Category: DIY

Lucite Chair Before & After

Those of you who follow my instagram or twitter may remember a vintage lucite swivel chair I posted a few weeks back. I found the chair on craigslist in a little town just north of New York City. The red vinyl was all torn up, and the lucite body was covered with scratches; but I loved the fundamental design of the piece and decided it was worth restoring. Here is the before and after:


I decided to reupholster the chair in white fabric. The original mod red vinyl was certainly a cool look, but I wanted to give this chair a real transformation. I found a creamy Italian suede for an excellent price at the fabric store. I love the little perforations that reveal a silver backing. The fabric looks simple from afar, but has a bit of personality up close. The silver backing also coordinates with the chair’s hardware.

FabricCU_v2 Hardware

I took the chair and my new fabric to my favorite local upholsterer. He removed the chair base, and I took the lucite body back to my workshop for restoration.


Most scratches can be removed from lucite, but it is a labor of love. I wasn’t 100% sure I would be able to erase the deepest scratches on this chair, but I decided to press on anyway. Here is a step-by-step tutorial:



1) Start by wiping down your piece with water to remove dirt and debris. You could also use soap, but never use household cleaners on lucite; over time they create tiny cracks called “crazing,” which is next-to-impossible to remove.

2) My chair had a ring of residue around the bottom edge. It seemed like glue, perhaps from the old upholstery.

3) I used Goof Off and paper towels to remove the residue. I can’t guarantee Goof Off doesn’t interact with the plastic, but since it was a one-time application, I didn’t worry too much.

4) Deep scratches need to be worn down with wet/dry sandpaper. If the scratch is deep enough that your fingernail catches on it, you’ll need to sand it. I used 400-grit and then moved on to 600-grit.

5) Wet a small piece of 400-grit sandpaper and rub the scratch in a circular motion. You’ll see a bit of white frothy stuff (<– technical term). You can stop once the original scratch is barely visible. Repeat the process with 600-grit wet/dry sandpaper.

6) Sanding will produce little hazy spots on the lucite. As you can see in photo 6, my chair had a boatload of hazy spots.

7) This is where acrylic polishing products like Novus come to your aid. They are designed to buff out fine scratches and hazing. I started with Novus 3, which had a moderate impact on the hazing. Novus 2, on the other hand, had a big effect. Use a soft, non-abrasive rag to apply the product.

8) This photo shows the piece after a few rounds of Novus 2. At this point, turn on the radio or some trash TV because you are going to need to rub and rub and rub Novus 2 for hours. Eventually the marks from the sanding stage will disappear. It’s a slog. Once you’re satisfied, spritz on some Novus 1 to give the piece a final polish.

9) And voila! The end result is clean and clear. My chair almost looks new again!  Of course it isn’t absolutely perfect, but there are no conspicuous scratches left.

The upholsterer reattached the base, and there you have it! There was no manufacturer label on the chair, so unfortunately I still do not know the maker. But in my research, I did discover that this exact chair is in model Molly Sims’ Hamptons house. Isn’t that nifty?

After2 After3_small   After4_brighter


A photo of the same chair in model Molly Sims’ Hamptons house. Source: Cottages & Gardens


Those of you who follow my instagram or twitter may remember a vintage lucite swivel chair I posted a few weeks back. I...

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Refinishing a Mid-Century Side Table

I found a vintage mid-century side table on Craigslist a few months ago.  It had great bones and a lovely wood grain, but unfortunately the tabletop was worn and deeply scratched. Since the rest of the piece was in good condition, I decided to buy the table and refinish the top. I will take you through the process, which can be applied to any simple refinishing project.


Here are some close-ups of the original damage. That middle scratch was about 6 inches long and a few millimeters deep. The top was also several shades lighter than the rest of the table from years of use and wear.


The Process


  1. The first step is to remove the original finish and sand down any visible scratches. I used an orbital sander to expedite the process, but you can certainly do this by hand. This table has a wood veneer, a thin decorative layer of higher quality wood that surrounds the central structure, so I had to be careful not to sand through the veneer.
  2. I used three grits of sandpaper with my orbital sander: 60, 100, then 150. You want to start with the roughest grit and move progressively finer.
  3. This is what the tabletop looked like after using the orbital sander. The old varnish and scratches were gone, but the surface felt rough to the touch.
  4. Next I hand sanded the table with 180-grit and finally 220-grit paper. I recommend a sanding block when working on a flat surface; it gives you a natural grip and helps prevent indentations from applying uneven pressure.
  5. The most critical step of refinishing wood is picking the correct stain color. If you don’t see the right color at the store, feel free to mix two stains together until you reach the right hue. I was lucky that Minwax’s English Chestnut matched the rest of my table perfectly. Apply stain with a soft rag in the direction of the grain. The stain will get darker with each coat, so start light and build the color slowly. Stain needs 7-8 hours to dry. I left mine overnight just to be safe.
  6. The last step is a protective topcoat. I used Arm-R-Seal topcoat in Satin. The rest of the table does not have a shiny finish, so I chose satin rather than glossy. The topcoat will be dry to the touch within a few hours, but it takes a few days to dry fully.

The whole process was quick and painless– and now this pretty table has a new lease on life! Here are some photos of the finished piece.

Final1 Final2 Final3

I found a vintage mid-century side table on Craigslist a few months ago.  It had great bones and a lovely wood grain, bu...

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