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My garbage chair

I’ve always loved the idea of finding great furniture in the dumpster (although, still not sure why people don’t list the items for free on their local site). For so many years I’ve seen chairs and stools and tables rescued from the curb and made into something spectacular. I’ve always been a fan of the people who pull over and take someone’s junk to make it useful again. I have just never felt comfortable doing that myself.

So, when I saw this chair on the top of a large pile of discarded household furnishings (someone moved out) I drove around the block to take a better look. Then I drove around again, wondering if I should stop and get it. Then I kept going and got almost home, but turned around and went back. I drove past reeeal slow. I felt like a stalker. I pulled off on a side street and told myself I was being ridiculous and garbage day was the next day and it would get crushed up for no good reason. So, I went back. I pulled into the driveway and took that chair and put it in my car. Of course neighbours were out raking and getting their mail and they totally stopped and looked at me (and in my head they were judging me something fierce) but I had my prize and I took it home and looked at it for a while. I am so glad I stopped!


As Found condition


The chair is a mid-century piece but it’s a knock off of a designer chair. Not the best quality. However, under the fabric that had been nailed to the legs, was the original cushion (orange. So perfect) and it was FREE. It was missing a leg support and the finish was cracking all over but these were easy fixes. I sanded it down all over, just a quick sand but I paid attention to the rougher spots. I got a 3/4″ dowel and cut it to size, glued the ends and put it between the legs where the old one was cut off. Those got a nail in each end. Then, I painted.


The original seat


A paint that I find really useful for these kinds of projects is Tremclad. They have a paint that’s for wood and metal, and it comes in flat, gloss, and high gloss. I used the regular gloss because that is what I had at home already. It dries quickly and has a really great sheen on it. It is also water soluble so it’s easy for clean-up.


closeup of chair, after painting


For the cushion, I used a remnant I had picked up at the textile store a few months ago. It cost me a whole $1. I put it right on top of the old cushion, as it was clean plus I like to keep old fabric underneath when I can for someone else to discover somewhere down the road. I always like finding the original fabric on something! Staple guns make this kind of job much easier. I use a hand powered one, not an air compressor or electric one. One day I would like to get a fancy staple gun, but for now my father-in-laws will do.


New seat looks much better than the old one. Either of them!


So, that is really all that it took to take a $1 chair from the garbage back from the brink and into the modern world. I really love this chair, and am glad it was an easy fix. Sometimes a coat of paint and a piece of printed cotton can really work wonders. I am definitely stopping to pick up treasures again. is encouraging it’s users to snap pictures of discarded future-treasures and post the pictures to Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #ShouldaUsedOttawa (#ShouldaUsedVictoria, #ShouldaUsedVancouver, or #ShouldaUsedRegina etc. – depends on the city you live in of course). It’s much easier to find free stuff on a site than driving around searching for unloved items that could already be damaged by the elements.


All done. Looking pretty.


Has anyone else rescued something from the curb and put it to good use?

4 Responses to “My garbage chair”

Sara Danbrook

Apologies for my nasty deck. Its getting ripped out this weekend. And getting recycled by a friend, of course!



Glad you took the plunge. Forget what others may or may not be thinking. You know what you are thinking. 🙂 lb


Kelly Wilson

He he…you need to come with me on Vanier Sunday shopping night! This area is pay it forward and those neighbors were likely thinking yippee…not staring you down. Most of my house is from the curbside, freecycling or give away…;-)


Lisa Higgs

Amazing work, Sara! You’ve got a great eye. I’ve pulled lots of furniture off the curb before that was in excellent condition, but I’ve never refinished a piece.

I also have to say that I love that big parrot portrait!


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