My Transformation of Vintage Theater Chairs

My Transformation of Vintage Theater Chairs

I’ve had these chairs since June 2005.  I know this because we got them right after we moved into our new house. My sister and I came across them at a garage sale and paid $25 for them.  I remember telling my sister that I didn’t care if she had to lay down across them, she wasn’t allowed to let anyone else have them while I went to go pay for them.  They even came with an extra seat and back, which I stored in the garage, while I put the actual chairs on the front porch. They were so beautiful.

Fast forward to 2012 when we built the screened porch.  We moved the chairs around to there, but it seemed that the time spent on the front porch had damaged them. Even though the porch is covered, they did get wet sometimes.

Recently, we added a piece of furniture to the screened porch, so the chairs had to be split up to make everything fit. I knew we would have to lose one of the chair pieces, but we kept all of the legs. This is what we started with. The veneer was peeling or cracked on most of the pieces, and on some, huge chunks were missing. The legs were in okay condition, just a bit dingy. Feel free to click on any of the pictures to view slightly larger.

Theater chairs in 2013

I got home from work one day, and Double D had all of the seats taken apart, including removing the two seat rests that were no longer needed. I’m not sure how old the chairs are, but those screws had a lot of rust, so he had to use some Liquid Wrench to get them apart. I changed out the worst seat and back for the ones I had in the garage, and then selected the second worse ones to take out, leaving me four sets.01 Taken apart

We got some wood glue, and spent an evening putting glue in between the veneer and the interior wood piece on three seats and one of the back pieces.  The other backs had some split veneer, but nothing pulled away, and the one remaining seat was the one kept in the garage.02 Wood Glue

Once the glue dried, I was able to apply the wood putty to all eight pieces where the veneer was cracked or missing. These pictures show the damage up close.04 Wood Putty Seat03 Wood Putty Back

I let the wood putty dry overnight, and then sanded each piece to a smooth finish. Here are all the pieces laid out, ready to be painted.05 Ready to paint

I used a primer that was rolled on, rather than spraying, because this wood was very dry.  It took two coats of the roll on primer, and I finished up with one coat of Rustoleum’s spray primer.  I kept having some of the original stain bleed through, especially on the arm pieces, so I’m glad I used primer before I painted.06 Primer coat

For the colors, I decided to go with different colors for each chair that I had already used for other pieces on the screened porch. I used Rustoleum’s Leafy Green, Warm Yellow, Colonial Red, and Valspar’s La Fonda Copper. You can see all of my projects that have been completed for the screened porch if you visit my Screened In Porch tag archive.07 colors used08 different paint colors

Double D was able to make an arm rest that was very similar to the others, for the one that had been missing since I had purchased them. I started by tracing the outline onto a 1×4″ board, and he cut it out using a jigsaw.  Once the shape was cut, Double D used our sander to curve the edges.  From there, we used a wood chisel to remove the inside part of the wood to match the original. This cutout allows them to sit on the metal with some overlap on the sides. I did primer the new one, and then painted all of them in Rustoleum’s Heirloom White.09 Arm template10 Cutting and sanding arm11 Top and bottom of arm

The next step was dealing with the legs. They really weren’t in too bad of shape, with a little rust on the bottom of the feet, and a few spots of gum that were ancient. That being said, I really wanted the wrought iron to shine, so I did go ahead and paint them. After I chipped all the gum away, of course. Maybe these were in some school auditorium, instead of a theater?12 Before legs First I started with spray primer.  This seemed to take forever because of the different angles, as well as having to move the seat rests in between coats to make sure the legs were sprayed everywhere.13 Primered legs

After the primer dried overnight, I was able to finally start on the Oil Rubbed Bronze (ORB) paint for the final coat.  I just love how they turned out. I also took the time to put a coat of ORB on the grommets, screws and nuts that hold everything together.14 ORB coat15 Grommets and screws

I let everything dry for a couple of days, since it has been so humid here. Next, we got a treated 1x4x8 to attach to the bottom of the feet, just to give it some extra stability.  We cut it up into six 16″ pieces and screwed those to the bottom of each leg. The treated lumber will blend in with the wood that is on the floor of the screened porch.16 wood balancePutting everything back together turned out to be easier than I thought it would be. We got out Double D’s work bench and clamped the legs onto it, then started with the seats. We had to put the hat rack holder together first so that we could put the screws for the seat through the loops on the hat rack holders. Once the seats were done, the backs went on pretty easily, and the arm rests just screwed in.17 Installing seatsI was able to follow the progression of the worst seat that I revamped.  Here is a picture of the different stages that the green seat went through.18 Green seat progression

And here are all four chairs completed with the seats down, and the seats up. They are bright, no question, but they do blend right in on the back porch with all the other items that have the same colors. 19 Seats up, seats downWe also took a picture of the backs, just because:)20 finished backs aI think the before and after picture is quite shocking so I’m adding one here.  I do wish I had taken better care of them in the beginning but I do like that I can add them to my back porch, where they will be protected from the rain. Hopefully they will last another lifetime.21 Before and After

Thanks for looking!


Linking up to Funky Junk Interiors, Between Naps on the Porch, Domestically Speaking, A Stroll Thru Life and Miss Mustard Seed:




13 responses »

  1. Wow, Sarah and DD!! That was some project to take on. I can’t wait to sit on your porch soon. You can really tell the one that was stored in the garage, before painting. Love the colors!! Great job! I can’t wait to see the next finished job.

  2. Wow, Sarah and DD!! That was some project to take on. I can’t wait to sit on your porch soon. You can really tell the one that was stored in the garage, before painting. Love the colors!! Great job! I can’t wait to see the next finished job. Oh, I forgot, people could have left their gum in a Theater, too.

  3. I love your theater chairs! They look so fresh and pretty with their new colors. I like them before they were done too… You really put a lot of elbow grease into them… Well done!

  4. Hi Sarah, Would it be possible to get a high resolution image of the first picture? Do you have a really good side view of the metal parts also? Do the metal parts have any patent numbers or manufacturer’s name? Thanks,

    • Hi Frederick. The very first picture was taken with an older camera so I’m not sure what the resolution is. I can check. What would you be using the picture for?
      As for your other questions about the metal parts, the legs themselves don’t have any identifying numbers or names in them, but the seat hinges do have some numbers on them.

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