Antique Balloon Back Chair Makeover | The Interior Frugalista: Antique Balloon Back Chair Makeover
Antique Balloon Back Chair Makeover | The Interior Frugalista

October 22, 2013

Antique Balloon Back Chair Makeover

Mr. Frugalista and I were so excited when we inherited this lovely Antique Balloon Back Chair from his Uncle's estate. Those curvy legs and carved details fit right into our decorating style. While the red velvet seat had a faint stain, otherwise the chair was in excellent condition.

It has been a well-used chair in our home and for many years sat at a long cherry wood sofa table we used as a writing desk in our living room. Sadly after one too many gatherings and surviving two kids and a dog it started to look worn and tired, much like it's owners.

Antique Balloon Back Chair After Makeover

This is what it looked like before. You can see the fabric is well worn and there are knicks and scratches on the wood frame.

Antique Balloon Back Chair Before Makeover


An Antique Balloon Back Chair Makeover From The Inside Out


Antique Balloon Back Chair

Disclosure: Affiliate links are included in this post so you can see what products I used or recommend to complete this project. If you make a purchase through the links, there is no extra charge to you and I will receive a small commission to support my blogging wardrobe with a fresh new set of pajamas (don't judge). See my full disclosure policy.


Painting the frame

First I filled the knicks and gouges in the wood frame. Then I gave the chair a coat of Old White Annie Sloan Chalk Paint™ and all those lovely carved details popped.
Balloon back chair chalked in Old White

When I went to start the second coat I noticed dark spots coming through the paint. Paint bleed from the tannins in the dark wood. I brushed a coat of shellac over the first coat of paint before applying the second coat and it worked like a charm.


Distressing the finish

Using 220-grit sandpaper, I lightly distressed the paint along the edges and spots along the legs that would normally see wear and tear.
Balloon Back Chair Chalked Painted and Distressed


Waxing the frame

I applied a thin coat of clear wax, also by Annie Sloan Chalk Paint™ using a round wax brush. Before the wax dried and working in sections, I applied dark wax making sure to get into all the nooks and crannies and wiped away the excess with a lint free rag.


Dark Wax Tip: 

A great way to get deep into the nooks and crannies of a piece with dark wax is to use a small inexpensive chip brush and cut the bristles down to 1-inch high. It is my go to brush for this purpose.


Changing the plan

Because the fabric on the seat was showing wear but not torn, the plan was to chalk paint the upholstery in the color Duck Egg Blue. As I was about to get started I noticed something didn't feel right underneath that fabric.


Deconstructing the chair

Upon removing the fabric I noticed the first layer of cotton batting was still in good condition. So far so good.
Original cotton batting layer on antique chair

I was expecting horse hair underneath the batting but surprise - it was layers of stinky, dusty, messy straw.
Straw stuffing in old balloon back chair

Once I removed the bulk of the straw I noticed the burlap base was ripped and disintegrated.
Disintegrated burlap layer on old balloon back chair

Replacing straw and burlap I can handle but what was waiting underneath, I was not prepared for.

Suddenly I had flashbacks of all the gatherings where this chair had been used and realized how forgiving the poor souls who had to endure hours with springs poking up their butts and never once complained or said a word. Talk about embarrassing.

You can see in the photo below the twine had broken in several spots, leaving those springs standing at attention.
Deteriorated spring twine on old balloon back chair

At this point, I am very nervous.
Loose springs in antique balloon back chair

After a good clean with the shop vac, I was very thankful to discover the webbing was still in good condition and that all four springs were still tightly attached.


Okay, now what?


Have I mentioned that I've never upholstered a chair before?

I've taken apart old chairs for someone else to upholster.

I've watched the pros do upholstery.

But never have I ever attempted to fix a chair from the inside out, especially an old one.

I called a coffee break and sat staring at those wonky springs while scratching my head.
Balloon Back Chair Makeover staged with fresh picked Peonies


Upholstery 101 - here we come

I remembered I bought the book The Complete Guide To Upholstery by Cherry Dobson several months back.

Thank You, Cherry Dobson, you are my new best friend! I can't recommend this book enough, it is chalk full of easy to follow tutorials.


Putting the chair back together again

One layer at a time, thanks to Cherry Dobson, we (as in Mr. Frugalista and I) managed to put the chair back together again.
Replacing the inside of an Antique Balloon Back Chair

...and here it is.
Antique Balloon Back Chair After Makeover

...and a close-up of the fabric and upholstery gimp trim.
 New fabric and gimp on antique balloon back chair

The before and after...
Antique Balloon Back Chair Makeover Before and After

The chair is being used in our guest bedroom with the dresser we repurposed into a Faux Secretary With Pull Out Desk Top.
Back of Balloon Back Chair After Makeover

Reupholstered Antique Balloon Back Chair with desk

When we inherited this antique chair we also inherited a lovely set of nesting tables. Like the chair, we used them often during gatherings but they started to show wear and tear. They ended up receiving a couple of makeovers, one of which you can find here in the post The Nests Got A Makeover.

If you have a chair makeover in your future or know someone who does, please share this with a friend and/or save it on Pinterest.



Antique Balloon Back Chair Makeover From Inside Out
Like home renovations, sometimes when you think you'll just give it a fresh update, you are surprised by what awaits underneath.

If I have any message to leave you with, it's that if I can successfully makeover a chair from the inside out, being my first attempt at upholstery, you definitely can too. With the right tools and resources at hand, IT CAN BE DONE.

You will find this project shared at these fabulous link parties.


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