Parsons dining chair upcycle project

Anyone who knows me knows that I love taking old scrappy bits of furniture, painting them and giving them new life. So when I saw a set of 5 Parsons chairs on Kijiji, I pounced and bought them. They were exactly what I have been looking for as my dining chairs ever since we moved to this house, more than 2 years ago (yep, been waiting a long time).
The chairs were in great condition but the wood was a very dark reddish mahogany stain which I am not a fan of. So I decided to stain it in a lighter colour. The problem here is that if you’re going to make dark stained wood lighter, you have to sand every last spec of stain right down to the naked wood so that when you get that light stain on, no dark spots show through. 

This was a problem for me because again, anyone who knows me, knows I’m a pretty lazy chick. Sanding away for hours is definitely not my idea of fun. But sand away I did. And the natural wood colour was actually very light, probably pine.

But I wasn’t able to get out all the dark stain so I knew I was going to have to compromise on how light my stain was going to be so that I could get away with a few un-sanded spots here and there without my chairs looking like the 101 dalmations. 

Ultimately, I decided on a coffee coloured water-based stain. I personally prefer water-based stains because there are no toxic fumes, they’re quick drying and it’s an easy clean-up. The down-side is that it is not as durable as an oil-based toxin.

I actually didn’t think I would love the colour as much as I do. It is gorgeous! So as recommended on the can, I stained it once and then after drying, I applied another layer of stain. 
Once I did that, I sealed it in with a water-based finisher in matte. I used a regular paint brush and I was so worried that the brush strokes would show through after drying so I was super careful at first. But I realized that the sealant is quite watery so it spreads out and covers the brush stroke marks. The only thing you really need to think about when applying the sealant is not to let it drip. Take just a bit at a time onto your brush. 
Again, as advised on the can, I applied 3 coats.

After drying, it was time for me to cover them. 

The chairs originally had a slipcover on but I knew I just did not have time to sew slipcovers and instead decided to staple on covers. 
I was lucky that Fabricland was having it’s 50th anniversary sale so I managed to score some fabric for $2 a metre…yeah!! 
I borrowed the staple gun from a friend, watch a few ‘how-to’ videos on Youtube and got to work. 
I first covered the seat and then the front of the chair back. To cover the back of the chair, most of the videos described using a special tack-on tool which had nails on one side and an adhesive on the other. 
I just could not be bothered to try to find these (I’m sure they must be easily available at any hardware store though) and decided to use hot glue. I used a heavy-duty hot glue gun, not the regular craftsy one. It reaches higher temperatures so the glue holds faster after dry.

I have forbidden the kids from using these chairs. They have a bench which I especially custom-ordered from the same guy who made my dining table, just for them. But knowing my monkeys, I’ll still have to spray the chairs with some sort of upholstery fabric protector for the times they ‘forgot that we weren’t supposed to sit on these’.

What do you guys think? Love it, hate it or just meh? Please leave me a comment or shoot me an email at

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