A happy upcycled rocking chair story: How a tired old chair was upcycled to glorious beauty


“Pawn shops? Good grief! Why on earth would you go there?” The reactions from certain family and friends range from Shock horror disbelief to patronising amusement to pained tolerance!

I am in love with second hand junk shops. I adore poking around in dingy little places where the cast offs are literally piled on top of each other, each little nook and cranny filled with someone’s unloved goods. My eyes feast on discarded furniture and my imagination goes into overdrive as I picture the thing of beauty each one could become. A little sanding here, a touch of paint there, maybe a dash of decoupage? Oh the possibilities! Occasionally I purchase one of these gems, thrilling at the prospect of the transformation that awaits. And I stubbornly ignore the rolled eyes and groans of distaste that greet each new purchase at home.

And so it was that one morning on a jaunt to a local pawn shop with a friend, my eyes fell on a very old, quite scruffy wooden rocking chair. It was of the solid, spring operated variety from days gone by. Great! Sitting askew atop it was a damaged discoloured foam cushion partially covered in what was possibly the most hideous dirtiest fabric I have ever seen. Clearly someone with limited skills had attempted to cover the cushion. It was all in all an extremely sad chair. But it was solid wood. It had the most beautiful shape and structure, only just visible under the dust and grime.

As I looked at it, it cried out to me, longing to be tenderly restored to its former glory. This item needed to be loved I decided. Besides, it was selling for next to nothing, an absolute bargain for the right buyer. That was me! I would give this chair a new life, bring it back to glory! And I just knew that the perfect customer was out there, waiting with bated breath to purchase the revamped finished piece from me. A very satisfactory arrangement all around.

Upon close examination at home, I decided that since the chair was solid wood that was not actually damaged at all; I would simply sand it down to its original raw state and finish it with a nice fresh varnish. And obviously replace the cushions. This would be a fairly simple and quick project I decided.

Oh the delusions of an over eager upcycle junkie!

That weekend I set about sanding. My trusty little electric sander groaned and whined as it struggled along .The possibly decades old varnish stubbornly sat there glaring at me, taunting me in its refusal to be easily budged! Whatever happened to the sweet grateful chair I had brought home? “This is for your own good” I gritted as I determinedly continued along the path I had decided on. As I eyed the tubs of chalk paint I have sitting on a shelf, I refused to be tempted. How much easier it would be to just paint the chair with a couple of coats of magical chalk paint. But NO! This wood deserved to be shown off. The end result would justify my obstinacy.  As reddish dust stormed over my face hair and clothes and settled into my allergy prone eyes, I persisted, my fingers numbed by the continuous vibration of the sander.

Eventually, after a number of weekends (Tell me again about the “fairly simple and quick project”!) I managed to get most of the old varnish off. I did eventually use Paint stripper as well, but that is not a pretty story! I was horribly disappointed to find that the chair actually comprised of a number of different woods and simply varnishing it would leave it looking like an amateur project that had been patched together. So ok not serious, I’ll do a white wash I thought. The wood grain would still show through and it would have a trendy shabby chic look to it. It took much trial and error because of the different colours of the wood and all the pretty little curves and nooks and crannies (That had originally prompted the purchase of this chair…..never occurred to me how much work they would entail!). But eventually the chair was painted to my satisfaction. No quick easy fix up this!

Next I dragged hubby off to the fabric shop with me to get the perfect upholstery fabric for the cushions. Much deliberation ensued here. I still am not sure if it’s better to shop alone or with “another opinion”! After a good couple of hours …yes HOURS in the shop, deliberating between bright and cheerful or soft and neutral, we settled on a subtle pattern that had a bit of a shabby chic look to it.  I had foam cut to the size I required and was ready to make new cushions. Originally the chair only had a cushion on the seat. We (Hubby now quite enthusiastic about this endeavour) decided that it  should have a back rest cushion as well. The cushion covering task was thankfully quite smooth sailing and I finally had a completely new clean and fresh chair!

I have to admit I did feel inclined to pat myself on the back over this project. It took much longer than I had anticipated, was far more difficult than I imagined and taught me a number of painful lessons! So I was rather pleased that I persisted and felt that in the end the chair smiled and glowed with a new lease on life!

The most rewarding and wonderful end to this story is that the chair was bought by a pregnant couple, who plan to use it in  their new nursery and they were thrilled and excited to own this “one of a kind” piece of furniture to rock their new baby to sleep in.

Copy of Blog Graphic –Rocking Chair

That’s why I want to pat myself on the back….I made a chair happy, a new mommy happy and hopefully a new baby happy. What better feeling is there? Oh and of course I was quite happy to earn a little sum of money to fund the next junking trip!


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