Mid Century Modern Chair Glow Up


In my regular perusal of FB Marketplace I was super excited to come across this listing for 2 MCM (Mid Century Modern) Spindled Barrel Chairs… as soon as I saw them I was in love. 



At the time I was on a “Furniture Hold” with myself.

What exactly does that mean?

Well, in my endless quest for saving beautiful furniture, I have many times found myself with more pieces than I have plans for or hands to finish them… and so, the “Furniture Hold” was born. During the times that I have a stash that needs working on, I’ve made a deal (with myself) that unless I am purchasing for a client project- its a strict one IN, one OUT buying pattern.


So, seeing as how I NEEDED to have these chairs in my life and didn’t have an exact plan for them… I immediately listed the low rockers I had in my living room. I loved these chairs too, and they had served me well, but they were in great condition and I knew they would make someone else happier than I’d be if I were constantly comparing them to the barrel chairs I was now coveting. 

They sold fast and I picked up my new besties. 

Once I checked them out more closely, I became really interested in the craftsmanship and how the wood was bent so beautifully. These are the things that really get my wheels turning. I decided that before I made a plan for them, I wanted to see what kind of wood I was working with and if I could get a nice finish by bringing them down to the raw wood.


I haven’t really heard of stripping furniture ever called a fun process, but it is quite satisfying. On a piece with this much detail considering all of the spindles, I imagined it DEFINITELY wouldn’t be fun and knew it would be very time consuming. Once I got the seat cleaned up, I determined I was working with a wood that was considered “paint grade”.

"Paint grade" means that it has a nice smooth surface, but is usually a lower quality wood. It's still great, hard wood that stands the test of time, it just might not have as beautiful a grain as a "stain grade".


Upon inspection by my go to Furniture Counsel (comprised of a few very talented wood working uncles & the internet), it was figured to most likely be hickory, or maybe poplar. 


This process did take some time and while it seems it could be a waste, here’s my logic for making the choice:

First, the top and bottom pieces were steam bent and seemed to be out of Oak (which is a commonly used wood type to do that on), so I figured there was a chance the whole chair was made of it too! There were also parts of the bottom of the chair that almost looked like they had been (more) recently painted… this could have come from touching up wear, but I wanted to see for myself if perhaps in their first life they were unpainted. 

You can find gorgeous wood underneath paint that greatly increases the value of the piece (and looks so much better) when cleaned up and stained or waxed, so I gave it a go.

In this situation, I decided that it wasn’t worth the time considering the wood on the seat, and painting it would be the way to go. Plus, these chairs have such a cool shape that I knew they could carry a bold color and look awesome if I went that way, but could also be really sharp in a stark neutral… so- OPTIONS!

I considered using them for a client project in a beautiful creamy white, like this one, 


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but decided I needed a softer presence in that room so went with an upholstered chair. So they went back to being prepped for my living room! I went back and forth for a bit on whether to go bold or neutral, but ultimately (with the help of an IG poll!) decided on this bold blue/teal color. 


Peacock Blue in Krylon’s All-in-One Fusion Spraypaint. I chose this because they have great color options and it’s a fast and easy fix… and I could get it quick.

The key to the clean finish is definitely prep and patience. I prepped them (wiped down with a degreaser and did a light sanding all over) and went slow and steady with the spray paint. I’ll do a whole post on my spray painting tips, but this is definitely the way to start. 

While these chairs did come with cushions, I had this outdoor cushion from Ikea and I liked the way it looked on the seat and I also had these 2 large pillows (also IKEA!) and I thought they’d go perfectly. I’m all about the use-what-I-have kind of projects, so this was the perfect solution for now.

pssst... THESE are my favorite pillow inserts.!



The beauty of projects like these is that they can go so many directions- through the magic of paint and some imagination, you can really come up with an incredible set of options... and the best part? Nothing's permanent here. 

I kept the original cushions too- so in their next life, these chairs might be wearing those ;) ... Stay tuned. 

So what do you think?! What color would you have gone? 


Happy dreaming,

xx Kate



*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and I receive a commission if you visit a link and buy something on my recommendation. Purchasing via an affiliate link doesn’t cost you any extra, and I only recommend products and services I trust. All opinions are my own.

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