We all have furniture knocking round our homes which we can’t bear the sight of but at the same time can’t bring ourselves to give away. This is where our fabulous make do and mend section can help! We have practical solutions to all your vintage decoration needs. And here to help those of us with chairs we wish were that little bit more presentable is Joanna Thornhill with her crafty tips on how to decoupage an old chair using vintage fabric.

When it comes to waxing lyrical about the benefits of choosing vintage furniture over new, I know I’m preaching to the converted here. In terms of style, originality, value and eco-credentials, we know that vintage often wins hands down. And, hey, if the look isn’t exactly what we’re after, we can always customise it somehow to better suit our purpose.

Well, that’s easy enough when the piece is a sleek teak Fifties sideboard, or a glorious retro bit of G Plan. Not all vintage in its natural form is great – yes, Eighties treacle-orange gloss pine, I’m talking about you. With this guide, I’ll show you how to transform a naff faux-country chair from a WAG-toned eyesore into a fabulously kitsch riot of pattern, using fabric decoupage.

For this how-to, you will need:

  • A makeover-worthy chair (or any other furniture of your choosing)
  • Sandpaper
  • PVA glue
  • A selection of fabric remnants
  • Wood primer and some eggshell or emulsion paint if you also wish to paint sections of wood

This project should take anything between three to six hours depending on how you work it, plus additional drying time.

First things first, that orange treacle varnish has got to go! Attack it with some sandpaper to roughen up your surface, providing a sound base for your glue and fabric to stick to. This doesn’t have to be perfect – a light sanding all over to remove the top layer, followed by a wipe with a damp cloth, should suffice.

Next, choose your fabric. I raided my extensive fabric collection, but if you don’t have much to choose from, hitting the charity shops is your best bet. The great thing about decoupage is you don’t need a large quantity of any one fabric, so get creative with your rummaging and don’t forget to check out clothes and silk scarves as well as old linen, curtains and bedding.

My final fabric selection included a vintage chemise and the sleeve from an old dress I customised years ago, as well as conventional fabric. It’s worth having a couple of back-up options too, as not all fabric takes well to decoupage.

As a rule, silk and chiffon are easiest to work with, and most cotton fabrics should work as long as they’re not too thick.

Then work out how you want to arrange your fabric on your furniture – you might wish to use just one or two designs or have a completely different section on every element of your item. I found it helpful to blue-tac sections of fabric onto my chair to help decide which to use and also to work out my scheme. My chair soon became a mix of fabrics and patterns all within a pink/mauve/silver colour palette.

You can choose your fabrics based on colour, pattern or texture, keeping each one totally different from the other to create a more eclectic look, or stick to neutral fabrics then add one vibrant element for an unexpected colour pop. As long as there is some kind of relationship between each piece, your finished item will look fabulous.

Now you’re ready to decoupage!

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6 Responses

  1. Lauren

    This is beautiful, I may be tempted to do something simialr in my “make do and mend” corner, where I have to do up my 1930’s desk and make the pine chair match. What great inspiration!

  2. Jo

    I rent my furniture along with my flat, and never have I regretted this so much! You’ve got me positively aching to customise all the monstrous faux-country and faux-walnut pieces! I shall simply have to move flat.

  3. Carol

    Ooh nice work – there’s a lot of unloved stuff out there that just need a little bit of decoupage magic. And Jo – yes. frankly you need to move. to an empty unfurnished flat that is just crying out for flea market finds.

    it’s taken over my life, that’s for sure. anyone who’s intersted in seeing what we get up to can find pics on our Flickr thingy

    Say NO! to the skip


  4. Jess

    It looks wonderful. Can you overlap the fabrics, i.e. you don’t have to neartly join each piece of fabric? Thanks

  5. mrscartwright

    Really good, splendid design and ability. But, can you tell us how to smooth it into the grooves and pattern? Can you post pics or even better a video?