October 28, 2013

A few weeks ago, I was wandering through Goodwill when out of the corner of my eye, I spotted them– a pretty pair of pink chairs.  I practically sprinted over to them before anyone else snagged them, and flagged down an associate.  You have to move fast in the shark-infested waters of a good thrift store, I tell ya.  And swiftly swim I did.

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The price:  $7.99 a chair.  For real?  I was sold, even before I started surveying how much work they needed.  I just loved the shape and the nailhead trim.   And the color was so cute, it was love at first sight.

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But these chairs were what my 7th grade self would call “Monet” (I was all into Clueless, you know).  The girls were good from far, but far from good.  The vinyl was damaged a bit, and they were dirty.  In fact dirty doesn’t even begin to describe the level of filth.  Someone had left the poor things outside for who knows how long.  There were rocks and leaves and gunk all up in her crevasses.  And the vinyl was stained.

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I briefly considered reupholstering, but then I remembered I had seen this spray painted vinyl chair re-do and I thought why not?  If they turned out horribly, I was out $14 and some shattered dreams of all they could be, and I could always go back to the reupholstery idea.  I was going to spray paint vinyl chairs.

There was a death-row protest on Instagram to save the pink, and you guys, I wanted to have mercy and pardon the pink, but I knew it had to go.   I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed with Krud Kutter, but the original vinyl couldn’t be saved.  The thought of Ruby climbing all over them with decades of germs gave me the heebie-jeebies.  My first instinct went to white. I wanted them to resemble these beauties:

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Design Sponge

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After making sure they were good and clean, I gave the legs a good sanding and taped them off.  I tried to figure some way around painting the nailhead trim, but I knew it was inevitable. I had an idea to paint it after the fact, which I’ll show you in just a minute.  But I digress….

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After the legs were good and taped, I moved them onto the grass with some plastic bags underneath.  I used Rustoleum 2X white spray paint.  You can get vinyl spray paint, but my hardware store didn’t carry it, and I was with a sleepy toddler who was a ticking time bomb so I chose to get a paint that adheres to plastic.  Vinyl is plastic, after all.

I painted one coat in gloss, and knew I needed to go flat.  It was looking too plasticky for the style.

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I did two more coats in flat and they were looking so fresh and so clean, clean.

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With so many nooks and crannies, I had to really go slow with the paint, move around to get in every crack, and do a lot of repetition.  If you get too aggressive with the paint, it can pool and drip, which is no bueno.

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After three coats of paint and a good drying overnight,  it was time to tackle the legs. I used one of my favorite stains:  Minwax in Classic Gray.

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It’s not too woody, not too oak, not to dark, just a great modern neutral.  I wiped it on with a cloth, left it on each leg until I had done all 8, then went in the same order and wiped it all off.  It was the perfect shade.

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Next, it was time to salvage the trim.  I bought Rustoleum Hammered spray paint in Rosemary.  I picked up some super cheap thin painters’ brushes, and sprayed the paint into  plastic cup.  Now, let me save you some heartache and profanity:  I didn’t realize this at the time, but this spray paint eats away at plastic cups like it’s acid.  I discovered this by feeling a drip after the bottom of the cup had disinigrated and the paint was seeping through.  Onto my carpet.  Because I had come inside rather than freeze my buns off.  That’s where the profanity came in.  After I switched to a paper cup, I didn’t have any problems, except for frantically cleaning up a paint dribble.  Grumble grumble grumble.

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Painting the trim took simply a steady hand and some patience.  But, it was worth it.  I think it truly does look like it could be the original trim, sans paint.  Success!

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After everything was dry, I wiped them gently with an old tshirt to get any excess paint off and soften them a little and it worked great.  They don’t feel stiff like I thought they might from the paint.  They just feel like new chairs.  It’s amazing.

Pretty photos by James Young (can you spot him in the screen reflection?;)

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Pillows: Caitlin Wilson

They are wearing really, really well. Not a bit of cracking. I would advise against getting them really wet, however. It can make the paint gum up a little.

These babies currently reside in my bedroom (we are almost done remodeling! Remember the board and batten wall and the diy headboard? It’s all coming together! Can’t wait to show you more this week.), but I’m contemplating moving them to my dining table as captains’ chairs.  A total of $35 for the chairs, the paint, cheap-o brushes, and I have myself a pair of pretty white chairs.

Now, I can’t help myself but look for vinyl chairs every where I go.  There are so many that need good homes, and a fresh coat of paint.

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So, what do you think?  Would you dare to paint a vinyl chair?

