Flea Market Flip: Eclectic + Indigo Arm Chair

An old rocking chair gets updated with chalk paint and smoky upholstery fabric.

It’s Flea Market Flip Theme Week on I Heart HGTV! All week, we’ll be sharing our best thrifting tips and makeovers. Come back every day for a new take on upcycling.

I think it’s fair to say that I lunged at the opportunity to flip a piece of furniture for Flea Market Flip Week. Not only am I obsessed with the show (who isn’t?) but I’ve spent a countless number of weekends while growing up watching my parents flip pieces for our home. I mean, if they could do it, surely it couldn’t be that hard right?

The Before + Budget Breakdown

As a result of some extensive online research, I decided that I wanted to try my hand at painting upholstery with chalk paint. I searched high and low for an old, upholstered chair that had an attractive structure or in other words, “good bones”.

My thrifting adventures landed me face to face with the most questionable rocking-reader chair I’ve ever laid eyes on. Once I looked beyond the grime, though, I fell in love with its deep-set buttons and classic design. And for a price of roughly $24? It couldn’t be beat.

FMF Indigo Chair Before 1

It wasn’t until after I paid for this chair and began loading it into my trunk that I saw a number of sizable upholstery tears on the back. Alas, there was no turning back now and it was time to hit the craft store.

The tears complicated my plan because I knew paint alone wouldn't be able to repair the holes. So what’s a girl to do? Fabric, my friends. Off to the upholstery aisle I went, where I finally settled on purchasing 1 yard of a smoky, silvery upholstery fabric to cover the sad, torn-up back. I love the fabric I picked because it’s somewhat reminiscent of mercury glass. The total cost for my fabric rounded out to $19.99.

After getting my fabric figured out, I set off to find chalk paint for the rest of the chair. I purchased two bottles of buttercream luxe craft chalk paint with a matte finish in a deep indigo shade that looked gorgeous with the greys on my fabric. I had the help of some online coupons and the grand total for my paint came out to about $15.00. While in the chalk paint aisle, I stumbled across some Folk Art Home Decor Wax that was advertised to be painted over chalk paint for a smoother finish. On a whim, really, I decided to grab one bottle of that for $6.99. (So thankful that I did!)

As previously mentioned, I was completely smitten with the structure of this chair. I envisioned adding decorative nails up and around the arms and back of the chair. My obsession with all things rose gold influenced me in buying thre packs of copper decorative nails for $1.99 each.

I also grabbed some chip brushes because they looked like they might be able to cover more ground on this chair than my little detail brushes at home. For $2.99, it was worth it.

One last-minute grab was for a tiny bottle of buttercream luxe craft all-purpose glue for $1.99. I wasn't totally sure how I was going to use it but I had a crafty hunch that it might come in handy.

FMF Indigo Chair Supplies 2
FMF Indigo Chair Supplies

FMF Indigo Chair Supplies 2

FMF Indigo Chair Supplies

With the chair and craft supplies combined, my grand total was less than $100 at $76.93.

The Process

After hauling the creaky rocker into my apartment, I rolled up my sleeves and pulled out my vacuum. I used an attachment to vacuum all of the dust and small pieces of lint from the fabric. From there, I promptly used my kitchen scissors to rip the skirt off from around the bottom of the chair which, I think, took it up a few notches on the “coolness” scale.

While I read that you should “wash” the upholstery before painting it, my impatience got the best of me. Instead I nestled onto my living room floor and started painting the first layer of chalk paint while binge watching an old season of "Survivor."

FMF Indigo Chair 1

I was surprised that the paint saturated the fabric as much as it did. The first coat went on fairly easily, and a little went a long way. That said, I was also surprised at how rough the paint felt on the fabric.

Ultimately, I was able to layer multiple coats of the paint on the chair (save the ripped back panel) using just one bottle of the paint.

After multiple coats were applied and dried, I traveled to my parents’ home in South Carolina, chair in tow. I used some of my dad’s spare pieces of sand paper (which were free—score!) and sanded over the painted parts of the chair. My research told me that this would smooth out the rough texture of the chalk paint, and the technique proved to be true!

From there I cut my fabric to fit the back panel of my chair. I used my dad’s handy-dandy (though somewhat terrifying, if we’re being honest here) staple-gun to securely fasten it. Again, this staple gun was free, so that rocks. Thanks, Dad!

After applying the fabric to the back panel, I realized I had quite a bit of my beloved mercury-glass fabric left over. I couldn’t let it go to waste, could I?

I had a vision of the inner-arm panels having the same fabric as the back. I measured out the amount of fabric needed and cut the remaining upholstery to fit the arms.

I had the pieces cut to perfection, but bringing this to fruition proved to be quite the challenge. Ultimately, this feat took quite a bit of tugging, pulling and whining before I solicited a helping hand from the men in my life.

My dad grabbed the fabric, my boyfriend pulled and I stapled the pieces in the best I could. I wish I had a better way to describe this process but really, sometimes you just have to wing it with these things. With their help, I was able to bring my vision to life and my arm panels were exactly what I had envisioned.

My next step was to apply the wax to my chair before adding the rose gold decorative nails as a finishing touch. The wax was a true texture game changer, completely obliterating the crusty feeling of the chalk paint alone. The rose-gold nails along the arms and neck make for a funky, yet delicate detail.

The After

I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty impressed with the way this creaky mess turned out. I feel like it has an eclectic-boho-Southwestern vibe going on but in a totally understated way. I plan to use it as a corner piece in my bedroom, as a “dressing room chair”. I keep calling it that as if it's something fancy, but in reality, I'm calling it that because I foresee myself throwing my rejected outfit choices across it as I get ready in the morning. Regardless, this is one beautiful dressing chair, don't you think?

What I Learned

Ah, I have gained many valuable lessons from this experience. Mostly being that I should never underestimate a flip project. Just because my parents have made it look easy doesn't mean it actually is!

I also learned the hard way that I need to make a point to thoroughly check any piece before I purchase it. Maybe that should have been common sense but either way, this project definitely reiterated that point to me.

When painting upholstery with chalk paint do not be shy about sanding in between coats. I wish I would have sanded between each of layer of paint but I made that mistake so you don’t have to!

Also, the more wax you use, the better. Seriously, go crazy with it. Wax seriously transforms a crusty, uncomfortable piece into one that is actually comfortable and usable in your everyday life. Which… is kind of the point, no?

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Next Up

Flea Market Flip: From Dull Storage Unit to Rad Record Cabinet

Girl, put your records on, because we've got a DIY project that's full of nostalgia.

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