I have to admit, I love the idea of DIY’s. I am constantly pinning DIY’s that I one day hope to do but I always am short on time and space to live out my DIY-ing dreams. However, when I saw a pink Jenny Lind high chair at a little girls first birthday party (on Pinterest, where else?) I knew I had to make this highchair refinishing a DIY reality. After lots of research, of course, I set on my journey to a) find a Jenny Lind high chair somewhere in the vicinity of Chicago and b) refinish it in time for Eloise’s party. Here’s my journey and a tutorial so you can do the very same thing!
I should preface this by saying, this process will work for any wood high chair (or piece of furntiure for that matter). But first, finding the Jenny Lind high chair was very, very difficult. I mentioned it the post about Eloise’s party but I searched Craigslist, eBay and the web for weeks before mentioning it to Tyler. Master online expert Tyler found three, yes three within driving distance of us in a matter of hours. Frustrating, yes but exciting nonetheless. That weekend we drove about two hours to pick up a beat up but in generally good shape chair at a resale shop for less than $50.
On the way home we stopped at Home Depot for the necessary supplies:
- Sandpaper (320- fine & 150- medium) (both paper sheets and little blocks which were really helpful for the curved parts of the chair.)
- Kilz Latex Primer
- Kilz White Latex Paint semi-gloss
- brushes (1.5 inch / 2 inch – we only used 1.5 inch)
- plastic drop cloths
- Zissner Bullseye Shellac spray
- Murphy’s Oil soap for a cleaning
We already head:
Step one: Cleaning
You’ll first one to thouroughly clean the high chair. I used a damp rag and then went back over it with Murphy’s Oil soap. Our chair was pretty dusty so a good cleaning was a must. Cleaning is important for the obvious reasons but also to fully understand the condition of your chair. You’ll need to repair any damaged areas before moving on to the next step. In our case, there was no damage so we were ready to move to the next step.
Cleaning the hardware: We detached all of the hardware prior to cleaning the chair. The hardware was functional but rusty and grimy. We put it in a bath of plain ole white vinegar overnight and voilà it was clean. It is important you put a coat of WD40 to ensure it stays clean and rust free. I would suggest taking pictures of the how the hardware was installed before removing it – your life will be much easier when reinstalling.
Step two: Sanding
Again, depending on the condition of your chair you’ll need to evaluate what sandpaper you’ll use. Also important, if you are staining your chair instead of painting it you’ll need to remove ALL finish that is currently on the chair. We painted ours white so we needed to remove the top layers of varnish and smooth out the wood. I used a combination of 320 and 150. I mostly used the coarser because it smoothed out the wood well enough. In certain, more damaged areas, like the seat and tray I went over it with 150.
Sanding is time consuming and especially on a chair with some many spindles. My advice is take your time, go slow so you don’t find yourself going back over it again and again. I would sand a section and wipe it down with Murphy’s Oil Soap to get a clear vision of how well I sanded. You’ll know when you are finished sanding when the wood is smooth. Not all of the finish will be removed but there will be hint of the natural wood poking through. After you are finished sanding, clean the chair really well. I first went over it with a damp cloth then Murphy’s oil soap on a cloth and then a plain, dry microfiber towel to get any last bits of dust. It probably goes without saying but make sure your work area is clean too. It is really important you remove all the dust before you start to prime.
Step three: Prime
Priming is important because it evens out the chair and gets the wood ready to absorb the paint properly. We used Kilz Latex based primer in white. We went with Latex primer because we were going with Latex paint. Latex paint is non toxic and has little to no odor which is best for working indoors. Obviously, the non toxic piece was important given this was a chair for a baby! Whatever primer you go with choose the same paint (latex + latex = good but latex + oil = bad).
Less is more when you are priming. You should put each coat on thinner than you ever thought possible. Primer is pretty thin in general but be sure to really do thin coats. In our case, we did two coats of primer. The chair was pretty well covered although you could still see some of the imprefection in the wood – which is okay. Depending on your chair you may need more than two coats but I wouldn’t reccomend less than two. Primer dries fast and by the time you are done with one coat you can move back to the top to start the second. Or in our case, you can do one coat of primer in the span of a morning nap and then your helper enters to try her hand in applying prier (with my make up brush ;))
Step four: Paint
We used white Kilz Latex – semi gloss paint. I decided on white verse pink because I thought we would get more use out of a white chair. Pink, blue, yellow, green or any color really would be SO adorable.
Paint application is the same as primer – thin, thin, thin. It is tempting to use more paint to maximize coverage but it gets gloppy and doesn’t look right. It is time consuming and a bit tedius going around the spindels. You are no doubt going to a get a glob of paint on a side you can’t see but you’ll likely catch it in time to smooth it out. It took two coats of paint to get the coverage we wanted. I obessed over brush strokes being visible when I was two inches of away from the chair and that is c-r-a-z-y. When you are standing at a reasonable distance you cannot see any brush strokes or imperfections. Hopefully you are not as type A/nutty as I am but in case you are, know that there will be brush strokes as with any painting but they are not at all noticeable unless your two inches from the chair – which no one ever is.
Step four: Seal
Sealing was actually a last minute decision. As we were working through the process I got to thinking that we needed something to ensure the highchair was safe to eat food off of and also something to seal and protect the paint. Enter, Zissner Bullseye Shellac spray sealant. It dries in minutes and is super easy to apply. We applied two coats and it added a nice sheen (not overly shiny though), made it food safe and serves as another layer of protection.
And there you have it. A successful DIY and refinishing project all in one. Not to mention, the gorgeous, family heirloom you just created. Here is the breakdown of this project:
Total costs: $75 ($50 for the high chair + $25 in sandpaper, paint + supplies)
Total hours: 12
The curved spindels make this highchair more consuming than some other may be. This was a fun project and a nice “escape” from technology. In fact, so fun we found another Jenny Lind highchair to refinish and are working on it now – anyone in the market for one?!?
Have you ever refinished furniture? I am dying to find a really awesome dresser to refinish but I think that will have to wait until our city living days are over…. tell me about your experience, please!