Pssst: West Elm is having one amazing sale!  The more you spend, the more you save.

Here are a couple of items on my wish list:  this pouf, this tray, this pillow, this sofa… I could go on and on.  Oh how I love West Elm.

Happy Halloween week!

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  1. Mary Porter says:

    Gorgeous!!! You did a great job. These kids of projects scare me, but these look great!!

  2. This is so impressive – they look amazing!!

  3. Lisa Trent says:

    WHAT. You were right to love them so much. You may as well tell John the garage is YOURS now 🙂 Good job, Jen. Very impressive.

  4. I love thrift stores and finding awesome finds. An awesome find is exactly what you got. Those chairs looks amazing, easily $100 per chair.

    The Way to My Hart

  5. […] for a couple of years (you saw it in yesterday’s post right smack in the middle of my two spray painted chairs).  I really like the way it looks, but as we started our master remodel, I just felt like it […]

  6. Sabrina says:

    I’m wondering how long they stay as pretty. Won’t they crack when you sit on them… I mean the vinyl is flexibel while spray paint isn’t :S

    • Jen says:

      Thanks Sabrina! The type of spray paint I used adheres to plastic, so cracking isn’t a problem. We’ve used them quite a bit, and the paint is soft– just like they were made that way!

      • gary says:

        hey, thanks for the article. Do u know if this paint can also be used on peeling vinyl couch. I have a recliner couch which is peeling badly.


        • Jen says:

          Hi there, I’m not sure– but you could always try it!

        • cassi says:

          Unfortunately the material you are referring to is not vinyl but faux leather and once it starts peeling, it only gets worse. You can try it but I would save the crap ton of money on spray paint not to mention many hours and cramped fingers only to find out it still peels after a week. Sorry but I had a couch like that once.

          • Jen says:

            Hi there, it’s vinyl and I’ve had the chairs for several yeas and have never had an issue with peeling or cracking, nor did it take me many hours or tons of money. It was a simple and inexpensive project. Hope that is helpful!

  7. Meredith says:

    Did you do anything to fill in those tiny holes in the vinyl?

  8. Meredith says:

    In the fourth photo (the one of the top corner of the chair) it looks like there are some small holes. Or are they just stains?

  9. Alicia says:

    These are great! so how IS the paint holding up? I would love to try this.

  10. Patty says:

    Thank you for this post. I have been Googling all night trying to find a tip on how to paint furniture that has nailhead trim. I found a great Bombay chest on the side of the road, and it needs MAJOR help but has thousands of nailheads! Appreciate your know-how!

  11. Jamala says:

    I came across your blog looking for painted vinyl chairs and loved them.. You did a fantastic job.. they look great..

  12. Kimberly says:

    I feel in love with this tutorial several months and am just getting around to trying it. I tried the paint on a hidden piece of vinyl and it came out very, very gummy and sticky. I used the same spray, just in a different color. Do you have any suggestions, Jen? Thanks!

    • Jen says:

      Hi Kimberly! I didn’t have this problem, but I suggest two things: 1) make sure it’s warm. Spray paint is finicky in the cold. Also, make sure it’s warm where it’s drying. 2). Make sure you’re using flat paint and primer in one, and make sure it’s the type that adheres to plastic. Very important.

      Good luck and thanks for reading!

  13. […] (that’s how I knew they were the authentic;) .  I tried painting them first, just like I did these beauties, but all the paint did was highlight the fact that there were several seams with tears and the […]

  14. Suzanne says:

    Hi Jen: I live in SLC and watched you for years when you were reporting – you were one of my favorites then, and now to have discovered you share my passion for DIY and decorating on a budget, I’m thrilled. Which good will, thrift store is your favorite in town. I never seem to have as much luck as you. I do frequent The Pink Flamingo (consignment) and the The Expressive Bungalow (consignment). Both have scored me major finds!

  15. Beth says:

    Thank you for this post. I too bought an old vinyl chair at Goodwill and was going to just cover it but thought I would try painting it. Right now it’s a bright orange rocking chair with a big white “T” painted on the back, I’m sure the former owner was a UT Vols fan. Now just to decide on a color. Your chairs beautiful!

  16. Maureen says:

    Just curious, are they sat on enough to know whether they will crack, or have they cracked any from sitting on them? I have a brown pleather chair from Pier 1 . It’s just 3 years old but now I’ve gone cottage and want that chair white. Granted it’s not sat on but rarely, but I’d like to try this, IF it doesn’t crack with even little wear. Since you were thinking of putting them in your dining room that might get more wear so now I’m more curious. They do look fantastic. So much so, that it’s very tempting tome now.

