In the slow seat: A faux tortoiseshell finish chair re-do

For a large project I've been working on, I needed a chair to fill an empty space under astaircase. The chair needed to be small, graphic, Frenchy, formal (but not too formal) and well-priced. Oh, and I needed it yesterday. Well, luck struck twice at my favorite hotel liquidator. In addition to the great celadon crackle lamp, I scored this chair: A little battered, showing a little wear with the years (not unlike myself), but with good lines and lots of potential. Since the chair would be against light neutral walls, I wanted a darkish finish, but one that would blend with the client's existing small French burl wood bookcase. "Eureka", I shrieked, (Not really- well, maybe a little, but only on the inside), "I'll do a faux tortoiseshell finish."_I've been wanting to try it, but the opportunity had not yet presented itself. As you look through the following photos, you'll notice I did not remove the seat. That is only because I couldn't yet it out with unscrewing the chair and taking it apart. I've been done that road before, and it was a long and winding one with only a moderately happy conclusion, so since I was planning to reupholster the seat anyway, I just left it on. I first cleaned and sanded the chair. Faux tortoise shell calls for a medium yellow/tan basecoat, and since the existing finish was this color, I used it as my basecoast. Otherwise, I would have primed and painted. Next step, apply an ochre glaze. I used all oil paint and oil based products, and after doing this technique, I think they're crucial. I think latex would dry way too quickly and would not have the necessary "flow." For my ochre glaze, I used minwax's olde maple polyshade in satin. It's a mix of stain and polyurethane. It was the right color, I had it already, and I wanted a finished product that was quick glossy, so it worked well. Smooth on a light coat. (don't worry, I corrected the drips you see in the photos.):
While it's still wet (you have to work in sections: if you do each step to the whole chair, it'll dry too much), with a small brush apply a medium to dark brown paint in a diagonal checkerboard:

Then fill in some of the spaces with black paint in the same manner while the glaze and brown paint are still wet. Next, use a large, soft, dry brush to gently smooth the spots together. If you need to, blot occasionally with a crumpled cloth to lift paint or to blend.

Let dry. At that point, your object should look something like this: (i.e. a leopard with leporasy)
Now it's time to further blend the layers and add some translucence. I applied a series of tinted polyurethanes to blend the colors and add shine. First: Benjamin Moore's Colonial Maple:

If I had wanted a lighter finish, I would have applied mulitple layers of the maple. Since I wanted a darker finish; however, I next applied dark walnut.

If I had more time, I would have applied one more layer of dark walnut. After it dried overnight, I reupholstered the seat in a great cotton print. It's an almost zebra in aqua and white. I used a cotton to keep the chair from feeling too tight assed.
The finished result (the upholstery job is not perfect: it was hard to do with taking the cushion completely off):


laurelstreet said...

I want to know who your favorite hotel liquidator is Mitchell. I'm loving the TS chair - and the black desk you did was a knockout.

On second thought - don't tell me - I'm already running out of room in the house.

Love Where You Live said...

I really like what you did with the chair. You make it sound so easy! cheers, -susan

Love Where You Live said...

I really like what you did with the chair. You make it sound so easy! cheers, -susan

Reigna Layn said...

Hi I just wanted to let you know that I loved your faux tortoise shell chair. I tried my own version and I linked to your blog from my blog. Thanks for your tips!