Shaking Things Up in the Dining Room



I’ve long found our dining room pleasant, but not especially exciting. My mom generously gave us the table and chairs AND the buffet as housewarming presents (she has a shop, so she can do these things more readily than many moms can). I went through a period where I wanted to paint the buffet, but I was forbidden from doing so by my mother because, she told me, the wood was too nice. I’m glad she talked/guilted me out of it now. But between the table top, the buffet, and the (not shown) bookcase/china cabinet thing in there, there’s an awful lot of natural wood. And also I’m just over the windsor chairs.

So I came up with a two part plan to start making the dining room a little more fun. Part one: paint table top black. Part two: exciting new chairs.

The problem with new dining room chairs was that I needed at least eight of them (we actually usually have nine for Thanksgiving dinner, and we can fit ten chairs at the table (with the extra leaf in it) in a pinch, but we can always pull a chair in from the kitchen). And finding eight matching chairs at the thrift store or cheap on Craigslist was a daunting task. And buying nine brand new chairs just because I thought my dining room wasn’t exciting enough was pretty much out of the question.

So I started casually keeping my eye open for chairs.

And chairs turned up pretty soon, it turned out!

These chairs:



Favorite thrift store had these chairs out the other week….there were 11 of them all together; six of the green cushioned ones and five of the others. But someone was buying two of the green cushioned ones as I got there. Blast it all! Green chairs are clearly the nicer, more well made ones (they lack a “made in China” stamp on the bottom, too). I would have preferred to get six of the green ones and then just two of the others to fill in the set. But I felt like once they were all painted and reupholstered the same, they’d look enough like a matched set, so, after fretting for a few minutes about what to do, I bought all nine that were left for $9.91 each.

I’m not super in love with the made in China ones, but the caning is nice and in good shape, so they’ll do.

The others have these fabulous gold thingies on them:



They also have these weird upholstered arm pad things to make my life complicated:



What do I do with THOSE? I think I may just have to clean them as well as I can and then paint them with fabric paint. Because it appears that the arms have a cut out area to acommodate them….i.e. there’d be a weird dip in the wood if I just took them off.

My mom has already come to buy four of the Windsor chairs off of me to sell at her shop (I offered to give them back to her, since they were a gift to start with, but she insisted on paying me). She paid me $10 each for them, making my new chairs FREE! Before refinishing. Which I need to do soon, because four of my old dining room chairs are already gone!

So. I’m thinking probably white for all the chairs. Depending on what fabric I pick for the upholstery. Some of the fabrics might go better with a nice pale blue, I think. And I want to buy a paint sprayer before I paint them, because I think painting that caning by hand would be NO FUN.

And now! I need help picking out fabric. From you guys! I made this handy collage of the front runners:



1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

At first I was thinking of something like the first two….either a black and white to go with the table and chairs or a dark blue because I’m liking navy and black together lately.

But now I’m leaning more towards something with a lot of color in it. Thoughts? Price is definitely a factor here: I believe numbers 3 and 7 are a lot cheaper than most of the rest (of the colorful ones at least). And the main thing number 9 has going for it is that there are dragons.

I won’t say what it is, but I think I know which one’s my favorite, and cost is the thing holding me back from pulling the trigger. I’m figuring I’ll need a yard or so of fabric for each chair, so the difference between $8ish dollars and $25ish dollars a yard is pretty significant.

But I’ve been looking at fabric so long now that I almost can’t tell what I like anymore, so I’d love to hear everyone’s opinion!

Also, reupholstering those chairs terrifies me. Tell me it will be okay?


Shaking Things Up in the Dining Room — 32 Comments

  1. If you’re going to paint the table top black I would take a fabric with black background – so number 7 or 8. Or maybe also 5… And I love these kinda paisley pattern these three have 🙂

    Love, Midsommarflicka

  2. i love number 3! i think the dining room has more of a traditional look, and i think your style is funkier than that room is- so i think the chairs need something modern to bring in that funk!

    • I like that one a lot, too! I kind of worry I’d get tired of it with feathers everywhere right now, but it’s one of the cheapest ones, so I could change it up easier than some of the others.

  3. Love the chairs & I think they will add so much interest! I would completely agonize over fabric for weeks…but that’s just me! I’m drawn to #1 & 4 and can’t wait to see which you choose.

