Before and After: A $25 DIY Painted Chair Hack That’s a Stunning Dupe for Leather

published Nov 24, 2023
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About this before & after
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There’s nothing quite like sitting on a buttery leather chair. It’s luxury at its finest. The same cannot be said for thrifted chairs with torn fabric and chipped paint. Well, maybe that’s just not until you try a painted leather hack on them. 

Jamie and Sarah McAuley (@wearejamieandsarah) saw all the potential in a pair of worn-out accent chairs they bought for $10 each at an estate sale. “The fabric was faded, and the metal was worn, but we loved the shape and thought they would be the perfect chairs to try the ‘painted leather’ technique,” Jamie says. The YouTuber couple was inspired to try a hack they saw Drew Michael Scott (Lone Fox) use to make old chairs look new. Scott mixed fabric softener with three types of brown paint to turn a sad wingback chair into a stately faux leather piece.

The faux leather hack offers budget-friendly luxury.

“We wanted an inexpensive set of chairs that had a modern feel,” Jamie says. Sarah and Jamie walked viewers through their entire painted leather process in a July 2021 YouTube video. While the hack is affordable, the sweat equity is real. After sanding and spray-painting the gold trim (and then protecting it with painter’s tape), it was time to paint on some “leather.” 

Following Scott’s method, they chose the same three shades of tan paint — Valspar’s Café Miel, Cowboy Boots, and Natural Cork — and mixed each color with one part laundry detergent to two parts paint. “We aren’t chemists, but apparently this keeps the paint flexible during the drying process,” he adds. In the video, Sarah noted they used about two-thirds of a gallon of Café Miel to paint seven coats on each chair as the leather base — they also sanded the dried paint in between some coats to help rough up the texture.

Once the chairs dried, Sarah went in separately with Natural Cork and Cowboy Boots to paint where lines and shadows would appear on the leather. The darker brown, Cowboy Boots, went into the creases, and Natural Cork served as an accent to give some texture. She says in the video that this step really gave it that leather look.

The couple spent about $50 total on materials for both chairs. Jamie says they expected to paint three or four coats, but the chairs kept soaking in the paint. “Different fabrics will absorb the paint at different rates,” he says. More than two years since they took on the DIY, it’s still giving luxury. “The paint has held up well and remains flexible,” says Jamie. “It totally looks like leather!”