Or when you refuse to pay full price for a store-brand “antique” because you’re pretty sure you can go to a flea market or salvage yard and make it yourself (even if you don’t know exactly when that would be).
Or when you hang on to your hand-me-down-and-seen-better-days furniture that was cool before you were born because “someday” you will find a paint color/fabric/lampshade that will make the piece relevant again.
Since buying my first house in October, I’ve had a serious case of DIY-itis, and as warm weather approached, I couldn’t wait to unleash my inner Joanna Gaines’ “Fixer Upper” style or at the very least make a piece that surely would sell for a high profit on “Flea Market Flip.”
But it turns out that refurbishing and reinventing even the smallest yard sale find in real life takes a lot longer than one of those 30-minute television shows. And the results don’t always match the Pinterest photo you downloaded for inspiration.
So I looked for help. Fortunately for me, Becky Dunn recently moved her home-furnishings boutique, Rust & Found, from Canal Fulton to 616 S. Main Street in North Canton, which is a few streets away from my house.
Our DIY project was a wooden dining room armchair that Becky found at an auction. The goal was to repaint and distress the wood and recover the seat to give it new life as an antique farmhouse-style accent chair.
Almost immediately, I discovered one of the problems that hampered my previous projects. I didn’t know about milk paint. Milk paint, when you don’t use a bonding agent, applies easily in sheer layers, doesn’t require pre-sanding and begins to chip as it hardens for an aged look.
As we each dragged a square of sandpaper along the edges of the chair, the already hardened two layers of red milk paint chipped and flaked to look as though it had been painted for decades.
To stop the chipping process and give the chair a protective coating, we applied a dollop of wax that Becky said can be bought at most hardware stores. The wax also made the paint smoother to the touch without adding too much shine to detract from the “well worn” look we were seeking.
The chair’s seat cushion was in good shape, just dated with its red-and-white vertical striped cover. Becky selected a grain-sack textured fabric with a bold paisley pattern whose red flowers matched the new red paint on the chair. Becky found the fabric in Tennessee during one of her out-of-state junking trips. She says she often buys fabric outside Ohio so she can offer her Rust & Found customers something different than what they’d find at a big-box store.
Two valuable tricks I learned when recovering a seat:
1. After you have positioned the fabric to where you want it and are ready to secure it to the underside of the seat, start with the side farthest from you and hold—don’t pull!—the fabric as you use your staple gun to secure it to the seat. Otherwise, you risk pulling the fabric out of position. Only add a few staples, then switch to the side closest to you, this time pulling the fabric taut before securing it with staples. Alternate stapling each side until you are a few inches from the corners.
2. Do the corners last. Becky suggests taking the fabric from both sides of the corner and folding them toward each other to create a tail, such as when you wrap a present. Add a staple on each side of the tail’s base. Pull the tail towards the center of the seat and add a staple or two to the middle of the tail. Trim any excess fabric.
It was comforting to learn that Becky, who started her business five years ago but has been upcycling pieces since she was a child, still tests and learns new techniques. She recently took an upholstery class to learn “how to do it correctly.” But the granddaughter of two professional upholsterers found out that, “If I did it the way I learned, (my pieces) would be triple the price because of the amount of time involved.”
While our recovered and distressed chair was an overall simple project, it still would take at least four hours from start to finish when you add in all the drying time between paint layers.
The visit made me realize that I would need to quit my job until the winter in order to do most of the projects I want for my house.
Or, I could stick with the smaller projects and leave the rest to the pros, like Becky.
Summer in Stark County is full of fun. We go behind the scenes to give you the insider’s experience at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Loretta Paganini’s School of Cooking and the Massillon Museum, as well as a hands-on account of learning to play disc golf and getting a VIP shopping experience at The District Boutique.