Chamber of Secrets Progress: Chair Painting and Light Choosing

Things are moving along in the Chamber of Secrets.  We’re almost done with the built-ins, and I’m hoping to get the painting done in the next week or so.  We’ve made a decision on the floors (more on that another time),and I’ve picked out textiles for the window seat and curtains.  I’ve also finished the update on the Herman Miller shell chair and made some progress on choosing a light fixture.

Part One: Improved techniques for painting shell chair upholstery

I wrapped up my long ago post about painting the tulip chair with the statement that I probably wouldn’t try painting upholstery again, unless it were for outdoor furniture where high sheen and an asphalt-like texture might not be such big deterrents.  Well I was driven by necessity (and a meager budget) to eat my words and give it another try, and I’m so glad I did!  I gave you a sneak peek of the updated Herman Miller chair in my last post about the Chamber of Secrets, but today I want to share some details about what made this attempt at painted upholstery so much more successful than the last one.

Here’s a photo of the chair just after I’d paid $20 for it on Craigslist.  I really love the color of the original fabric, but unfortunately I couldn’t save it.  I tried steam cleaning, many stain removal products, and lots of elbow grease, but I was only able to upgrade it from revolting to disgusting.

the fabric was about a million times worse than it looks in this photo

After a quick paint job, here’s Herman now:

Red House West||Painted Upholstery

And here’s what I used:

  • Black latex interior paint in a flat finish (I had a quart of the least expensive paint I could find color matched to Benjamin Moore Onyx)
  • One bottle of textile medium
  • A container for mixing the paint and textile medium (I followed the directions on the bottle)
  • Paint brush
  • Spray bottle filled with water

The two major differences between this project and when I painted the tulip chair were the type of paint I used and the spray bottle of water.  For the tulip chair I used acrylic paint (which is what the tutorial I followed recommended).  It’s perfectly intuitive that shiny paint will result in shiny upholstery, but I was still so disappointed with how plastic looking my chair was in the end.  Even with the flat paint I used on Herman there’s still a slightly reflective quality, but it doesn’t bother me.

Red House West||Painted Upholstery

Using the spray bottle to wet the chair before I painted each coat also made a big difference.  The paint kind of soaked into the fabric rather than sitting on top of it.  I did about four coats, and sprayed a little less water each time.  After the painting was done I gave the fiberglass shell a good scrubbing with a Mr. Clean Eraser and polished up the chrome base with some Brasso.

I’m so happy with the way this chair turned out that it is completely off my to-do list.  I no longer feel the need to reupholster it, and can instead divert that money toward the tulip chair makeover fund.

The Herman Miller chair will live in the Chamber of Secrets, but I took a quick shot of the two shell chairs together looking like very beautiful fraternal twins.

Red House West||Painted Upholstery

Part Two: Choosing a light for the Chamber of Secrets

The next big task for the Chamber of Secrets is choosing an overhead light fixture.  With the addition of the built-ins, we’ll need to move the light’s location over about a foot so it’s still centered in the room.  That means a ceiling hole to patch (oh joy!  more drywall!) and I’d like to have it sorted out before painting.

Most of our downstairs light fixtures are schoolhouse shades from Schoolhouse Electric, and we’re considering doing that upstairs too.  They look nice, give good light, and are kind of undemanding visually.  Here’s a shot of the fixture in our living room:

Red House West||Chamber of Secrets: Making a Design Plan

I like them a lot, but I also like the idea of something a little more… adventurous.  In case you need a reminder, here’s the inspiration board for the Chamber of Secrets:

Red House West||Chamber of Secrets: Making a Design Plan

Red House West||Chamber of Secrets: Making a Design PlanAnd here are some of the lights we’re considering for in there.  The ceiling isn’t super high, so some of these drop fixtures would need to be shortened to make them work.

Red House West||Ceiling Light Round Up 1 Factory Satellite – Schoolhouse Electric; 2 Art Deco Light – eBay; 3 Mushroom Shade – eBay; 4 Vanadin – Ikea; 5 Striped Schoolhouse Shade – Schoolhouse Electric; 6 Alghult – Ikea

Numbers two and three are eBay listings, so no guarantee they’re still available.  Neither of them is exactly cheap ($315 and $199 respectively), but they’re both such beautiful and unique vintage options.  Although I love the Factory Satellite (number one), I’m a little concerned that some of the charm would be lost if we had to shorten the drop.  Number five is similar to what we have in the rest of the house, and I really love the added pizazz the stripes give it.  Four and Six are both Ikea options and are waaaay cheaper than the others ($39.99 each) and I think they could both work.  I’m kind of partial to number six, but I’d want to paint the chrome part of the fixture black.  I think a trip to the Portland Ikea to check them out in person just may be in our future!

Do you have a clear favorite of the ones I’ve shared?  Any other great sources for lighting I should check out?  Thanks for reading along and have a wonderful rest of your week!

23 responses on “Chamber of Secrets Progress: Chair Painting and Light Choosing

  1. y2knina

    Well, of course I like #2 best because my curse is to always pick the most expensive option of anything. Sigh. But I like #5, too. (They’re kinda similar.) What color options donyou get with #5?

    Have you considered Kickstarter for your tulip chair makeover fund? 🙂

    1. k80bennett

      Your curse is also my curse Nina. Alas. The Schoolhouse shade comes in lots of colors – a black and white stripe could be pretty cute!

  2. Carol Crump Bryner

    I’m not a huge fan of overhead lighting of any kind, so always go for the least conspicuous, which for me would be number 4. But number 5 is the best looking one I think. Good luck with your choice!

  3. Susan

    I would think in terms of some kind of fixture that allowed you to illuminate your book shelves.

    I’m not a fan of overhead lighting either. What if there wasn’t a light there and you thought about ….?

    1. k80bennett

      I think an overhead fixture is a good idea in this room – it’s big enough to need it. I’ll definitely do task lighting too though!

  4. Panda flannel

    Congrats on the chair! If you ever want to experiment again, I heard that you can paint upholstery with diluted RIT dye—it apparently doesn’t get crunchy and doesn’t rub off. I did a test on the back of a couch cushion and it totally worked, but ended up not doing the whole couch so YMMV (dyeing the white couch pink was veto’d, alas).

    As far as lights, my vote is for #4. Subtle, but will bring great texture to the room, and trying to get drop/pendant fixtures to work in rooms with low ceilings is kind of depressing in my experience. I love that first one though, maybe there’s another place in your house for it?

    Loving the progress of this room 🙂

    1. k80bennett

      I’ve read about RIT dye too, and considered it. I decided against it just because of the severity of the discoloration – I was worried it wouldn’t provide enough coverage.
      And I was looking at my kitchen with an eye to the Factory Satellite light!

  5. michellet2013

    I’m not a big fan of overhead fixtures either, especially in smaller rooms. Would recessed lighting over the areas that you might need it (work area, bookshelves) be an option? It’s so much fun to watch your progress—thanks for sharing!

    1. k80bennett

      The room is just big enough that I think an overhead light would be really useful – supplemented by cute task lighting of course 🙂 Thanks Michelle!

  6. Marlene

    #2! I love #2. Or #5 if you can’t do 2. You can always add lamps for other lighting interest after the basics are complete. Can’t wait to see the finished room!

    1. k80bennett

      That #2 is a really honey, isn’t it? And #5 seems to have majority vote on here. And you know I’ll be adding some other “lighting interest” 🙂

  7. Lea

    I’m partial to 4 because I like the texture of the glass and I think that a short pendant even in a small room may look a bit off. But my impulse is almost always to save on simple overhead lighting and save the dollars for fabric, art, and chairs.

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