    • Jen says:

      Hi Maureen! I have since moved these chairs into my dining room and they are used very frequently and I haven’t had a bit of cracking. You just have to make sure to get the right spray paint– it has to adhere to plastic. Hope that is helpful!

      • Maureen says:

        Thanks so much for replying so quickly. My girlfriend thinks I’m nuts, but a little “nutty” stuff in life is good. I’m going for it one of these days, soon. When I do, I’ll send a photo. I do have a leather, real leather, sofa and am NOT going to spray it for anything, but I do want more white in my room. Also, I have several cottage pillows on the couch and white tables, so that helps. I’m now VERY excited to do the chair! So glad I found your post.

  17. […] moved the painted vinyl chairs out of my room and set them up as captain’s chairs.  They clean up so nicely with just a […]

  18. Austin says:

    Can you post some current photos of the chairs (including close ups)? These would be photos after the chairs have had some real life use.

    • Jen says:

      Hi Austin, the chairs are holding up great! In a year or so, I may give them a fresh coat of paint, just to keep the color bright, but otherwise they look awesome!

  19. Katherine says:

    LOVE the chairs, and I was THRILLED to be able to read aloud to my husband the part about the spray paint eating through the cup. I did that too. With dark brown paint. Onto our brand new cream carpet. 🙁 Had to have someone come out and replace the area with a new piece. I am just glad to know that I’m not the only one who did that……

    • Jen says:

      Too funny and sad at the same time! Darn cups! Who knew that was a problem! Thanks for reading:)

      • Karen says:

        Hi Jen:

        I just had bought a wing back vinyl chair, and the lady painted it white. When she delivered it back to me, I noticed the cushion has some rough spots, and she told me all I had to do is use a light sand paper, and the bumps will be smooth. Plus she added some rhinestones for a trim and they are from the dollars store, she glued them on, and half falling off. Thank god I didn’t pay for this chair and work. It was a favorite my gf had done for me, and I am not liking it whatsoever. But I feel bad complaining, since it was done for free! My question, how can I smooth out the bumps? If u don’t mind letting me know, since your chairs are totally and without a question beautiful. I wish u were the one my gf knew, and I certainly wouldn’t mind paying you hahaha!!! Please help me thank u 🙂

  20. sk sartell says:

    Thanks so much for this post. I’m on to a rather big antique leather chair that has been recovered in ugly vinyl. This is my newest project and the old habit to reach for my chalk paint did not work well. So here I go again with your advice and tips. thanks. sk

  21. manta says:


    i jennifer I really impressed and inspired with the chair work u did…got this massage chair due to back problem..its peeling a lot..heres the link …please suggest will this restoleum vinyl spray work on them …please reply

    • Jen says:

      Hi there, thanks for reading. If the vinyl is peeling, I wouldn’t paint it because it will just highlight the problem. Best of luck!

  22. Sheryl says:

    I like what you did with the vinyl chairs. I want to paint a patio umbrella. Do you think the same procedure will work? After painting it, it might get wet in the rain. Will it get gummy? Any suggestions to paint an outdoor patio umbrella?? Thanks!

    • Jen says:

      Hi Sheryl, thank you so much! I would be worried about spray painting an umbrella, as it could gum up. I would suggest speaking with a paint specialist at a hardware store and asking if there is any spray paint that would hold up in weather. Thanks for reading!

  23. ISA says:

    What were you going to do with the nailhead trim?

  24. Dan says:

    I am trying to paint new vinyl fabric with ulta cover x2 paint. I first wiped it with down with rubbing alcohol to remove any greases and oils from the surface. Letting it dry off , and then painted some test panels. After 3 days they still wont dry, sticky to the touch. The building is at 74 degree with 45 humidity.
    How did you get yours to dry ?

  25. Susan says:

    I have two faux leather club chairs in my bedroom. I purchased Rustoleum grey vinyl spay paint. My question is how do you get the spray paint in the crevasses?

  26. Amara says:

    They look great! How do you protect the paint job??

  27. Daviel says:

    very nice job, love the attention to detail because that’s what makes it…You settled my concern with painting a vinyl motorcycle seat used on a boat. The seat had been exposed to the Florida outdoors for 12 years but the material was in good shape and still very pliable. It was clean enough not to use any cleaners/ chemicals and the paint took to it very nicely laying flat with no runs, drips, orange peal etc. It really laid nice. Its only been a couple days but so far so good. I used the same brand paint. Thanks for your post.

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