kind of flower. The kind of look that you can watch online tutorials about replicating but it never really looks authentic. It was like the proverbial angels singing from the parting clouds, sunlight streaming down into my laundry room/workshop. After all that groaning online to an Australian doctor/mother, the other refinisher from Kentucky, random people on Pintrest who liked my ideas, was I willing to scrap all my plans and let this chair be what it clearly wanted to be??

the revelation

pretty colours waiting to be found

the one side sanded to get the full effect


The answer is “yes”. Yes, I will scrap my plans. I will sand down some layers. The colours are really perfect. Walnut, cream, Tiffany blue, more walnut. History has given me a little slice and I just can’t bring myself to put a coat of paint on top of that. While shabby chic/flea market/”antiqued” is not my usual style, I am so very glad to let this one little chair, who has lived through so much, be who it wants to be. I’ve found a new seat fabric ($1 in the remnants bin score!)  and the leather will come off and be part of a project down the road. In fact, I think I have the perfect chair up in my attic…..


Has anyone else had a project take the lead on it’s own? Please share in the comments!!

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