A bright color pallette can give an old chair a funky new look.

How to Paint & Refinish a Chair in Funky Styles

by Carlye Jones

A simple coat of paint in a single color can make an old chair look new, but to really "upcycle" it, choose bright colors and eye-catching patterns. The combination will result in a fun, funky-looking chair that becomes a focal point instead of blending in with the rest of the room.

Color Scheme

Bright colors are the norm for a funky-style chair, but before choosing consider the surroundings. The chair should stand out from the wall, flooring, textiles and other furniture without clashing. Choose a main color that works in the room, then use a color wheel to help find complementary colors. The complementary colors are across from each other on the wheel and appear very different but actually look good when used together. Choose as many colors as you need for your design.


Choose a pattern or design based on the shape of the chair and the decorating scheme of the room. Try to highlight any unusual shapes or features of the chair. For example, if it has carved feet, paint the feet a different color than the rest of the piece, paint spindles in alternating colors, or paint the front one color and the sides another. Use stripes, polka-dots, squiggles, swirls, plaid or chevrons to spice up the design.


Clean the chair with a mild detergent to remove dust, dirt and grime. Repair any cracks or holes with wood putty and let it dry overnight. Tighten any loose legs or spindles with screws or nails. Sand the chair lightly to remove any gloss from a previous finish and to smooth out any putty or rough spots. Wipe the chair down a final time to remove any remaining dust from sanding. The chair should be completely repaired, clean and dry before painting.


Use painter's tape to create patterns and designs such as stripes or chevrons. Small artist's brushes, such as watercolor painting brushes in various sizes and shapes, can be used to paint dots, whorls and squiggles, or even monograms or words. Stamps and sponges are useful for creating texture, small shapes, and layering different colors of paint. Stencils are also handy for adding random shapes or letters if you don't have a steady hand or a talent for free-hand designs. Use high-quality paintbrushes and add paint conditioner to each color to minimize brush marks.


Apply a thin coat of primer to the chair. This will help the paint stick and provide an even base for bright colors. Tape off your chosen pattern, keeping in mind that you will start with the most prominent color and work through to the least prominent; or, if you are layering paint, start with the darkest and work through to the lightest. Apply one thin coat of paint at a time, let the paint dry, and apply a second coat. Remove the tape after applying the second coat and reposition it after the paint has dried completely.

Photo Credits

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