Attempted Dining Chair Makeover (DIY Fail)

After finishing my dining table this weekend, I still needed to do something with the six pressback chairs that came with the table.

pressback chair makeover - 1

These won’t be the main dining chairs I’ll be using.  If you’ll remember, I have four wingback chairs that I’ll be turning into dining chairs to go with the “new” table.

new dining chairs 1

But I have the pressback chairs, and even though they’ll only be brought out when we need additional seating, I don’t want them to stay in their current condition.  I want them to look nice and coordinate with the table.

I had planned to just paint them white, but then someone on my Facebook page suggested that I ceruse the seats and then paint the rest white.  I loved that idea!  (Thanks, CB!)  🙂

The look would be similar to this pressback chair makeover from Houston Faux Finishes, except that the seat would be cerused instead of a solid dark stain color, and the white painted parts would just be solid white with no antiquing.

pressback chair makeover from houston faux finishes

And since the weather was beautiful yesterday, and for the first time in a very long time, there was virtually no wind, I was excited about getting the seats done quickly so that I could use my new paint sprayer for the first time!

So right after lunch, I got busy working on the first three chairs.

First I needed to get all of the old damaged finish off of the seats.

pressback chair makeover - 2

I used the same method that I used on the table top — chemical stripper first, followed by sanding, until I had bare wood.

pressback chair makeover - 3

And then I brushed the chair with the brass wire brush, and re-stained it with Minwax Jacobean stain.

pressback chair makeover - 4

The color looked a little different to me than it did on the table top, but I didn’t really think anything about it.  So I pressed on, and did the other three chairs — chemical stripper, sanding, brushing, and staining.  Then I shellacked all three chairs and applied the liming wax.

pressback chair makeover - 5

When the wax felt dry-ish, I got out a piece of steel wool and started working on the first chair.

That’s when I realized there was, in fact, a problem.  Not only did the wax come off way too easily (it should require a bit of scrubbing, but this didn’t require much at all), but the color of the wood in places didn’t even look like I had stained it at all.

pressback chair makeover - 6

And that’s when I realized my error.

I forgot to stir the stain before I applied it!!

If you’ve ever wondered if stirring the stain in an important step, I’m here to assure you that it is.  Very important.  You know all of those solids that settle to the bottom of the can and stick to the stir stick when you stir it?  Yeah…those solids are very important to the chemical makeup of wood stain, and when you apply stain without those solids mixed in, you’ll have some pretty awful results.

And I definitely had awful results.

pressback chair makeover - 7

So after working on them all afternoon, and basically ending up right where I had started (with chairs that needed to be stripped, sanded, and refinished), I tossed my steel wool aside, stormed inside to Matt’s game room, and said in my most dramatic, telenovela, it’s-the-end-of-the-world voice, “You’re NOT going to believe what happened!!

I recounted the incident to him, expecting all kinds of sympathy and encouragement from him.  Instead, he just looked at me with this kind of confused look on his face like he couldn’t understand why it was such a big deal, and then with a shrug of his shoulders asked, “Well, can’t you just start over?”

No sympathy for the drama queen.  😀

Yes.  Yes, I can just start over.  And that’s exactly what I did.  I didn’t get very far on them (just stripped and re-stained, and this time with thoroughly stirred stain), so after a full day of work, I have nothing to show for it.  Days like that are so frustrating, but at least they’re good learning opportunities.  The lesson of the day?  When working on a project, don’t get in too big of a hurry, and never, ever forget to stir the stain!



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  1. LOL! I’m so sorry that you went thru this – but I’m actually sitting here giggling! When I saw the post on FB, I thought, “Oh wow, she thought that I had a good idea!” Yay!!! — Then I saw “DIY FAIL!!!” and I thought – Ut-Oh! I may have inadvertently caused a DIY meltdown! When I read that you forgot to stir your stain, I lost it! LOL

    This would be something that I would TOTALLY do!!! I too would go looking for a sympathy hug – (not getting one) – I’d get a “Next time pay attention” type answer – Especially when it is something that I myself have caused!

    Glad to see that they [the chairs] are not ruined, as I had originally thought — sorry aobut the extra work – but I do think that they are gonna look AWESOME!!!

    SMILE — It’s ALL good!!!

    You are STILL my “Interior Hero!” no matter what you may forget to do!

  2. Truer words never spoken. I have plenty of DIY examples of this but my worst is a baking example. I was trying to bake a cake for my 3 year old’s birthday before we had to begin the hour plus round trip to pick up his sibs from school (a charter school a distance from home.) It was my last chance. I accidentally bought self rising flour (never use it and failed to notice) and threw the cake together – a chocolate bundt. It spilled over the edge of the pan to the floor of the oven because of too much leavening ingredients. Mistake #2, I pulled the ruined cake out and turned on the self cleaning feature. Too much cake batter on the oven floor caused a fire in the oven. I stopped the self clean and tried to vacuum out the oven but realized my mistake #3 when I saw a glowing ember fly into the central vac. Yes, I vacuumed a glowing ember into the pipes of the central vac. I called the fire department, they came out with three huge trucks. By then I had detected smoke starting from the vacuum canister in the garage and pulled the bag to the driveway. The fire fighters were nice and assisted me in vacuuming some water through the system. They checked the house and left. I was late to pick up the kids.

    A super nice neighbor brought over a chocolate layer cake she baked that evening.

    1. I was feeling so sorry for Kristi and her bad day but I gotta tell you — your story “takes the cake” (har har)!

    2. I’m so sorry… but I actually laughed (out loud!) as I read this! It’s just so…. ME!

      On the positive side, you didn’t burn down your house that day…. 🙂 But I bet you DID learn a valuable lesson. I guess that’s why these things happen to us…. it’s a learning experience!

