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My Chinese Chippendales Got Fancied Up

You know how when something is “meant to be,” you just know?

That’s how I felt about my new set of chinese chippendale chairs.

I stalked craigslist for four solid months – never missing a single furniture listing – until I saw them. A set of four genuine antique chinese chippendale chairs and – bonus! – they all had arms!

Breathless, heart racing, I called the seller immediately and set out across Atlanta to take home those beauties. It was love. I’m not even exaggerating.

When I got home, I carefully unloaded my beautiful finds and placed them gently in the office downstairs. I returned every few minutes to look at them and sigh happily, waiting for Andy to get home so he could admire their glory with me.

When he finally walked in the front door, I was upstairs. I heard him call to me, “Hey, where did these ugly patio chairs come from?”


I tried to explain to him just
<Jonathan Adler designed green chinese chippendale dining room
Dining Room with Hollywood Regency Chairs
Red chinese chippendale chair at a desk
chinese chippendale chairs are!

Check out these guys for $250 each at Ballard Designs:

Or these, starting at $600 each at Jonathan Adler:

But he did not understand. So in a fit of rage and tears, I cried “You never understand me!” Then I ran upstairs, slammed my bedroom door and cried into my pillow.

Not really. But seriously. The chairs were fabulous and he just didn’t get it.

Er – they were going to be fabulous.
Making over vintage chinese chippendale chairs
Once I refinished the faded, chipping paint job and reupholstered the spray-painted seats, which would definitely be happening very soon.

Two years later

I finally did it! My first-ever upholstery and refinishing job! I only did two of the four chairs for now. The other two can look on in jealousy until I figure out exactly what to do with them.

But back to the lucky two. I sanded them down, caulked the cracks…
Chipped, faded paint on a vintage chinese chippendale chair
And spray painted them a glossy white lacquer. But I didn’t dry them very well after I sanded and wiped them, so I got some of this crackling:
Sanding and refinishing cracked spray paint
And had to go back and sand, then repaint a few times. Finally, painted:
Repainted antique chinese chippendale chairs, antique furniture
I had Andy cut some plywood into the shape of the seat so I’d have something to upholster. Then I laid my fabric on the floor good-side down, topped with a layer of batting, topped with the old cushion and then the plywood. And I stapled to my little heart’s content:
Upholstering the seat on an antique chair
First seat complete! I used Waverly Cross Section in Green fabric, which you can find here.
Green and white fabric upholstered seat on antique furniture
And here they are, all put back together and glimmering just as I’d hoped.

How to make over chinese chippendale chairs

Recovered Chinese Chippendale Chairs
They will go in the breakfast nook, which is still in progress. We made a light fixture for that space which I’m still finishing, and I have grand dreams of making my own window treatments for those windows. (Did I mention I can’t sew? Minor details, friends. Minor details.)

UPDATE: Check out my other designer-inspired knock-offs on the cheap! Like this DIY pintuck duvet:

Or this capiz shell chandelier:

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Let's connect


  1. Those are great Kelly!! I'll have to keep those in mind when I'm in the chair market!

  2. Bo, Emily, and Emma Catherine says:

    Absolutely perfect Kelly! I know it was a lot of hard work. LOVE the fabric!

  3. Erin @ My Rented House says:

    You're too funny–and those chairs are beautiful 🙂 Great find!

  4. raddesigning says:

    Gah! I've been scanning Craigslist for ages and haven't found any (that are under 300 a pop atleast!) But you give me hope… maybe someday!

  5. Haymarket Designs says:

    I just found your blog on a bamboo chippendale search!! I'm on the hunt as well! I looove what you did to these chairs? The cushions look amazing and so professional? Have you finished the other 4 chairs? If you ever want to get rid of them I'd happily take them off your hands!! 😉

  6. Valrie Truocchio says:

    thanks admin.

  7. Oh my god, these are AWESOME!! I would love 2 more with arms for the ends of my dining table! So funny how closely our stories played out and choosing almost identical styles – well, we both obviously have fantastic taste lol 😉

    I had to laugh at Andy’s response as well – sometimes they just REALLY don’t get it do they?? I was afraid of Wayne’s response too – he did raise his eyebrows when he saw them in their original condition 😉 They just need to TRUST US! lol

    Thanks for your lovely comment on my post darlin!! xxx

  8. You made me lol at your comment about your husband. Your chairs are perfect now, great job!

  9. I just did a post on chinese chippendale chairs today! I found a set of six that I want to use in my new breakfast room. This gives me an idea of how to make new seat cushions for them. Yours don’t have a lip on the seat, do they? The seats you made just sit on them and come off, right? I am not sure if that’d work for mine since there are no arms… hmmm?

  10. Jennifer Richmond says:

    My husband, Andy, and I had a good laugh at this post this morning as 3 months ago I dragged him in a U-haul down 1 and a half hours south to Orange County to pick up a set of 8 Chinese Chippendales that I found on Craig’s list! I went online to see if I could find premade cushions today – and saw your blog. You don’t have the pattern for cutting the wood by any chance? I don’t know how to even begin….. I will continue to follow you as you are my furniture soul mate! 🙂

    • Yay, I totally need a furniture soul mate! 🙂 Haha. We just used the existing cushions to make a template, but I bet you could lay a large piece of newspaper on the seat and cut out a template from there to use as a pattern for the wood. I’m high-fiving you like crazy for finding a set of 8 of these!! Sweet!

      • Jennifer Richmond says:

        My chairs are identical to yours… white – 2 arms and 6 sides. I felt like it was the score of the century! We paired them with a dark brown lacquer parsons dining table. I am going to try the newspaper idea for the cushion template as right now we are a little short to eat 🙂 Thanks!

  11. I love them so much! I was lucky enough to find FOUR of them in my boyfriends grandmothers basement, just collecting dust! They need some work, but they are going to be wonderful. Hopefully they will look as good as yours:)

  12. I’m a new follower and found this post while checking out your home tour. I love Chinese Chippendale chairs, and actually just saw some in a magazine that were over $1200 per chair!! I think yours look amazing! Great find 🙂

  13. The hard work put into this house is AMAZING ! It’s a GORGEOUS home now! Was wondering what color was used on the walls in the Family Room and your pretty BREAKFAST AREA? I especially love the chairs and cushions with that blue paint on walls. Is there any way to see what the original couch looked like before the pretty white upholstery / slipcover was put on? I have a cute … and small … leather sectional, but my 2 dogs scratched it up pretty bad. I’m looking for a inexpensive solution bc the couch is only 3 years old and very well built. Well, kudos to the home owners. This was a FANTASTIC HOME TO TOUR!!!

  14. Cathy Gagliardo says:

    I have been looking for affordable used Chippendale Chairs for years! I am so jealous! I love these chairs as you do and I am so happy for you that you found them! And your redo is fabulous! Thanks for the inspiration your website offers!


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