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As promised, I’m starting off the New Year with a project. Okay, I’ll admit it, I completed it this past summer. You can’t very well spray paint in your yard in January!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been seeing Windsor chairs all over the place these days. They’re popping up in kitchens of course, but also in unexpectedly modern rooms too and as stand-alone occasional chairs.

Originally created in 16th-century England on the banks of the Thames, the Windsor chair came to North America in the 1720s. It’s often thought of as an American classic, but lots of companies have been modifying and updating this classic lately. With exaggerated spindles and high gloss finishes, the 21st century Windsor is hip and current. 

Photo Blog Martha Stewart Windsor Chair Makeover

I love the way these Windsor chairs are coated in pretty pale blue.

Photo: black windsor chair with high back

Photo: Classic wooden windsor chair

Ethan Allen, champion of American classics, has these fine examples of the genre for sale. The first one is called a Comb Back Armchair ($519 each), and the second is their Windsor Bowback Side Chair ($259 each).

Photo: 4 classic wooden windsor chairs - before

Well for my project I started with a set of four forgotten Windsor chairs from my aunt. They had been purchased as unfinished pieces in the mid ’90s and had seen better days. I decided a coat of shiny black paint would bring them up-to-date. Here they are in my parents’ backyard this past summer.

Photo: Matte grey and a glossy black windsor chair

They were coated with linseed oil (I think), so painting right over the wood wasn’t an option. Trust me, I tried. Instead I used a tinted primer from the Ralph Lauren paint line at Home Depot. It’s made to go under their black paint, so it was tinted a dark slate grey. I just brushed it on with a regular brush and was then ready for my paint. I used Tremclad spray paint in black high gloss. Et voila! (The one on the left is primed, the other has been primed and painted.)

Spray paint was the best choice for this project because it allowed me to get in and around all those spindles with ease. Plus it was so glossy and dried really quickly! Remember to use light gradual coats instead of heavy, drippy ones. When you’re ready to spray the seat, tip the whole chair forward so you can spray the seat at a right angle. Spray paint tends to glob when you try to aim downwards. I used about one and a quarter cans per chair, so for four chairs it took five cans. 

Sorry I don’t have a better after shot! The room they live in now isn’t quite finished. But I can tell you I paired them with Ikea’s tulip table for a mod-meets-trad combo and hung a hurricane lantern above. 

Now these chairs have been rescued from the basement and given a new purpose. Plus in the kitchen’s makeover we saved a ton of dough by re-using these old chairs. All it cost was a can of primer ($18) and 5 cans of spray paint ($20). That’s pretty good if you ask me!

Even Tom Scheerer’s into my favourite Windsors!

Photo: windsor chair in dining room with stripped rug

For instructions on reupholstering and repainting an occasional chair without using spray paint, check out this other DIY Chair Makeover I worked on. Or for another easy DIY project, check out the Lamp Makeover from our Online TV show.

Photo credits:
1. Marthastewart.com
2. Comb Back Armchair from Ethan Allen
3. Windsor Bowback Side Chair from Ethan Allen
4-5. Michael Penney
6. Tom Scheerer, Nantucket Residence

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