Thursday, August 2, 2012

Dining Chairs

Our dining chairs used to belong to Fritz's grandmother; they are from Germany in the 1950s. They're made of solid wood and have this swoopy curve design on the back. According to Fritz this was a pretty standard, generic style in the 1950s. While we lived in Germany, I did occasionally see similar chairs sitting around at various Flohmarkts (flea markets); so let's just say they must be somewhat common in Germany. We had used them for about 2 years (in Germany) and then I decided to sand them and stain them a dark color. That was in 2008. Since then, the chairs have undergone much child-wear-and-tear. The dark stain started flaking off about 1 year ago. Okay, confession: this was not only due to children, but also to things like the buttons on the back of our pants. They look miserable.

This brings up a frustration of mine regarding furniture: dark stain. We have several pieces of furniture that are stained a dark color and it is so impractical with children! And chairs are pretty much the worst furniture ever to have stained dark. I don't know why dark stain has been so fashionable for so long now. Unfortunately, with these chairs, I have nobody to blame but myself, because the chairs used to be a more natural wood tone. Probably if they were still a more natural wood tone that would have disguised the wear and tear. But I stained them darker. My fault. Entirely.

I think here I should point out I used some 
"environmentally friendly chemical stripper"which is probably an oxymoron, 
so the boys wore gloves and masks, when they 'helped' which they didn't, really.
And...I don't know. Probably a project I'll continue working on 

when they are not around, but you know, sometimes my desire to change-the-chair 
just drives me to think less and act more.

Now that I know better about dark stain, and given their sorry state, I decided to peel off the stain and sand them back down to natural. I could just get rid of them, I suppose. But I like them! There's that swoopy curve design on the back. And now that they've been transplanted halfway around the world, I'm attached to their new-found uniqueness. I know, I know. Peeling and sanding chairs is a brave and time-consuming endeavor. But I felt convinced that I wanted them (back to) a natural wood tone that would hold up better with 'kids.'

This is post chemical stripper, and after this,
I still need to attack them with steel wool and sand paper.

As soon as I started to remove the stain, I remembered why I stained them in the first place. That swoopy design that I like so much reads so much better with a dark stain. Maybe I was too rash to remove the dark stain? