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Attempting Aloha: Reupholstering My Dining Set - Places We've Lived!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Reupholstering My Dining Set - Places We've Lived!

Well, if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you probably saw my sneak peek at my dining chairs a few weeks ago...it's taken me that long to get the staples out of the rest of them!! Ack!  Pretty sick of staples right about now!

I LOVE Hawaii! The weather, the people, the beaches, the trees, the birds, the mountains...I could go on and on. There are only a few things that are on my "don't-love-so-much list" about it:

1) Cockroaches-- They're ginormous. I'm not afraid of bugs, but the feces is a killer for asthma...

2) Rust-- Anything metal will and has rusted...

3) Mold--  Our kitchen cabinets were full of it when we moved in. I ripped them out by myself one afternoon because I was so sick of the mold.

I can get over the cockroaches, and we're quickly getting rid of them. Rust is annoying, but we're learning to do things like put plastic edges and bolts on things where we can get away with it.

Mold, however, has been very hard for me to deal with. Having an allergy to it only adds to my frustration. At first, I thought it was because the people who lived in this home weren't clean or something. Then I quickly realized that it takes over VERY quickly. Shoes, bags, dolls, toys, clothes, CABINETS...nothing is safe. With our huge list of house projects we have to complete, reupholstering our dining set was nowhere even on the list when we started...then my baby spilled juice on a dining chair, and here's what resulted from that (Warning: Not for the weak of heart) :

(Where's the little green "vomiting" emoticon when you need it?)  I panicked and started checking the other chairs, and they had tiny spots on a few of them (set of 8 chairs...5 in full use). Eeeewwwwww!  I immediately took it apart and threw away the fabric, sprayed the foam padding with bleach and then stuck it in the washer on "Sanitize". Luckily the padding came clean, and I started making a plan to reupholster all of them.

For all you plastic-haters, I make no apologies. Style has to meet practicality at some point, and for me, plastic was that point. I'm not up to the task of reupholstering these every couple months, and there's just no way to keep three kids under age 6 from spilling at dinner (or while we craft and paint).

AND don't get me started on "you should have just purchased solid wood chairs with no padding"... Blah Blah Blah. I like padding under my bottom, ok? I have a boney arse, and I don't love hard chairs. I like to sit and realax and talk at the dinner table and not feel rushed because my booty is aching. The plastic is way more comfortable to me than a plain old piece of solid wood...mmmmkay? ((And I really don't love the pads you buy at the store and tie on regular old wood chairs that inevitably end up missing ties and have those pesky buttons, and they slide all over underneath your tush.))

I just used "booty", "tush", "arse",  and "bottom" in one paragraph. Are you getting the point that I like my butt to be comfortable? ;)  I'm so glad we're on the same page.

Step 1) I started by removing the cushions from the actual chairs. There are lots of screws on the bottom, but some were to hold in the legs, etc. So take a minute and ake sure you have a good idea which ones just go to the seat. Mine had four screws each on the seat cushion and another 4 on the back cushion.

2)  Commence staple removal. I started this process with a butter knife because I was so anxious to get rid of that super moldy chair and didn't want to run to the store. I do not recommend this option.  :P 

I found one of these at Wal-mart for less than $3. Apparently it's called a "staple remover". Clever.

After spending an evening with the butter knife, this little guy was sheer joy to work with. I also used pliers to remove the staple once I had one side pried up.  And chick flicks. LOTS of chick flicks. 

This part is so time-consuming that I should have given it steps 2-7 all by itself. I'm convinced that if you can survive removing the staples, you can definitely reupholster. The rest is cake compared to those freaking staples!


Step 3) Use the fabric you just removed as a pattern to cut out your new fabric. I only had three pieces of fabric, and it was obvious which one went where, so I didn't bother labeling things. I used a canvas dropcloth also purchased from Wally World.  Gotta say I was a little annoyed that there were some seams in my canvas. Don't they KNOW those mess with my measurements? Do they not yet realize these are a hot design item right now. Lame.

Anyway, I had falled in love with some Pottery Barn Chairs (of course) and decided I'd try my hand at painting the backs to get a look similar to these:

The legs on mine aren't nearly as sexy, but oh well.

I thought I should probably add a little bit of personalization to them because I'm just sentimental like that, and we plan to keep the set for awhile. I was originally inspired by this lovely chair by {Prmp} MicheleRavenDesigns.blogspot.com

If you've never visited Michele's site, you're in for a treat! She has some AMAZING projects.

For the backs, I cut strips of freezer paper out (you can buy this at your local grocery store near the Ziploc bags and Reynold's Wrap. It's called Freezer Paper...not confectioner's paper or parchment paper. They're different.  We use it for...get this...freezing stuff. Yeah. We wrap our meat in it and put it in the freezer. Crazy. More clever names from left-brained people. ;)

Then iron each strip where you want the blank spaces to be between your paint. Be sure the slippery side is face down, and your iron is touching the "paper" side.

This is how mine looked after was done ironing my freezer paper on. The purpose of this is to tive you nice clean lines while you're painting. It's like painter's tape but for fabric. :)

I used an acrylic craft paint and sponge brush to get mine one there nice and thick.

Let it dry a bit, and peel off your freezer paper. Perfecto!  I only had to redo one of the 8 because of a big paint splatter. I tried every home remedy on Google to get that crappy spot out, and it was stuck! Boo. Had to cut out another piece of fabric and start over. :(

For the seat cushions, Michele was brave and used stencils and a bowl to trace and then free painted hers. I'm a wuss, and I had to do 8 of them, so I cheated and used iron-on transfer paper I purchased from our local craft store, Ben Franklin Crafts. It was about $12 for 6 sheets or something ridiculous like that, so that was my biggest expense in this project. Two packs of those.  If I only had a Silhouette. {{sigh}}  But, alas, my husband is uber romantic and buys me wasteful things like Edible Arrangements for Valentine's Day. Will someone help me clue the poor guy in?

Anyway, I designed the seats to have the cities/states/countries of different places we've lived and an approximate date of when we were there.  We have moved 15 times in our 10 years of marriage, so I chose 7 based on the length of time lived there, and the "Papa Bear" chair I did with Belo Horizonte, Brazil, where my husband lived for 2 years while serving a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Then I just printed them on the transfer paper (make sure they print backwards), and ironed them on.

Here are a few of them waiting to be stapled:

For those of you who speak Portuguese (Eu sei que existem algumas aqui), yes, I realize I spelled Brasil in Portuguese and Mozambique in English...I couldn't make a good cedilha without it hanging over the bottom of my line and looking all quirky...so the Z stayed in Mozambique. Desculpa, ne? E nao tehno os ausentos na minha computadora agora! Tem que desculpar estas palavras tambem. ;)

Stapling the new fabric on was pretty straight-forward. I stapled the front, starting at the center. Then went to the back and also started at the center. I started at the center on each of the sides but stopped a couple inches before the corners, so I could tuck them nicely.

Grab yourself a whole bunch of these:

I chose to have mine wrap around the sides, and I'll show you through photos how I wrapped them. Easier than trying to describe it. ;)

Here's  it looked like after the canvas was on but before the plastic.

I have to pause here and say that I would NOT recommend using the iron-on transfer paper if  you aren't planning to put plastic over your cushions. I don't think it would hold up well to the wear and tear of people sitting on it. They tend to crack and tear and peel (at least the ones I did on my girls' super hero capes have). These have done very well under the plastic, though. :)

The plastic can be purchased in the fabric department of Wal-mart or at most fabric stores. I bought mine at Wal-mart for $2.24/yard. It is a medium-weight plastic cover. The thick stuff was nice but didn't work well around the corners and was harder to staple. The thin stuff just didn't seem durable enough.

I covered it the same way I did with the fabric. And I chose to do them separately because I was getting too much bunching around corners and along sides when I tried to do them together, and I wanted the lines to be as clean as I could get them.

Here's a close-up of the corner:

And just in case you're curious, here are our locations:

1) Belo Horizonte, Brazil (as mentioned above, this is where my husband served a mission for the LDS Church)

2) Jackson, WY (where we first met while working for whitewater rafting companies, and we returned after being married and lived in a travel trailer we "renovated")

3) Provo, UT (where we did our undergrads at Brigham Young University)

4) Beira, Sofala Province, Mozambique (where my husband and I did humanitarian service for 6 months--we both speak Portuguese)

5) Napa, CA

6) Benicia, CA

7) Alta Loma, CA

8) HAWAII!! 

Hope you enjoyed getting to know a little bit about me, and I hope you like my chairs (plastic and all)! ;)



Check out my dining set at the CSI Project!

Visit thecsiproject.com


At March 4, 2011 at 9:26 PM , Blogger Brook said...

Ugh the mold!! We lived in Okinawa, Japan for 6 years and we had cockroaches (HUGE ones), huge spiders, geckos, mold and rust. EVERYTHING would mold. Even our wood headboard. We even had to buy a leather sofa that we could wash because any tiny spill of the kids on the carpet, upholstery or fabric would quickly turn moldy. So gross. I felt like some 50's housewife with my whole house covered in plastic! Dehumidifiers help.

Love the chairs! I think they turned out great and it's so nice to wipe them down when the kids spill something (mine do everyday) I did laminated cotton on ours because I am lazy and only wanted to staple one thing.

At March 4, 2011 at 9:31 PM , Blogger Mandi @ Vintage Revivals said...

I love them, plastic and all! You are the cutest!!

Love your guts

At March 4, 2011 at 10:26 PM , Blogger Joy @ Thrifty Parsonage Living said...

Your chairs look great! I so understand the reason for plastic with little ones.

At March 5, 2011 at 2:58 AM , Blogger Natalia Lynn said...

What a great idea! I love them!

At March 5, 2011 at 4:27 AM , Blogger Jaime said...

Charlie your kid and mold proof knock off is just what the Hawaiian doctor ordered. Best solution for the problem at hand. Well done (even with the plastic!).

At March 5, 2011 at 5:47 AM , Blogger Mimi's Moments said...

LOVE LOVE the chairs and the stories they tell. What a great way to preserve the chair, you will be able to enjoy them for many years to come.

At March 5, 2011 at 7:17 AM , Blogger Amanda M. said...

WOW! I mean WOW to so many parts of this post. First off, your chairs look fabulous and anyone who has children totally "gets" the plastic. Honestly I will probably do that, too. And I don't even live in Hawaii.
Second, how amazing how much of your lives you've devoted to humanitarian and mission work! SO wonderful and admirable - the worlds needs lots more folks like you and your hubby! :-)

At March 5, 2011 at 4:26 PM , Blogger Pamma said...

Very nicely done! I know you wouldn't use plastic if you didn't have to, but you have to, I would to. And they look fabulous.
We get so used to our own environment, never think about things like the differences until there. Enjoy your new home in Hawaii.
Best regards,

At March 6, 2011 at 6:03 AM , Blogger Jena @ Involving Color said...

These turned out great! And I had to laugh at the roaches. When we went to Hawaii our rental car was infested with them! Gross! Just came across your blog and I'm a new follower.

At March 6, 2011 at 7:30 AM , Blogger C'est Magnifique said...

Wow, never thought of mold as being a problem, that sucks!! I love how your chairs turned out... the plastic doesn't detract from the beauty one bit... you gotta do what you gotta do!! ;)


At March 6, 2011 at 8:16 AM , Blogger Betsy said...

Son and his family are moving to Hawaii in a few months. I sent your website to them. Never once thought about bugs, mold and especially triggering asthma-wow! Good info. love your chairs and some great ideas you have shared.

At March 7, 2011 at 5:30 AM , Blogger Suzanne said...

very clever! Thanks for sharing.

At March 7, 2011 at 5:54 AM , Blogger Sarah said...

Gorgeous! And the arms on yours are much secier than the PB version. With two little ones I am also about functional design, glad to see I'm not the only one!

At March 7, 2011 at 6:16 AM , Blogger Kimberly said...

Those turned out great Charlie! Are you ever not working on a project? You make me tired thinking about all the work you're doing :).

At March 7, 2011 at 6:31 AM , Blogger Kimberlea@SaVvyDeCor said...

I am in love with these chairs! Thanks for the tip on using freezer paper.

At March 7, 2011 at 8:29 AM , Blogger Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

What a great metamorphosis! Well done. Having lived in all kinds of climates as an Air Force wife I get it. Bloom where you're planted.

I am having a hilarious Linky party with prizes this Wednesday. Details are on my blog today.
I hope you'll join in on the fun.

At March 7, 2011 at 9:18 AM , Blogger Danielle said...

I don't know if I could handle the roaches and mold......but you do live in a beautiful place. Maybe that outweighs the bad. I love the chairs, they are original. Plastic is a must with children!!

At March 7, 2011 at 9:47 AM , Blogger Barbara @ Live, Laugh, Love, Recycle said...

Wow. Seriously impressed with 1) the travel, 2) the project, 3) the idea, 4) the quality of work, 5) the portugese, 6) the fact that you do all these projects with three kids, and 7) you go girl. That last one doesn't make sense, but I forgot to put "and" before 6, and just wanted to say you go girl :-) Nice work!

At March 7, 2011 at 6:15 PM , Blogger The Polka Dot Closet said...

What a great job! I just used transfer paper for the first time today. What a great unique idea to pu the places you have lived!


At March 8, 2011 at 10:45 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greetings from Southern California

I am your newest follower. I invite you to visit my blog and follow me if you want too.

