Design & DIY

Expert advice for painting old chairs


Toronto designer Robert Sangster is a master at making furniture surfaces sing, whether it’s with delicate metal leaf or a multi-layered paint finish. He gave us his top painting tips:
Sand chair thoroughly with 120-grit sandpaper, so paint adheres.

Remove grease, wax, and dirt by washing the chair with trisodium phosphate (TSP), TSP substitute, or detergent and water. Although it’s the least green option, TSP (at hardware and paint stores) does work best, says Sangster. Let the chair dry overnight.

Apply primer, but never in a thick coat; you’ll dull woodwork details. The paint—latex 
or alkyd—can be any sheen except matte, which scuffs easily. We used Benjamin Moore CC-752 (Miramachi) in pearl. Use a quality 2″ angled sash brush to apply two or three thin coats, not one thick one, and let each coat dry fully. Sangster likes to wait for a humid day: Paint will dry slowly, letting brush marks even out and settle.

Latex paint on furniture can have a long-lasting sticky feel. Sangster’s trick? Wax. Trewax and Minwax both make very good furniture waxes. To apply, wrap a small ball of wax in three layers of cheesecloth and warm it in your hand. Rub on one light coat; let dry overnight; apply a second coat. Polish with a piece of felt or 
an old T-shirt.