Upcycling outdoor chairs into lounge chairs

Upcycled outdoor chairs

I while ago, when we moved into our house, I imagined we would spend a lot of time outdoors, in the backyard. Our dogs would play with abandon, we would sit on the deck enjoying the weather and sounds of nature from the nearby woods. So, we invested a lot of energy and money into landscaping our backyard – building a deck, a paved patio, a pond, and getting other niceties. The niceties included a patio set from acacia wood consisting of two arm chairs, a small table, and a loveseat. It was not super expensive but not cheap; not really pretty but not ugly either. Well, after everything was done and ready to serve the intended purpose, I found out that the dogs didn’t actually like being in the backyard that much. Moreover, our labmaraner Raya and our neighbors’ dog, Brody, became the opposite of friends at the first sight. Brody charged to our fence every time he was let outside. If Raya was present when it happened, she scaled the fence to explain to Brody that behaving in such manner was a truly rude and foolish thing to do. After a couple of shouting matches, luckily without fistfights or whatever goes for those in the canine world, I became really leery of being in the backyard with the dogs. One day we will figure it all out, I know that, but for now – back to the chairs. The chairs sat outside in the company of just as sad and lonely loveseat and table for quite some time. It pained me, but I truly didn’t know what to do with them. I had no storage space for the frames inside the house, just for the cushions, barely.

And so it went until the time when a confluence of events occurred. First, my daughter told me that my living room was unwelcoming and I had to admit – it was. Second, in trying to re-decorate the living room, I discovered that I completely lost interest in mass produced furniture. I wanted something with a story or a history that will make every piece unique to me if not to the rest of the world. And, finally, by that time I embraced upcycling as the way of life. Do I care if it’s not machine-made perfect? I. Do. Not.

The desperate outdoor chairs became immediate contenders for a spot in the living room. From rags to reaches, so to speak.  But first, they needed to  look somewhat more presentable. This is one of the distinguished gentlemen to be.

outdoor chair waiting for upcyclingAs you can see, the design and shape are very basic. No pleasing curves or interesting details. The polyester cushions of a nondescript color detracted from the looks even more. But that was OK. I couldn’t change the shape of the frame without an I’m-gonna-make-me-a-brand-new-chair-dude type of effort – what I wanted to do was to give the chairs a dignified, weathered look by aging the wood.

How does one go about aging wood? – you would ask me.

There are several ways, really, and all are somewhat brutish:

  • Make nail holes in it
  • Whack it with  hammer in several places
  • Burn it in spots
  • Chip away pieces in random places
  • Use a wire brush

I decided to stick with a wire brush.

Now, if you think about this wire brush, it’s not it.

hand wire brush

You will need a circular wire brush attachment to your drill. No worries, it is not expensive. Here is how it looks. The wider one you get, the faster your work will proceed.

drill wire brush

First, however, I cleaned the chairs and removed the stain using Citristrip. Only then I started working them with the wire brush. Important: use the brush along the grain only! The brush is very powerful – you will see grooves appearing in the wood right away giving it a weathered look.


aged wood

Wood aged with a wire brush

After brushing all surfaces, I stained the chairs and sealed them with lacquer. I used the lacquer exactly because it didn’t need sanding between coats – how do you sand something that is so groovy?! 🙂

So, the frames were ready and it was time to get out my old sewing machine. I used the old cushions covers as templates for the new ones. I decided to use natural, undyed denim for the covers so I can wash them with bleach as needed. Pets, you know. Natural denim also paired well with my natural raw silk curtains. Here is an excellent tutorial on sewing cushions with piping from Pretty Handy Girl blog. The last touch – adding little elbow cushions to the chair arms. I happened to have a few off-white scrap leather pieces from another project and a piece of 1 inch foam. I cut four squares of foam and four squares of leather. The leather squares were larger that the foams squares on the long side by about 2 inches each side. Then I simply wrapped the foam with leather, wrapped each chair arm with the cushion, and stapled the cushion to the underside of the chair arm.

To balance the simplicity of the chairs, I put a very heavily carved and exotic looking side table (Craig’s list, $40) between them. Handy for cocktail glasses or coffee cups, too. Done!

lounge chairs