Rattan Feature Chair Makeover Tutorial

Image of the rattan back chair made over with grey gum colour chalk paint and cross stitch in thread in soft colours to embellish the rattan back
chalk painted feature chair with cross stitch rattan back

Excitement reigns! This is one of my most anticipated projects to date. You see, I won at auction a set of 6 rattan backed ornate chairs a couple of months back – in black! Since then, I’ve wanted to work on them and add my own touch to them before introducing them into my dining room. So I decided on making a feature chair.

The first step, however, was to complete one as a single project to show how powerful an item of furniture can be with colour and a beautiful finish. The simple geometric inspired cross stitch finished the project off nicely, adding character. I like that this chair emulates my style and follows my motto of “classic with a twist”.

This new feature chair makes a strong yet delicate statement as you enter my studio. It adds a perfect amount of charm to spark inspiration between my clients and myself.

A Variation on Chalk Paint

If you have been kind enough to have followed my previous posts, you may notice that I have been using the Annie Sloan chalk paint range. For this project, I have chosen to use the Porters chalk paint range. The reason being was to see for myself the differences between the products and to test out the wide range of colours available in the Porters range. This is due to the Porters chalk paint coming in bases which are then matched with your chosen colour from their wide range available. With the Annie Sloan range, the products are pre-coloured, however, their range is wide and beautiful and doesn’t come as a big disadvantage. See my final verdict below.

Feature Chair Tutorial

Step 1 – Choose your paint colour

Yes, that’s right. The original finish of my feature chair was an almost shellac finish, with a perfectly smooth, slight sheen to it. It also had some “crazy lines” along the legs. However, the true hero of chalk paint is it’s adhesion to varying surfaces.  Meaning I didn’t need to prep the chairs at all. Even when these gorgeous girls become my everyday dining chairs, the paint will withstand chipping with the reassurance of its clear wax coat.

You may also notice that the faux leather cushion covers have been painted in the chalk paint also. If the hero of chalk paint is its non prep required for most furniture, then its hidden talent lies in its ability to be painted directly onto fabric. Oh, the wonders! Give the person who invented chalk paint a nobel prize for all the hours of insanity saved for us makers!

Paint for this project: Porters’ Grey gum

Image of original black chair with pantone for choosing chalk paint colour
choosing paint colour for feature chair

Step 2 – Paint feature chair

Paint the wood, cushion, rattan – the lot.

Image of original black chair beginning to be painted in grey gum chalk paint
painting feature chair with chalk paint

Step 3 – Wax finish

I chose my usual clear wax finish as I like a clean finish and prefer a flat, balanced colour. I also didn’t want to compromise this with crackling or dark wax. If you prefer a different finish, I’d love you to share your makes so we can compare notes and see some great ideas.

NB: If you are going to complete a few projects with chalk paint and wax finishes, I urge you to purchase a top quality wax brush. I use the Annie Sloan wax brush (No. 22). At $60, it’s a big deal, however, its ability to get into all crevices and really coat the furniture piece is second to none with its conical brush head.

Image of picture of chair chalk painted with wax brush for waxing
clear wax on chalk painted feature chair

Step 3 – Cross Stitch the Rattan

You may have seen this before. It’s a clever and modern take on this old fashioned craft. That’s the beauty of these sorts of crafting techniques – the wonderful and gorgeous twists that you can create are limitless.

I used colours that I want to eventually bring out as touches in my dining area. I wanted to create a design that allowed for it to be mirrored on the backs of the chairs given both sides will be seen. If you are putting your chair against a wall, you won’t be confined to this method and can take inspiration from beautiful floral designs et al for your own project. I completed the design in directional stitches, angling one way, then back up the chair on the opposite angle. I then completed the other half of the one colour next to this row, ensuring the points met and finished on a full point.

Image of close up of the rattan backed chair with cross stitch embellishment in soft pink and mushroom tones
cross stitch pattern on rattan
Image of rattan backed chair with cross stitch embroidery
cross stitch design on rattan backed feature chair

Step 4 – Placement

If you are using your chair as a feature, try grouping with like colours and tones, creating a vignette for eyes to rest upon. Your feature chair will still stand out as the major player.  However, the surrounding items soften and blend with the rest of your space, particularly important for one off chairs. You may also opt to place a blanket on the chair for a lounge room or bedroom.

Image of chair in entrance of studio with pink and wood signs and rose decals on the wall above
feature chair as star of studio entrance
Image of feature rattan backed chair made over in all its glory in its perfect placement in Rebecca's studio
close up of project

Try to let your personality shine through with this project and have fun with it.

My final verdict on the Annie Sloan and Porters range of chalk paints in somewhat of a Swiss politeness. They are both so beautiful to work with! The Annie Sloan paints are slightly thicker, yet smooth, the Porters range is thinner. They both go on like silk and the finish is that of twins separated at birth, being almost identical. If you are a novice with painting and chalk paint, I would recommend trying the Annie Sloan range as you have more control with the consistency being thicker, therefore, preventing drips and runs. The price points are also similar. I would recommend the Porters range when you are trying to match a specific colour or have many colours in your home and need to be wise introducing further tones.

Good luck with your own makes!

Rebecca