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Located in Beaverton, serving the greater Portland, OR area since 1985
Located in Beaverton, serving the greater Portland, OR area since 1985

How to Make Grandma’s Worn-out Old Wooden Chair Look New

It’s been sitting in that corner for years nowold wooden chair, collecting dust. That’s grandma’s old chair. You see it every day, but you’re not sure what to do with it. At one time, the chair held a place of honor in the room. Now, it’s too old and worn out to take it out where guests can see. It’s probably not even safe to sit on anyway! You obviously can’t get rid of it, but what else can you do? There’s an alternative to just letting it stay there in the corner, or even worse, sending it to the attic. Consider spending just a little bit of time and money to make grandma’s old chair looking (and working) like new again.

Repair the Chair

Let’s start with the most important business first. Fix any structural problems in the chair. With a chair that old, it probably shouldn’t be too hard to spot any major concerns here.

Look Closely

Even if you can’t see anything that doesn’t mean that there aren’t smaller, hard-to-detect cracks or fissures in the wood. Make sure you give the chair a good, thorough inspection first. Don’t be afraid to take it to a professional who knows what to look for in older furniture.

Fixing up the Wood Trim

Once the chair is safe to sit on, now comes the fun part. Make the chair look great again. To do this, it’s necessary to look at the chair in two parts. Chances are good that the chair has a combination of wood and fabric. How much fabric and how much wood can vary depending on the chair. We’re going to talk about the wood trim first. There are several different options available when it comes to sprucing up the wood trim on these old chairs.

Re-sand and Restain

One of the simplest, and most satisfying, repair options is to simply spend some time bringing out the natural beauty of the wood. You can do this with a light sanding to smooth out the rough edges that have accumulated over the years and then applying the stain. The stain soaks in and provides the wood with a natural luster that makes it look brand new. Since stains come in a variety of tints, you can choose a color of stain that matches whatever overall look you want in the chair.


If you want to move away from the natural wood look, consider painting the wood. The color you choose depends a lot on what you want to do with the rest of the chair. With virtually every color under the sun available at your local paint store, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Spray Paint

We have to at least mention spray painting as a viable alternative to traditional painting. Even with antiques, spray paint can bring new life to a piece. Spray painting is much quicker and cheaper than other painting methods. Take precautions so you don’t get paint on other materials. Definitely, paint before you work on any other part of the chair.


Now that you’ve got some ideas about the wood trim, it’s time to look at the upholstery. This is most likely where the age of the chair is most visible. Upholstery, while durable, is not made to last forever, so it’s something that should be done updated from time to time. Not only does this improve the comfort and life of the chair, but it also gives the chair a chance to look like a sleek, modern piece of furniture again instead of a relic stuck in the past.

Consider Professional Help

While DIY is tempting, there are certain things where hiring a professional just makes sense. Reupholstering a chair is one of them. This chair is not just a piece of furniture, it is a family heirloom and a link to the past. It should be treated accordingly. Any mistakes in the repair job could ruin an otherwise beautiful piece. You may as well send it back to the corner once again. Don’t be afraid to get professional help at this stage.

Coordinate with the Trim

While choosing the right upholstery, make sure that the entire chair, fabric, and trim, come together to make a complete aesthetic statement. This means whether you decide to paint, stain or do something else to the wood, that it matches and complements the fabric you choose for the rest of the chair.

Choose Modern, Durable Fabrics

Some people have a hard time taking a beloved, old piece of furniture and updating it for the 21st century. To them, it ruins the memories that go with the chair. While that position is understandable, consider this. When that chair was first made, it was built to look new and modern. It wasn’t made to look like “grandma’s chair” then, and there’s no reason that it should be stuck with that title now.

While you are choosing fabrics, don’t be afraid to experiment with new, modern styles. Make sure, though, that whatever you pick is durable. That’s because you don’t want to have to go through this again anytime soon!

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