Non-Splendid Chair Recovering

Are those “cheap and easy” projects you see really that? Can you do it yourself? Here’s the lowdown on home improvement projects that claim you can.

After scouring endless DIY home improvement sites on Stumbleupon, I came to three conclusions.

  1. People who keep home improvement websites overuse the word “splendid.”
  2. Some people have confused “things I made with trash while I was procrastinating” with actual, do it yourself crafts.
  3.  Probably because of this recession, the cheap and inexpensive projects are extremely popular.

But as I read, I realized that I don’t have power tools. I rarely see cabinets with great structural and paintable surfaces at They say “things you have at home” without realizing I’m in a one-room apartment with a pink toolkit and 75 pairs of shoes.

What can you do with that, Martha Stewart?

So from here on, I’ll be testing DIY projects to see if they are really that easy.

We’ll start with the recovered chair. I found this site to start.

Total cost: About $40 for one chair

Chair: $9.99 at

Fabric: $7 in the Walmart remnant bin

Sandpaper: $6 at

Glue: $9 at Michael’s

Paint: $5 at Michael’s

Total time: Four hours including a good hour-long sanitizing because I didn’t want other people butt germs on my chair.

My favorite part of these instructions are when it said, “All projects are made easier when working in a room that has these types of tools and supplies” and shows this great workroom with every power tool you can imagine and a handy man waiting to do all the hard stuff for you.

No kidding. I have a kitchen workspace and pink tools. 

Remove the seat. Luckily the chair I picked was screwed on so I just had to remove those.

Sanitize and clean. I’m not implying that second-hand things are germy. I’m just particular about my cleaning and I’m not sure the last owners used my methods. So, I threw the seat cover away, sanded the whole thing and wiped it down with my Clorox antibacterial wipes. That Sarah Jessica Parker commercial with the lice is still haunting me these days. 

Then I painted the chair because it was in pretty bad condition. If you’re using one of your own chairs, this really is a simple project. If you’re not, it’s kind of a pain.

Here’s where I had trouble. Seriously, who owns a staple gun? I imagine the only people who own staple guns spend their days hanging up flyers on electrical posts advertising rapid weight loss and lost cats.

If Gorilla Glue can’t fix it, you don’t need it. I glued my seat. It’ll stay, I think.

I screwed the seat back on and it’s done. 

All in all, this kept me entertained for an afternoon. If you’re looking for a fun craft, do it. If you’re looking to redo all the chairs in your fancy dining room, practice first. You can probably redo them all and look professional, but not on the first try. Go to Goodwill and practice on similar chairs before you start messing up one in a set.

Trust me. 

Got a project you’re wondering about? Send it to us and we’ll break it down for you. 


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