Every year around this time, as I start to plan my Thanksgiving meal and table, I'm reminded of how many special occasions have been celebrated around our beloved old dining room table and chairs, and I realized I've never shared their transformation with you and how I took the plunge to refinish them.
This sturdy maple table and chairs has been in my family for about 75 years. This is how it looked when my parents bought it shortly after they were married. My brothers and I grew up eating dinners on it, and after my mother passed away it found a place in my home where my children grew up eating their dinners on it also. Imagine all the hundreds of happy birthdays, graduations, engagements, Easters, Thanksgivings, Christmases, and New Year Eves that we have celebrated at this table.
Such happy memories!
About five years ago, when I mentioned to a friend that I never really cared for the original reddish maple finish but didn't want to replace our table and chairs for sentimental reasons, she recommended that I paint them. The thought had never even occurred to me before, and at first I thought it didn't seem quite right to paint over our vintage furniture. After thinking about it for a few months, I convinced myself that living with furniture I didn't really like was just silly, for any reason.
After searching around the internet and finding out our furniture wasn't special or rare from a collector's standpoint, I started looking for painting ideas and instructions. I discovered from a google image search that black is a traditional color for Windsor chairs. I also discovered my first home decorating blogs and that there was a whole new world of decorating fun out there in something called blog land. I found this post by Rhoda at Southern Hospitality about how she spray painted her own dining chairs with store bought black spray paint, and she made me think, hey, I can do that too!
I was so nervous to try such a big project, though! What if I made a mistake and messed it up? I bought all the supplies, and then they sat around for weeks before I finally got up the courage to start. I worked on two of the six chairs each week throughout the summer, cleaning them thoroughly and wiping them down with liquid sandpaper.
I used one can of Rust-oleum Painter's Touch Ultra Cover 2x (the only spray paint I'll use now) for two light coats of paint on each chair, and one can for the bottom of the table. (7 cans total.) I also used one of those $4 spray can triggers for easy even coverage. It was so scary to pull that trigger the first time, but by the time I started on the second chair, I was gaining confidence and starting to feel like a pro. Other than the time and some significant elbow grease, it was way easier than I thought it would be.
My husband and I took turns sanding the top of the drop leaf table and the four leaves down to bare wood with orbital and palm sanders.
We left some of the deep sanding marks on the top to make it look like an old farm table, then I stained it with English Chestnut stain and finished it with many coats of satin wipe-on polyurethane. Who knew there was such beautiful grain pattern and color variation with the rustic country look we coveted hidden under that thick shiny red maple stain color?
It was love at first sight, and such a gratifying transformation, all for around $100.
Since we spend hours at our long family dinners talking way into the night, my husband and I picked out these big comfy wicker chairs and thick chair pads at Pier One Imports to cushion our old-timer buns at the heads of the table, and we now use the original wood chairs for side chairs.
When the kids come over we add more chairs and leaves to the table (which seats up to ten), as needed. The black Windsor arm chairs are comfortable and useful all around the house when we don't need them for meals. We use one at the small writing table in the family room, one at my husband's desk upstairs, one in the guest room, and one in my husband's man cave. The traditional Windsor lines and neutral black color seem to go with everything in our home, and they make great extra accent chairs.
The matching hutch to our set was painted a bit later with a brush and regular paint.
I just love before and after pictures. Here is our traditional dining room from the early nineties. My grandmother's Minton china filled the china cabinet, lace curtains with a poufy flowered valance lined the window, and a thick wool rug cushioned the floor.
What a difference! The black spray paint on the chairs and the poly table top have held up well to wear, and no waxing required.
I'm so glad I have old photos of how our table and chairs used to look. They hold lots of memories of happy family times together. I'm also so glad I took the plunge to refinish and update these pieces to fit our own tastes and who we are today. The new look doesn't take away from our memories of the past, it just adds a new layer to the history of our furniture and our family.
Thank you for stopping by today to take a walk down memory lane with me. I hope you have a wonderful week!
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