Today’s post brought to you by the color blue, the husband, and as usual, D.I.Y. projects that go almost-but-not-quite as expected. By the way, my wife has not forgotten part II of her chair upholstering tutorial, and she’ll be back with that soon. In the meantime, here’s another fun- and chair-filled post!
Let me begin by saying that I have an obsession bordering on the unhealthy with Eames chairs. Specifically, the molded fiberglass shell chair holds a special place in my heart. So when we saw a pair of similar molded plastic chairs on the “scavenger” section of our local Apartment Therapy (as highlighted in this post from a few months ago), there was no question they would have a place of honor here at Location 27:
We made our way to the seller’s apartment (I with a mid-century song in my heart, my wife slightly less enthused) and became the proud new owners of two “gently-used,” wannabe Eames chairs. Remember this moment folks, because it’s the high point.
Things went downhill from there. When we got them home and brought them to our back porch, we realized that they were…sticky.
Apparently the previous owners had covered the chairs in a brownish spray paint, but neglected to seal it. The arms and seats were covered in a thick coating of dirty gunk that I had somehow missed when we picked them up. What can I say, the minimalist-inspired stars in my eyes had blinded me to their condition.
Since we weren’t crazy about the color anyway, we figured we’d just strip the paint (and the sticky coating on the seat and arms along with it) and cover it with something else. Initially we planned to mod podge one of our favorite comic strips to the chairs, but as you might remember Kim mentioning, she has somewhat of a fascination with spray paint.
And so spray paint it was. We figured that if we failed completely, we could always mod podge over it later. Plus a high-lacquer, solid finish would go really well with our as-yet-unannounced plans for the art studio.
First up, we had to strip the chairs down to their natural state. I tried every cleaner I could think of: dish soap, steel wool, dish soap and steel wool, SOS pads, heck I even tried Skin So Soft. A quick note about SSS: my grandmother was an Avon lady, so growing up we were never without a bottle of this stuff. In all that time I have never, ever seen Skin So Soft fail to remove any type of stickiness…until these chairs. Seriously, it removes tar. I speak from experience here, folks.
If you read our previous post about these chairs, you’ll know what finally did the trick:
That’s right, automotive brake cleaner to the rescue. Brake cleaner will strip paint from anything it touches. Including your car. No joke, it will not hesitate to eat through the clear coat and paint down to the factory metal. Unfortunately, due to a computer snafu, the photos from the stripping process-and most of the rest of the remaining steps-were lost, so I’ll give you a quick rundown of what came next.
Once we stripped the chairs down, we discovered that their original color was a weird, fleshy peach tone (you can actually see it peeking through on the left hand chair in the picture at the top). Thankfully this was nothing that our friend Krylon couldn’t fix:
Despite losing all of our higher-quality photos, I still snapped a few pictures with my phone after a plastic-specific primer coat and roughly four coats of Krylon:
The coverage gets a little bit better after a few more coats, though this is still much lighter than the final product:
And here we are after many, many more coats than we could count:
Remembering the sticky state the chairs arrived in, we opted for a gloss coat to seal the chairs once the spray paint was finished. Based on our previous experience with this project, it came as no surprise when the seal coat didn’t go so well.
For one, we thought the gloss would even out the oddly bumpy finish from the spray paint. It didn’t. It also didn’t give the chairs a highly-lacquered look we were picturing in our heads, so for now we’re left with this patchy mess:
We’re thrilled with the paint color and coverage, but again, the gloss coat is not-so-hot. Plus, we’re still keen on getting that ultra-shiny, lacquered look, so our next step on these chairs is to smooth out the finish with medium-fine grit sandpaper, hit them with some more Krylon to even out coverage, and then seal them with real lacquer. I’m no expert (hence the “amateur” reference in the title), but I’m pretty sure that if you’re going for a lacquer finish, then you should probably use actual lacquer.
And now that the word “lacquer” has ceased to have any meaning, I shall end this post. Stay tuned for the finished product in a few weeks!
Now it’s your turn to (over)share: Do any of you have a preference for gloss vs. lacquer? What about alternative uses for automotive products? Or maybe your grandmother was an Avon lady too, and you want to express some Skin So Soft solidarity? Let us know below!