Tutorial: The Tiffany Blue Chair transformation

Yes, you can paint upholstery. No, it doesn't look janky. 

The Before and After

A little while ago I bought a beautiful vintage chair from the UCLA Thrift store with exciting plans to liven it up and integrate it into my quirky home. Lot's of research went into this project, mostly because I'd grown quite attached to the chair and really didn't want to f*ck it up. After some serious Pinteresting, I settled on a few favorite tutorials like this one and finally worked up the nerve to put paintbrush to fabric. It was a fantastic and transformative experience and I'm hoping to inspire all of you to tackle your own wekend project. 

The Process

Picking the color was probably the most difficult decision about this entire process. I didn't want it to be something so bold that I would tire of it, but I also didn't want to put in all this effort for a boring blah result. After pestering a bunch of my friends (thanks guys!) and one strangers at the local Michael's store (thanks, stranger lady!) , I'd narrowed it down to dove grey and tiffany blue. After that, I just went with my gut, and combined the color by hand to get just the right shade. I produced WAY more paint than I needed, but because it was a custom color and my first fabric paint project, I didn't want to run the risk of running out.

Here are the supplies I used:

  • One 236ml bottle of teal blue acryclic paint
  • Two 236ml bottles of white acrylic paint
  • Two 177ml bottles of fabric medium
  • Three bottled of slate grey acryclic paint
  • Water to mix into the color
  • Spray Bottle full of water to pre-soak the fabric

The purpose of the multiple colors was to mix together a color I wouldn't be bothered by. The teal itself was far too bright and obnoxious. I anticipated that even with the white mixed in, it would be a little crazy on the eyes, so I bought the slate grey to dull the brightness down. It worked wonders. 

I purchased all the colors I used from Michaels Craft Store. (click photo to enlarge)

The mixing process. I felt like a crazy witch lady mixing a caldron of potion. 1 unicorn hair...

The muted aqua result. 

For those of you that know me well, you know I'm very tactile. So, it was really important for me that the chair not only looked good, but felt good as well. I didn't want to be sitting on sandpaper. That's where the fabric medium and water come in. Both act as a softner to the otherwise tough acrylic when it dries. I did have to sand the chair down inbetween each coat, but it was super easy to do. 

Tape, mix, water, apply, admire. 

Clean the surface so any lint doesn't harden with the paint.

Clean the surface so any lint doesn't harden with the paint.

Use a spray bottle full of water to lightly mist the chair and soften the fabric. Apply paint!

Use a spray bottle full of water to lightly mist the chair and soften the fabric. Apply paint!

Phew, I didn't hate it. Good start.  This is the color after it's first coat. 

Phew, I didn't hate it. Good start. This is the color after it's first coat. 

The above is how it looked after one coat of paint. As you can tell, it looks kinda shitty and see-through, with the beige still shining through the undertones. This is normal, the internet told me. I waited 24 hours before doing another coat.

*Note: In order to minimize stiffness, I applied the coats very thinly and was very trigger happy on my spray bottle full of water. You really want the paint to soak in, rather than sit on top of the fabric.  

This is the chair after a second coat of paint, the next morning. Pretty dapper, imho.

Since there were still bits of beige shining through (see the upclose picture below), I decided to do a third coat, again keeping it very light and watered down. I then went back with a tiny paintbrush and finished of the piping on the trim. Now I just couldn't wait for it to dry! 

The Final Result