  4. If you opt to remove the arm pads, you could stick with your nautical theme and do a rope wrap where the pads used to be. Start with a turk’s head at the bottom, then wrap to the top and finish with a second turk’s head. Shellac or varnish the wrap to finish. Something like this: Just an idea.

    For fabric, I like #9, so you should probably not choose that one – I have such bad taste!

    • Interesting! I had some fabric with fish on it that I almost threw into the collection…maybe I should reconsider that one 🙂

  5. #9 seems very Gretchen. Can’t wait to see how you mix this guy up! I actually really like the Windsor chairs. I thought about them myself but my husband tells me they are too late 90’s for him. I really like your new finds though!

  6. I think the chairs will definitely help your dining room have a whole new look and feel. The only one of the fabrics that I have seen in person is #6. The colours from what I remember are bright, but really pretty. I also loved that the flowers and birds in the print look embroidered. If you were to go with that one it would be really pretty with the white and I think the brass would stand out as well. It may even have a similar shade of blue to your wall colour. All that being said, I do also like the other choices (number 9 looks interesting too)!

  7. I really like number six but I fear white with small children. If you’re painting the table black I love seven and if you’re not painting the table I love nine.

    • I have the same thought about 6 :). And I’m surprised 9 is getting so many votes….hmm…they also have the same pattern in a lighter blue that I might like better with black….

  8. Oh this is making me very excited already. I love the cane backs. I really like fabric number 5 because it’s pretty and you don’t have to worry as much about spills. Instead of black for the table, how about painting it a very dark version of number 5s fabric background – if you go with that fabric. So almost black, but a bluish black…? Just an idea 🙂

    • Hmm….the only issue with painting the table blue (which sounds pretty awesome now that I think about it) is that the base is already black, and I’d been hoping to get away with only painting the top. But I might well have trouble getting a close enough match with the black anyway, so something to think about. Once I have my paint sprayer the whole thing will take like 2 seconds anyway, right 😉

  9. I really like #6 but I have a floral pattern with a white background on my dining room chairs and they do not hide stains at all! The indoor/outdoor fabrics are interesting options. I bet they’d be easier to clean. Your China chairs shouldn’t be too hard to recover. The seats look similar to mine which I did awhile back ( You’ll probably be happy you only got four of the green chairs though – those look much more complicated. Good luck!

    • Yeah, sadly, I’m afraid #6 might not be cut out for life with kids :(. Easier to clean is what I’m thinking about indoor/outdoor fabric, too…it’s also cheaper than most of the other options. off to check out your chair recovering project!

  10. didn’t read thru the comments. wanted to mention my contractor purchased a Husky brand paint sprayer from home depot a few weeks ago. we painted my kitchen cabinets with Farm House paint.also did a few pieces of furniture. raved about this sprayer over others he’s owned. it was $69. i think the model # is 4850. you can probably find it for less online.
    if you’re painting the chairs white, i’d go with the paisley. you could liven things up by picking up a color from the fabric for the tabletop. maybe the bright green. paint the chandelier white.
    Spring is most certainly in the air!

    • I think mom was telling me about the paint sprayer–thanks for the tip! I like the idea of a bright color for the table top….but I’m planning on painting my kitchen chairs some kind of aqua or turquoise….things might start getting a little too fun in here if I’m not careful 😉

  11. Here I am, a couple of years late and a dollar short, as they say. But I’m looking at older posts and saw this one. I’m wondering how you fared with getting those dining chairs with arms tucked under the table when not in use? I hate my MCM chairs with arms, as the dining room looks odd with the chairs half under the table top and half out. After 30+ years, those chairs are out of here. How did yours work out? I don’t see any info on this project at your new addy.

    • These chairs are gone now (turns out cane chairs don’t hold up so well in our family), so I’m trying to remember whether they bothered me or not. Actually, now that I think of it, I don’t think I ever used the arm chairs at the ends of the table, because I decided they were falling apart too much and ended up picking up 4 different chairs on craigslist, and the ones we used on the end were a different style without the problem with the arms. Our current set of chairs (another Craigslist find) has two armchairs for the ends, but the arms are low enough that they slide under the overhang on the top of the table and don’t bother me/look funny. So that’s a very long, convoluted answer that’s probably not very helpful! The dining room is a constant trouble spot for me….as evidenced by how I can’t stop switching out chairs!

Like all human bloggers, I love comments :)