Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals.
I co-host the Your Home Story podcast and believe you can love your home just the way it is, AND have the power to design and make big changes to make it better.
I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!
Mom to Otto born April 2018 and Lucy born August 2020!

Funky vintage school chair makeover

It's been a while since I did a simple funky furniture makeover project. I've done a lot with chairs in the past, actually. But it was to the point where I actually needed a chair now, so when I came across this one and turned it into a project, it wasn't just the creative bug making me do it. I now have a new sewing chair!

But it took me a while to get motivated to do this project, cause I thought it would be a lot of work. Which it was. Although, now that I've done the sand/stain/finish thing, I can tell you, I think it's easier than painting!!

You'll see why.

I picked it up (at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, that place is so cool) because it had potential. And all the furniture was half off that day so it was $4. But I wasn't sure at first what to do with it--I needed a vision for it to help it realize its potential. I wasn't sure if I wanted to paint it a fun, bright color, or stick to my usual white or black, and what kind of fabric should I use for the seat??! A bold print? A simple, chic stripe? I couldn't picture any combinations totally meshing for me.

But then I saw this midcentury chair with the dark finish and serape blanket seat--
And remembered this funky DIY bench project.

Now, I do have a very cool Guatamalan-style bright blanket, but I didn't want to cut into it to cover a chair seat. But I had another cool wool cloth thing, thrifted, and turns out I had some ancient super dark Minwax stain. The project came together at last.

Vintage School Chair Makeover

So here's the before. Simple little chair, not too interesting wood color (peeling varnish, too, up close), scuffs, and icky green vinyl seat cover.

Part 1: Sand.

First, I removed the seat and sanded the chair down. That took some elbow grease and made a lot of dust.

Part 2: Stain and Finish.

Once it was sanded, I stained it with this little container of this Dark Walnut Minwax finish. I couldn't believe how good the first coat looked!! SO dark, even with only one coat, and actually pretty even. I guess I did an okay job sanding. I let it sit 10 or so minutes, then wiped it off and let it dry for more than 24 hours. It looked great.

Unfortunately it all went downhill from there. When I put the second coat on it sort of stuck to the first coat and took stripes of it off, kind of like when you write on top of dry erase marker letters with another dry erase marker and it just wipes it off like a tiny felt eraser? Then, when it was time to rub off the second coat, it was like it had dried too much or too fast or too thick, so the rag sort of stuck to it rather than gently wipe off the top layer...

So I recommend only one coat of stain if you can get the color you want!

I think a little more of the color came off when I put on the some polyurethane to seal it. I did two coats of polyurethane, and it has a nice smooth secure finish now.

Here it is after two coats of stain and two coats of polyurethane, before I put the seat back on.

Part 3: Seat.

The grossest part of this project was taking apart the seat cover. Here's the bottom, once I removed the staples and rubbery seat cover and washed off the mildew on the wood. Bleh. But cool to know that it was once in a music department!

I thought about quilt batting or other lightweight fluff like the original seat had, but I also had this green foam (1" I think). I pieced it and attached it to the top side of the seat wood with spray adhesive.

I pulled out my cool wool woven thing (strangely shaped piece of fabric (or rug?) I got at Goodwill once but have never done anything with)--and cut a piece about the right size. Then: staple gun!!

And screwed the seat back on.


I'm very happy with it!

And because I already had all the materials except the chair... total project cost: $4. Even if you throw in the other stuff, probably still less than $15. And it gives new life to a formerly cast-aside chair.


  1. That is a really great make-over, really love how the chair turned out!

  2. Love this project! It takes a special skill (or maybe an experienced eye?) to see the potential in worn out furniture.

  3. Love your decor and makeovers. :)

  4. I love the shape of that chair. The pink was a super fun change, too. I like the wood in both the light and dark colors.

  5. Wow! It turned out amazingly cool!!!! Love the bright Pink and Red together! It just POPS off of that dark stain.


  6. love it!!! and I would totally have bought that weird shaped fabric/rug/whatever from goodwill bc the colors are amaxing!!!

  7. I absolutely love that! Good job! I would love to try something like that bench :)




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