Remember how I mentioned I scored some awesome chairs from the flea market a couple of Sundays ago? Well here they are! From what I could find out about them is that they were made sometimes between 1900-1950 and they are called Sweetheart Chairs. Other names include bistro chairs and ice cream parlor chairs since they were often found in ice cream parlors. I found this really cool article from the St. Petersburg Times about how these chairs were coming back in style in 1953/1954. There is also another version of these chairs that are called spectacle chairs because the backs have what looks like glasses as opposed to hearts. And there’s your little history lesson for today. Suffice to say, I was really excited when I found this pair at the flea market. Yeah, they needed a lot of love [I don't even want to know how old the gum stuck to the bottom of the chairs was] but they were perfect as far as I was concerned. I didn’t even know much about them when I brought them home but they were vintage finds that I knew would look great with a new coat of paint. Not to mention, it was my first time haggling ever and I think I got a great deal. These were pretty easy to spruce up, in that there aren’t many steps. It can get time-consuming though. First I started by cleaning the chairs off with a little dish soap and water. There were some old cobwebs and this cleaned them off well enough. I don’t have a hose but if I did, I’d probably just spray them down. It’d be a little easier. Next I begun to sand them down with a coarse Emery Cloth. It’s similar to sandpaper except it’s a little more flexible and sturdy. So while sandpaper or a sandblock would work, I went with Emery Cloth because it could get into some of the tight spaces better and I could bend it without worrying about it falling apart. Make sure you’re wearing safety goggles and a mask. This is no time to be worrying about taking outfit pictures or how stylish you look. Rust [especially 50-100 year old rust] can be damaging and it’s just not worth it. I would also recommend gloves and pants. These are two things I didn’t really consider and after seeing the amount of dirt/rust on my hands and legs, well, I regretted it. The one on the right is post sanding. What a difference huh?! It was crazy to realize these chairs were silver at some point. After washing off all the rust [off myself and the chairs], it was time to prime! This step isn’t necessary if you bought the primer + paint spray that I bought but I figured it couldn’t hurt and would just mean I could use less paint layers. I don’t regret this step at all. I think it laid a good base but if you don’t feel like doing it, skip it.
I didn’t bother taking the chairs apart. Mostly because one of the chairs had some welding touch ups and I was worried the chair wouldn’t go back together. The seats are in good enough condition that I thought it better to leave them together. You’ll have to make this decision on your own if you’re repainting vintage iron chairs. Ideally you’d want to take them apart before painting. After priming it was time to paint! My original plan was to paint both chairs yellow but I quickly ran through the yellow paint before I even got to the second chair. I don’t know if it’s because it was lighter and harder to get good coverage or by the time I got to the blue chair I was a spray painting pro or what, but the blue chair was much easier to paint plus I could have easily painted two chairs with what was left. I’d still make sure I had an entire can of spray paint per chair mostly because there are so many little detail spots that aren’t easy to paint. I found myself having to go around the chair and spray on each side to make sure I hit all the spots.
Again with the no gloves or pants thing. If you find yourself making this same mistake as me, I found that rubbing vegetable oil on the skin with the paint on it got most of it off and loosened up the rest of it enough to come off after a few washings.In the end, I am so in love with these chairs. The colors are very me, I got them for a really great price and I’ve seen them resell of upwards of $200 each. I doubt I would resell them but there is just something so rewarding about buying something at a bargain, working really hard to refurbish it, and knowing that not only does the end product look great but they are worth almost 5 times what you paid. I can’t wait to have a porch to put them on!
Besides vintage ice cream parlor chairs this technique will work on most wrought iron patio chairs. Instead of rust you might be sanding off paint but it’s the same deal. If you’re looking for some ice cream parlor chairs of your own, check Ebay, Craiglist and Etsy! These are common enough to find if you look and if you’re not into DIY, I have seen ones that are already cleaned up.
What do you think of my new chairs? Are there any DIY projects you’ve been working on lately? I’d love to hear about your best flea market find that you fixed up.