Introduction: Painted Upholstered Desk Chair

About: I’m a self taught artist, homeschooler, wife, 3 dogs....sometimes I travel the comic convention scene selling my fan art. Living in the humid weird southeast United States. I always have something brewing! …

Painting a perfectly fine upholstered chair seems crazy!

This is a technique I had researched and was interested in trying. But, I had to wait for the perfect piece of furniture that wouldn't break my heart when I had to throw it away after ruining it with paint! I also didn't want to spend money on loads of paint and what I was sure would be many hours of hard work on a cheap rickety piece of furniture.

This upholstered desk chair was the perfect find for my experiment. It's an Ethan Allen piece that retailed for over $1000. It had been gently used and was very sturdy and comfortable. I scored this for $25 which made me feel somewhat OK with going forward with my crazy scheme.

The chair could have been cleaned and used as it was. But it felt dated and the colors weren't perfect for the room I had in mind.

I read every blog and watched every video I could find on painting upholstery with chalk paint. I combined all the information I found and created a plan that I hoped would work for my chair.

I was still very skeptical of this technique and sure I was going to ruin this wonderful chair I just found. I purchased the most inexpensive chalk paints still assuming I was completely wasting my money and time. I purchased the Waverly Brand chalk paints and waxes made by Plaid because they were easy to find at my local Walmart at a very cheap price.

I used a house trim painting brush for it's stiffness and large size. And, it's cheaper than an actual chalk paint brush.

Follow me on my nervous adventure into painting upholstery!


  • chalk paint
  • wax made for chalk paint
  • 2"-3" house brush
  • painter's tape
  • jars
  • rags
  • sandpaper

Step 1: Gather Materials

Gather all your materials and LOTS of rags. This is a wet messy project! I placed the chair up on to a plastic table outside to make it easier to see and work.

Vacuum all areas of the fabric. Wash wood parts and any stains on the fabric with warm water and a tiny bit of dish soap.

Step 2: Tape and Prep Paint

I used painter's tape to protect the wood from the paint.

The Agave color I purchased wasn't as dark as I wanted so I added 2 tsp of Ink colored chalk paint to the jar. Once I mixed the color I liked I added enough water to the paint to make it like the consistency of heavy cream.

Step 3: Paint With Water

Paint all the fabric with clean water until it's damp. The fabric should just feel cool to the touch. You don't want the fabric to be dripping wet. The fabric on this chair didn't show the water as it was absorbed so I had to just keep touching it to feel where it was wet. I really scrubbed the cloth with the wet paint brush to dampen all the fibers.

Step 4: Point of NO Return

With all the fabric pre-dampened, it's time to paint.

I want to keep my brush wet at all times

follow these steps.....

  • dip brush in water
  • dip brush in paint
  • scrub into fabric
  • repeat 100's of times

Use a small stiff brush to push the paint into the folds of fabric

After all the fabric is painted let it sit untouched to cure for 24 hours

Step 5: What a Mess

24 hours later I had this sad splotchy mess.

It was already part of my plan to do 2 coats of paint....but this was not encouraging.

Step 6: Prep for 2nd Coat

"Sand" the painted fabric by rubbing it all over with a rough rag.....don't be gentle!

This is also the time to trim away any pulled threads on the fabric. If the fabric is very pilly an electric fabric shaver works very well

Step 7: 2nd Coat

Cover the legs with a drop cloth....I wish I had thought of this for the first coat of paint!

Paint the 2nd coat of color using the exact same method as the first coat

You can see in the photo the extreme difference between the first and second coat of paint! I was beginning to feel a bit hopeful!

Let the chair sit and cure for 24 hours, again.

Step 8: Prep for Waxing

Sand the painted fabric by rubbing it vigorously with a rough rag. The fabric has a stiff feel but you can see in the photo that it's flexible and doesn't crack.

Step 9: Wax

I applied the Waverly Chalk Paint Wax in CLEAR directly from jar with the same stiff brush. Don't dilute the has the consistency and look of white glue and smells like Modge Podge. In the video you can see how I aggressively push the wax into the fibers and force it to spread out. I didn't want a thick layer of wax.

At this point, I was sure, again, that I had ruined the chair.....waxing FABRIC?! I must be insane!

Step 10: Antique the Wood

I applied the Waverly Chalk Paint Wax in the Antique color onto all the wood parts of the chair. Wipe away the excess right away before it dries. This will leave pretty shadows in all the folds of the wood

Allow the waxes to cure for 24 hours.

Gently buff the whole chair. This will soften and darken the fabric and bring a shine to the wood.

Step 11: SUCCESS!!!

This project was a COMPLETE success!

Waiting 24 hours in between every step was the hardest part of this project.

  • materials were very inexpensive
  • the work was quick and easy
  • soap and water clean up
  • the fabric feels like leather!
  • NO color rubs off onto clothing

The woven pattern in the fabric can still be's just all a different color, now!

I was hoping for a groovy mid-century modern feel and I could not be happier with the results!

This has opened up many new possibilities for thrifting.....let's paint ALL the chairs!!!!

Paint Challenge

Participated in the
Paint Challenge