God bless you :-)


At March 8, 2011 at 10:47 AM , Blogger gatheredinthekitchen said...

That is such a cute idea! I love it!

At March 9, 2011 at 5:33 PM , Blogger longview said...

I think these are fabulous! I'm so happy I came across your blog....I'm loving it! Thanks so much for sharing, for the inspiration and for your service :o)

At March 10, 2011 at 12:06 PM , Blogger Liat Varsano said...

Amazing chairs

At March 10, 2011 at 12:38 PM , Blogger laxsupermom said...

The chairs look terrific! Great makeover! Thanks for sharing.

At March 10, 2011 at 1:50 PM , Blogger Erin said...

Your chairs look gorgeous! I found your blog at Between Naps on the Front Porch. You have such great ideas and I'm your newest follower! I'd love it if you'd follow me back: http://stillwaterstory.blogspot.com/
Again, you did a fantastic job with this!! :-)

At March 10, 2011 at 7:15 PM , Blogger freckled laundry said...

Beautiful and practical! You did such a lovely job...and had me giggling through the "arse" paragraph. Ha! Thanks so much for sharing with Air Your Laundry Friday.


At March 12, 2011 at 9:54 PM , Blogger Sharde said...

those chairs are awesome! my mans family is in waikiki.i love your page :) i will be staying around for a while

Come and visit me at
I write about hairstyling, crafts, and style while including tutorials on refashioning clothes.


At March 15, 2011 at 1:30 AM , Blogger muralimanohar said...

Welcome to Hawaii, babe. :p You shoulda seen my house after that major rain in Jan..it was frosted in a light coating of white mold on everything. SO uncool. And I hear you on cockroach feces. I don't have asthma, but even I wheeze if I get a lungfull of that.

Anyway, just came to tell you I gave you an award on my blog. :p

At March 15, 2011 at 1:31 AM , Blogger muralimanohar said...

Forgot to mention...the chairs look awesome, but the story behind them is even better. (And I get the plastic, too...you just have to deal when life hands you issues, yeah?)

At March 15, 2011 at 1:31 PM , Blogger Camilla Jones (CioCo Photography) said...

incredible!! LOVE them, so copying. And hey I didn't think of this! ;)

At March 16, 2011 at 1:13 PM , Blogger Jocelyn said...

You never cease to amaze me. So glad Alta Loma got a shout out. I know we are not nearly as cool as other locations but we have, um...can't think of anything that the other places don't also have. (mountains, beach-ish access, great weather year round, Target) Wait, I know - we have Disneyland and Upland Donuts - ha!

At April 5, 2011 at 8:17 AM , Blogger Melissa said...

Awesome! And Wow you've lived in some great places! Thanks for sharing!

At April 6, 2011 at 6:48 AM , Blogger Patty said...

Hey there fellow member :) I found you thru Tatertots and Jello! I am digging your blog. I have become your newest follower :)

At April 17, 2011 at 8:52 PM , Blogger Phil and Ronnie said...

Found you also through Tatertots and Jello- Love the chair idea!
How neat to meet someone else who lived in Mocambique!! My hubs went to Fortaleza on his mission and I was in Southern Brasil. We taught the Career workshops in Maputo as an internship from BYU-I in fall of 2004. Sounds like you have had fun moving around- I'll have to bookmark your blog!

At December 3, 2011 at 8:40 PM , Blogger Layn @ reignalayn.blogspot.com said...

WOW!! What a great transformation. Awesome way to include your history. Love it!

At September 1, 2012 at 11:09 PM , Blogger Personalized Sketches and Sentiments said...

Oh! I love how your upholstery on your chairs turned out! Beautiful! I have some dining chairs that need to be re-stained and re-upholstered. And I love all the vintage typography designs out there ...on chairs/pillows/bedding/linens..etc... :o)

I was blog hopping around and saw your blog name "Attempting Aloha" and since my hubby's family are from Hawaii...I had to stop and say Aloha!

With hubby's family in Hawaii, my dad in Wisconsin, brother in Washington state, sister in Minnesota...and one married daughter, son in law and our first grandbaby in another state, another married daughter, son in law in another state and our son in undergrad in yet another state...well....we are in southern, coastal Georgia...beautiful, but looking forward to one day moving closer to some family.

So nice to meet you!
Blessings & Aloha! (This is how I sign off :o)


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I LOVE your comments! They're the reason I blog. If you've used one of my tutorials or found them helpful, I'd also love to see pics! You can post them on my FB page or send an email: attemptingaloha @ gmail . com

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