A few weeks ago I finally finished the makeover of 4 Muskoka chairs (also known as “Adirondack chairs” depending where you live). I’m really happy with the transformation, and like most projects that work out this well, I wish I had done it sooner!
I acquired these 4 folding Muskoka chairs for free. About 4 years ago when my parents were visiting, they went for a walk and found them at the curb in front of someone’s house — waiting to be picked up by the garbage truck. Seeing potential under their weathered appearance, we just had to figure out how to get them home – since my husband had the car at work. While they were only two blocks away, they were too heavy to carry more than one, and 4 trips back-and-forth would have been too much. So, in a feat of ingenuity, we loaded all 4 chairs into the good ol’ Radio Flyer, balanced precariously and fastened into place with some bungee cords. Thankfully it worked. Sometimes you really have to work for free stuff.
Then, of course, we decided to move from our old house – and they’ve sat unused and untouched for 2 years since. Until, I finally got the motivation and the time to tackle the project earlier this summer…
Firstly, let me apologize for forgetting to take more pictures during process, and bare with me as I try to explain. I know, I hate to read too – especially when it’s easier to understand a story in pictures. But at least I remembered to take a “BEFORE” picture – which I usually forget until after I’ve started a project…
I started by prepping the chairs – giving them a good scrub to get as much dirt off as possible – and then followed that with a light sanding. While I wanted to make sure they weren’t too rough, I wasn’t trying to make them look brand-new — a little bit rustic would still look good.
Once the chairs were clean and sanded, I collected some leaves from different trees in our neighbourhood. I found some maple leaves, oak leaves, peony leaves and sumach leaves (which, while I hate the little weed-like sumach saplings that try to grow through our deck – they do make pretty-looking leaves for a project like this). At first I thought I’d just use them as inspiration, and free hand draw the leaves out, but then I thought it would look better if I traced them out. To get the size and layout I wanted, I taped some newspaper to the back of one chair and then taped the leaves on and traced them out – repeating this step for each of the different types of leaves.
The next step was to transfer the tracings I had created to the adhesive shelf-liner that I would use to stick to the chairs. To do this, I simply placed the newspapers with the tracings on top of the shelf-liner, and then used an X-acto knife to cut out each leaf design, cutting through both layers.
Finally, I stuck the adhesive shelf-liner with the leaf pattern to the back of each chair, and used a plastic scrapper and my finger nail to make sure all the edges were adhered really well. Since I was leaving this part of the chairs unpainted, I didn’t want paint to sneak underneath – so making sure the edges were all stuck tightly was really important!
I had a hard time selecting paint colours. My first thought was to do all the chairs a different colour, selecting a muted rainbow palette. Then I thought about doing something a bit more simple and sophisticated. In the end, simple and sophiticated won out, as it seemed much more practical to buy only two cans of paint, versus buying five cans of muted rainbow paint. After all, the chairs were rescued from the curb – spending over $100 on paint would be a little silly. I ended up selecting a purple-tinted grey, in two different shades – light and dark. I painted the lighter shade on the back, the seat, and the top of the arm rests, and used the darker shade on the legs and under parts.
Luckily, these folding Muskoka chairs come apart into many pieces – which made them much easier to paint! I started by priming all the pieces with an outdoor primer/sealer, using a small foam roller and foam brush for between the boards. Once the primer was dry, I painted a few coats of a satin-finish outdoor trim paint. I used an artist brush to get in all the nooks and crannies – it was a pain in the butt, but worth it to ensure good coverage. Once the 2 coats had dried (they probably could have used 3 coats in the end – but we had guest coming the next day!) I carefully took off the stencil. Taking off the stencil is always the best part – since I love finally seeing the mystery underneath. Did it work, or not?
The stencil worked – and I love it! I really like how the stencil design, and the two-toned paint, really breaks up the colour so it’s not just one big blob of chair. In the end, I learned that sanding the chairs before painting was very important. For the chairs that were sanded a little better (probably the first ones I did, before my arms got tired), the stencil seemed to adhere better – and the paint was much crisper around the edges. For two of the chairs not sanded as much, a bit more paint snuck underneath the stencil. Not enough to ruin the project by any means – but good to remember for the future.
I’m happy with the decision to have all the chairs in the same colours, with the leaves all different. I think it makes them each unique, but still unified.
The added bonus: not only to the chairs look better, but they are much quicker to dry after it rains! I didn’t think of it until my husband pointed it out the other day, but it makes sense – since they’re now sealed, and the rain-water doesn’t absorb into the wood.
Here’s a close up of all the chairs. I think the maple leaf design is my favourite – how about you? Which one do you like best?