House Nerd

Follow House Nerd

Follow on Bloglovin

Peeking into People's Places

Search House Nerd

DIY Dipped Furniture: A Roadside Chair Makeover

Posted Monday, January 13, 2014 in: DIY Nerd Life

Don’t you just love an exciting email out the blue? When a design-savvy House Nerd reader dropped me an email a little while ago to tell me that it was verge collection time in East Fremantle, I was out the door and driving thataway before you could say let’s-drag-home-some-more-junk (thank you, Deb!)

Hey, I can justify this. Verge picking is FREE. And a quick sneaky peek never hurt anyone… right? Plus, I was kind of headed that way anyway to interview some guy at a house, and if I left like NOW I had time for a little pre-house street-creeping.

Unfortunately I didn’t come across any treasures in the ten-minute space I had, but not long after I was due for a catch up with my friend Kaylie. She is a model-turned-shop-founder-and-secondhand-queen who runs Paper Crab in Fremantle, a gorgeous edit of beautiful tribal-inspired and exotic jewellery, bags and other goodies. We bonded one day last year while op shopping not all that long ago, but she has felt like a friend I have known since I was in high school.
“Want to drink coffee and go verge picking in East Freo this week?” I asked her.
“Yes! Let’s get some crap,” Kaylie cheered. Excellent.

Coffee at Hubbles Yard on George Street.

Kaylie and I met up in George Street – and here we found me the verge picking goodness I was craving! Oh George Street. If you follow me on Instagram you have probably already heard me crap on about how much I love East Fremantle’s George Street precinct. But I do. It is just one of the oldest and most quaint, beautiful little pockets in all of Perth and it is so tucked away that if you didn’t know it existed, you could live in Perth all your life, drive past that way all the time and never even discover it. And man, some of those George Street precinct people have some good crap. Like this. (Bear with me).

During our hunt, Kaylie and I discovered TWO original vintage Thonet chairs. Yippee. The only reason I didn’t drag both home was because I didn’t have enough room in my boot! I am obsessed with buying old chairs but forced myself to choose just one and this one won. I liked the shape of the other a bit more, but this one was in better condition, whereas the other one required some DIY furniture fixing skills. So this one won, because of my laziness. It is a Thonet Boullee chair, which was originally designed for commercial use (no doubt you have seen them about cafes, like C15 in Applecross) but I thought we could use it in our home.

ABOVE: Yes, I was a touch jubilant when I spied this chair on the side of the road and flipped him over. A real Thonet! Woohoo! Here’s his underside. Look, you can see a little Thonet stamp as well as the words Made in Poland, and a little sticker of a phone number of Thonet in Melbourne, back before we had ‘9’s added in front of our numbers. Also the seat, where someone once scrawled Estee Lauder 2003... strange. Maybe it was used in some shop window once. Think of how many bums or bottles of perfume this chair could have seen.  

Once I got the chair home, and it had sat there by the front door for a while, annoying Mr Nerd while I decided just exactly how I should do it up, I decided to enter it in the Recycled Interiors blog’s DIY upcycled chair challenge competition, because then I could do up the chair, and also because I really want to win that fancy schmancy screwdriver.

Recycled Interiors is one of the many inspiring interiors design blogs I read when I should probably be cleaning my dirty house. They have a big slant on decorating your home using stuff that would otherwise end up in landfill and I like that. And blogger Helen was asking people to enter their first DIY Community Challenge – upcycling an old chair by giving it spray-painted coloured feet, or "dipping" it. Dipped furniture is this kind of thing:

DIPPED LOVELINESS: I'll take the whole room, please. From Rosa Beltran Design

From the awesome blog Deuce Cities Henhouse, which I have just discovered and am totally jealous of.

ABOVE: Hey, even the people at Thonet are jumping on this trend and selling chairs with feet!

I love the dipped legs trend – also known as dip-dyed legs or coloured feet. It’s a little bit quirky, playful, and a fun way to give an old or boring piece of furniture a modern twist. It is a trend that doesn't take itself too seriously - I mean look, your chair is wearing booties. (And if you eventually tire of it, it’s not hard to undo!) So I thought I would ‘dip’ my old chair.

Is it a bit of a design crime to alter a real Thonet chair? I'm going to say I don’t think so – not when ones like these were once super-common, plus this old guy had obviously been left outside on a veranda or something for ages until his owners decided to destine him to the tip. The wood was dried out and not in fabulous condition. So I didn’t feel guilty about giving him a spray paint. 

And here's how he scrubbed up...

Spray-painting the chair was really fun! I used Rust-Oleum Universal Paint & Primer In One. I had used spray paints before, but had never used Rust-Oleum before and I really liked them. With some spray cans the paint comes out unevenly and can cause the paint to ‘sag’ (when you get an annoying ugly little rivulet in your finish) but these were great. Even the can was nice to use. Seriously, if you have ever spray painted a whole bunch of things in one day, you will know how easy it is to get finger fatigue and cramp, like when Chandler in Friends plays Ms Pacman too long and his hand gets stuck in The Claw.

WHAT YOU NEED FOR YOUR DIPPED CHAIR: Some spray paint, masking tape, a gas mask, pencil and ruler. And some sandwich bags. And a gnome looking on.

Another good thing about this paint was the fact that you don’t have to keep the can level to get it to work, like some spray paints. And the paint was a really good density – no need to do three or four coats. Honestly, one coat would probably actually have been enough for this chair, but I did a second just in case. You can use this paint on wood, plastic, masonry and metal. Ok, I’ll stop talking about what makes a good spray paint now, but seriously, this stuff is good.

I went for the matt black spray paint for the body of the chair. There is something a bit sexy about a nice piece of black furniture isn’t there? C’mon. You know you agree.

Initially I was going to paint the top and leave the ‘feet’ as natural exposed wood but I soon realised the wood was in such bad condition it would have just looked unfinished. So I picked Rust-Oleum’s beautiful Aged Copper for the legs. I love gold accents and silver but lately have been really into dark coppers and rich bronzes.

The project was so easy to do. All I did was the below. You can also check out the great how-to on Recycled Interiors by Natasha Dickens from Little Red Industries. You probably already know Natasha's lovely face as the former editor of Handyman magazine and a DIY and craft presenter for season one of Channel 10's The Living Room! Her DIY instructions are, er, better than mine.


1. Sand the chair.
2. Clean off the dust with an old damp towel.
3. Spray paint him (I didn’t need to do a primer coat, as Rustoleum Universal Paint & Primer In One cuts out the need for a primer – yay!).
4. Wait an hour and then do a second coat.
5. Measure the ‘socks’ on the chair and tape them off.
6. Affix a sandwich bag around the base of each leg to protect the black paint from the ‘sock’ layer.
7. Spray paint the legs with your choice of leg colour. Mine was Rustoleum Aged Copper. It's sparklyyy! Yay! Let dry.
8. Take the bags and tape off and tada! 

Still remember him before?

PHOTOBOMBER: I know. You were reading this post, thinking, "Where is Nala in all this? She is usually in every second photo" and then suddenly BAM right in the kisser.

Mr Thonet is going in our lounge room for the time being. He adds a nice little touch of black to that room. I think later I might relocate him to my home office once we redo it. What do you think? Tell me what you think of the dipped furniture trend… love it? Hate it? Have you got something in your home that has been dipped? Maya x

Have you read?