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Operation Shabby Chic Distressed Highchair

This project came about because Afton was turning one and when I started planning her party I realized she was going to need something fabulous to taste her first sugar in! I started looking around at yard sales and on Craigslist until I found the perfect antique wooden highchair. I bought this highchair from a women a few towns over. Her children were grown but she still had a tough time letting go of this piece. She told me the highchair was over 65 years old and it was given to her by a family friend, who happened to be her dentist when her kids were young. She was so happy to see it going to a good home where another child will enjoy it for years to come! I was happy to get it for $20. This is the highchair in all its original glory:

Hello, Mr. Bunny! Your days are numbered!

My first step was removing all the metal parts (two screws in the actual chair and the tray mechanism), after that it was time to sand! And sand, and sand, and sand:

No more Mr. Bunny…

Once the sanding was complete made sure to wipe down the entire chair with a damp cloth making sure to get all the dust out of all the tiny little spaces. Then I let it dry out overnight. Next, I had to pick a paint color. Now, as a side note, this is the first time I’ve done anything like this and upon researching different techniques to achieve the look I wanted I found MANY tutorials for DIY distressed furniture but nothing specifically for a wooden highchair. I was kind of disappointed, which is a big reason why I am writing this now. So the following was just the way I decided to distress this highchair based on random information I found. I knew going into the paint department that I wanted three things: I didn’t want to do the extra step of priming, I wanted this chair to be the lightest shade of pink ever and I needed some kind of glaze. Thankfully I stumbled upon a really nice worker who was familiar with the look I wanted. She recommended that I use a tinted primer/paint combo (color: Helios), she showed me where the glazes were and helped me pick a tea-stained one that was perfect and she also recommended a spray paint, high-gloss finish for easy cleaning once the baby actually started using the chair (cost for all = under $20). I walked out of the store with all that plus some foam brushes, sandpaper and clothes for the antiquing process.

And so the painting process began. Originally I didn’t think it would take that many coats, the wood seemed light and I was armed with a tinted primer, but being an amateur I was wrong. I ended up doing four coats of paint and in the end you could still see some of the wood underneath but I went with it because (a) I REALLY didn’t want to paint it again and (b) I was just going to destroy it anyway and I thought it would add to the look. Here is a photo of coat one drying:

This is where patience is a virtue

After applying the other three coats and waiting for each to dry overnight, I started the distressing process. I don’t have any photos of this but I will explain what I did. First I took my angled foam brush and pushed the glaze into all those  crevices you see around the back and seat of the highchair and then I used my damp cloth to wipe it off. That is the glazing process (for those of you who aren’t familiar with it) you put the glaze on and you wipe the glaze off, think The Karate Kid: wax on, wax off! That way you doing get in over your head and you can control the look you want. I played around with this a lot, then I got bored and got out the sandpaper. I was really scared to use the sandpaper and potentially screw up all four coats of my paint, but I soldiered on. I started with the tray. I closed my eyes and started sanding right in the middle (they say to distress in places the piece would be naturally worn from use), which is why I started in the middle of the tray. After that I sanded here and there (not too much because I was still scared) and then went back over those areas with the glaze. Here is what I ended up with:


I know what you’re thinking…that highchair isn’t pink! Thank you, that is exactly the look I was going for. I wanted it to be pink because it was my girl’s very first birthday BUT I also know I will have more children someday and I did NOT want to redo this highchair over if I happened to have a boy down the road. So YOU know it’s pink, I know it’s pink and the lady who mixed my paint knows it’s pink…no one else has to and I’m fine with that. The finishing steps to this piece were spraying the entire chair and tray with my high-gloss spray (three coats, I want it to last) and putting the screws and tray mechanism back on (I spray painted them with some chrome paint my husband had left over but it’s not going to last, I can already tell) but nevertheless, here is the finished product:

Happy Birthday, Afton!

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