      1. Okay, this got me laughing and then when I read it was two houses ago and hubby still doesn’t know, I broke outfit howling with laughter, made my day!

  3. What a pain in the patoot! I do look forward to your second day of work and know they will look amazing with the table. I love the scrollwork on the backs of those chairs.

  4. Good to know even people as talented and creative as you have DIY fails! At least your fails are few and far between your successes… my successes are few and far between my fails! 🙂

    The chairs will look fabulous! You have me wanting to ceruse something. And I didn’t even know what it was until you did your table, which looks absolutely gorgeous, btw!

  5. Crudballs!!!! Well- be grateful you *can* start over. I made a little animal figurine out of polymer clay once and failed to stir the matte varnish. Let’s just say- the same principal applies- yet I wasn’t able to just strip and start over… I had to start.completely.over. 🙁

  6. I’m so sorry your day was unproductive. My husband wouldn’t get it either. I would have to say, “I’m having a sh — day! Can you give me a hug and some sympathy?” or I would get the same type of answer you got. I am attempting to redo my kitchen table and chairs. I have the top of the table and the chair seats stained. I am curious as to how you are going to keep the seats protected around the spindles when you paint. I have my doubts that painter’s tape will work. Carry on and I will continue to follow in your talented footsteps!

  7. Was the stain still ok to use? Because if you used too much of the upper part of it, the rest will be too thick… And hey, these things happen. Just say what I usually say in such cases – recite after me: “All of us geniuses are absent-minded”… (You can use it in just about any situation too)!

  8. You didn’t fail, you simply reinforced prior learning and gave us the gift of your experience. There. Feel better? I think Thomas Edison said it well: ” I never did anything by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work.”

  9. Oh I am sorry to hear about your bad day. But I am happy that the mistake was reverseable! I think Matt just knows how to keep you grounded. But sometimes a “That Sucks” would be nice LOL

  10. Hmmm, this definitely has me thinking about what to do with my pine dining table and chairs. You can see it here:

    I have been procrastinating about staining vs painting vs ? I would hate to refinish it and then have to refinish it again!! I feel your pain. Any suggestions pine is kinda tough. I was thinking about doing a vinegar, steel wool, coffee stain and then painting the base and chairs.

  11. No No No ladies, I think I can top the stories, especially since the mention of firetrucks reminded me! We live in the Northeast, PA to be exact. Pefect location, close to Phila, NYC, DC and the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean. We can be at any of these places in under 3 hours. Anyway, It was my second son’s First Holy Communion weekend coming up. I was exhausted from cooking and cleaning and being pregnant and also having an infant baby girl. It was Friday around noon, the big day was Saturday, we were expecting 50 people, I had just finished baking a ham and had covered it and had it on the counter. I cleaned up the kitchen, washed the babies bottles and, as was my habit, after washing the nipples, I put them in a pot of water on the stove to boil for a few minutes to kill any germs. I put the baby down for her nap and thought I will just lay down for a minute. Then next thing I knew, the smoke alarms were going off, I could hear people in my house yelling I grabbed the baby from her crib covered her head with a wet towel and ran down stairs only to be greeted by a houseful of firemen, who hustled me out of there. A few minutes later a fireman came out holding what looked to be one of my pots. It was then that I remembered. Needless to say word spread like wildfire, and I became known as the woman with the burnt nipples! One of the firemen knew my neighbor who was a funeral director and quite the comedian, so of course he called him and told him as soon as he got back to the firehouse. The jokes were unmerciful! My house reeked of burnt rubber, but my neighbors pulled together and somehow managed with fans and every available blooming lilac to make the aroma of burnt rubber almost disappear. However on damp days, I could still smell right up until we moved from that house! I am 65 now, and have never left anything on the stove since then, that was 35 years ago! P.S. I had another boy in the fall

    1. A frustrating day for sure and you got so much accomplished before realizing your mistake. Bummer you had to start back at the beginning again.

  12. i did not know this and yet i makes perfect sense. thanks for sharing even your diy fails with us, so we can learn from you. look forward to seeing take two.

  13. Kristi, how dare Matt not give you the sympathy you so rightfully deserved. He sounds like my hubby, another Mathew by the way. Loving, practical and utterly stumped when I get my drama queen outfit on.

    I bet you never forget to stir the stain again. If it makes you feel better when the time comes for me to do these things I will remember this. Or I will forget. Then I will write to you and express my dismay knowing YOU will understand.

    Looking forward to seeing the finished chairs. I have chairs to do and hadn’t considered doing them that way. Food for thought.

  14. Great story….you did forget to write “Nailed it”!!!!

    Loved the stories ladies. We can all relate… Although i will say nothing comes to my mind…… in trying to “top this”…. It is however a dubious honor….

    Thanks for the laugh

    Hope you finally get the chairs finished. I loved the model…just lovely

  15. well, I’M offering sympathy!!!!
    I’m SO sorry!!!
    Now I’m going to read your next post so that I can see your wonderful (because I know you by now) results!

  16. Kristi, thanks for keepin it real! Problems and failures, mistakes and the no-real-sympathy comments from those we’d expect to help us in our dramatic moments of dispair!

  17. Great job, again! You are such a self-starter! And your work looks flawless. I loved the model…just lovely. The chairs will look fabulous! Absolutely gorgeous, you simply reinforced prior learning and gave us the gift of your experience. So impressed.