DIY Refinishing Oak Chair

I had my sights locked in on this magnificent beauty from Rejuvenation for the One Room Challenge: Office Makeover. However, I strongly wanted to avoid the cost, $395.

After trying my hand at a chair refinishing project I whole heartedly understand the price tag associated with their historical treasures. The folks at Rejuvenation are the elite of the elite at refinishing and refurbishing and should be appropriately compensated. I’d gauge my own work at somewhere right around priceless for all that went into it.

So anyway, this is the chair on craigslist (please pardon the screenshot). Can you see the underlying potential like I did? No, well dang, look again! I like to haggle a little, but try to avoid being offensive so I went for $40 and that worked just fine for the seller.

And here’s a close up once we brought it home.

I needed to purchase a few things for this project; tack hammer, rubber mallet, tack remover, needle nose pliers, and replacement studs. Everything is available on amazon or your local craft store, I used a mix of both. Sand paper: 80/100/120/180. Stain and finish of your choosing. I used General Finishes Java Gel Stain and the poly left over from refinishing the stairs, more on that here. Fabric of your choosing, for a seat I would suggest a yard in the unlikely event of a mistake. Cost of this project including new tools, materials, and the chair itself was right under $90.

The Steps:

  1. Purchase tools and materials.
  2. Remove studs.
  3. Sand, no finer than 180 grit (depends on the stain used).
  4. Apply stain followed by poly (per directions on package).
  5. Lay new fabric around cushion, staple 1/2″ from the cushion edge, and cut excess fabric.
  6. Tack in new studs.

Use the tack remover to leverage the studs (nailheads) out of their holes. This may make you slightly disgruntled. I recommend a delicious drink/snack/podcast to accompany the process. Having a pair of pliers nearby will also help with some of those unruly studs and staples. The tops of the studs pop off pretty easily when you are trying to remove them. If that happens and the pliers are of no use, just hammer the remaining nail until it’s flush with the seat.

Once the original fabric is removed, assess the condition of the cushion. While ours was very comfortable, it also had an imprint of a stranger’s butt, which we decided was unacceptable. I tried 1/2″ and 1/4″ cushions and opted for the 1/4″, you can find both at your local fabric store.

Please make sure to wear the proper safety gear in preparation for sanding. Evaluate how much finish is already on the chair and start at 100, maybe 80 if you don’t see much of a difference quickly. Make sure to avoid big jumps in grit. The gel stain I used adheres fairly easily, which means you don’t have to go crazy sanding.

Apply stain of your choosing followed by poly of your choosing using manufacturer directions. I applied two coats of stain using an old, clean sock followed by three coats of poly using a sponge brush.

Using the old cushion, cut the material for the new cushion to closely match the perimeters of the old one. Lay your new fabric over the cushion. I held the cushion in place (glue would have also worked) while Linc stapled the new fabric about 1/2″ from the perimeter of the cushion. If you staple right next to the cushion chances are you will have the same issue I do…exposed staples.

diy oak chair

I recommend going to yoga, having a glass of wine, praying, pet therapy or whatever it is you do to find peace before applying the studs. Not only are there exposed staples that I can’t even begin to delve back into, but the studs have a mind of their own.

If you remember from ORC Week 3, I tried to use a jig to get the studs in line, which did not work. They can start off perfect, down to the final hammer to seal the spot and then totally change course. Swear word! I had to ditch the jig and trust my spatial judgement…eek. I found that the stud was much more agreeable if I held the nail with needle nose pliers or a heavy duty scissor and with my other hand lightly hammered the stud in. Mix it up by using the tack hammer and mallet to gently urge the studs to get in line. Keep going, you can do it!

diy oak chair

Last, but not least I wanted to buff up the silvery, tarnished….vintage? castors. Rub n Buff by Amaco is an amazing product! Totally transformed the castors. It was super easy and quick to do.

diy oak chair

blue chair diy

Although the refinished chair has novice written all over it, I’m pretty happy with the results/glad it’s done!


We are in the midst of picking exterior paint colors. Woohoo! Hopefully, we will have the swatch test up and running this weekend so stay tuned via insta stories for updates 🙂 Any votes?

This old gingerbread house!