Vintage maps have been a theme of mine this year. I’ve also been on a downsizing kick. Isn’t it perfect timing that about the time we start thinking about downsizing, our kids start needing to upsize? That’s the case with these do it yourself map dining chairs. Our oldest son is in college and moving into a place that has space for a dining table and chairs. We had the survivors from our first set of dining chairs scattered all over our house and garage.
I am not an experienced furniture refinisher, so this project took me over 40 hours over the course of a week and a half. I spent a lot of time working in the garage, listening to Pandora. Is it a coincidence that lots of songs reminded me of Andy? I think not. I heard everything from animated Disney of the nineties to Coldplay to Neil Diamond. I’m pretty sure I covered his musical life during my time in the garage. I already had him on my mind while I was working on the project, but it felt like I kept getting these extra reminders with each song.
Here are the chairs I started with. Some had been painted, some had broken spots, and all had paint splatters on them.
This post is about how I did this project. I’m not a pro. This is just what worked for me. If you try it, be sure to follow any directions on the products you use. My first step was to disassemble, sand, and glue the chairs back together. I decided to glue them even though they are the kind of chairs that aren’t supposed to need glue because they have been through a lot. We will not be taking these apart again. The wood glue added extra stability that I wanted them to have. I left the seats off for the entire process because I wanted to be able to work with them separately from the chairs. Here’s our garage as a chair hospital:
Once prepped, it was time to paint. I wanted to try chalk paint. I used this recipe for the chalk paint: 1 cup latex paint, 2 tablespoons unsanded grout, and water as needed. I had to keep adding water every now and then because it would get too thick to work well. I painted three coats of paint on the chairs.
After the paint had dried, I distressed the chairs. I had heard that one of the benefits of chalk paint was that it’s easy to distress. It was. Because these chairs were rough to start with, I knew I wanted a distressed look because they were going to look distressed even if I didn’t rough them up more. Once distressed, I gave the chairs a coat of wax and buffed it with an orbital sander.
Next came the map phase. I started with the vintage atlas and looked at the different styles and sizes of maps. I wanted just one sheet of paper for the seats, with no seams. My atlas pages were too small for this, so to make it work, I scanned the pages I wanted to use, then had my incredibly kind and talented husband do a little photoshop work to combine them in the places where the continents were split to two pages. So, I ended up turning eight pages into four pages. When it came time to see how the maps I chose would look on the chairs, we scanned the chair seat and made a template to test different looks on the computer. It ended up that I liked having a lot of ocean showing, so I used only two of the four images we created. I didn’t split them exactly in half, so it was nice to have the photoshop work done so I could choose whatever size I liked best for the images. I had the images printed from a wide-format inkjet printer. It was really nice because Brian had sized them so they were a perfect fit for the chair seats. I cut them out with a xacto knife.
To attach the maps to the seats of the chairs, I used Mod Podge. I painted a coat on the seat and then pressed the map down on top. I used a roller to smooth out any bubbles.
Once the maps were stuck on the chairs, I used Mod Podge to coat the tops of the maps. I did four coats, in alternating directions, with each coat drying before the next coat was applied. After the first coat, there were a couple of ripples on one of the chairs, so I used my fingers to push them down. It worked perfectly.
Mod Podge leaves ridges, and this project was no different. I like the texture. You can sort of seeing it in this photo.
After the Mod Podge had dried, I used polyurethane to seal the maps even more. I wanted to be sure these chairs could be used around food and drink and still survive. I did four coats, letting each coat dry for several hours before applying the next coat. I alternated between side to side and front to back.
When the seats were completely dry, I used the orbital sander with the buffing pad to dull the finish a little on the polyurethane, since it looks different than the flat finish I was going for with the rest of the chairs. You can tell that the finishes are different, but I think it still looks good and I’m confident that if someone spills a drink on the chair seat, the map won’t peel off. The last step was to screw the seats back on to the chair frames.
Here are the four chairs now:
And here they are with the hand-me-down table, too. I know there is a lot going on in these photos, but it was rainy when I was trying to get the photos so I set them up in the middle of our living room for the photo shoot.
I love how these turned out. If I hadn’t promised them to our son, I would definitely keep them.