Good Questions: How To Restore Metal Chairs?

Good Questions: How To Restore Metal Chairs?

Sarah Coffey
Aug 30, 2007

Lisa sent us an email...

Help! I spotted these (very dirty) chairs (4!) being thrown away and thought they might look quirky mixed with more mod furniture? My husband feels sure he can straighten out a couple of slightly bent legs, so the rest is up to me to overhaul.

I'd like to do as much as I can myself, but I want them ready for early I need to weigh time vs. cost and make decisions.


1. Best way to clean up/repaint the rusty metal? 2. If I can't manage this myself—where to send the backs and seats for reupholstering? 3. What to cover them in? I have kids and cats to contend with.

They will either surround a mid-century McCobb rectangular dining table or a minimal rectangular glass table.

Thanks, Lisa

First, congratulations on your find! Cleaned up, these chairs could make a great statement around a more modern dining table. In answer to your questions:

1. Clean the rusty metal by buffing the frame with steel wool. The current issue of Blueprint also suggests using aluminum foil to buff a chrome chair (page 36). If the chairs need to be painted after buffing, use a metal paint like RustOleum's American Accents. If the metal is in really bad shape, consider having the frames powder coated. You can find a dealer here.

2. There are plenty of online tips on reupholstering, including this post from AT: Chicago. Although reupholstering a chair seat is usually pretty simple, those padded backs might be difficult, depending on how they're attached. If you do need to send it to someone, you can find several local recommendations on this post.

3. The type of fabric you choose depends on the look you want. Mid-to-heavy-weight cotton fabrics are good. If you're doing the job yourself, a mid-weight fabric is easier to work with. Since these are dining chairs, they probably won't encounter the same level of wear-and-tear as a sofa or an armchair, so a mid-weight fabric should hold up well.

AT Readers: Any suggestions for Lisa?

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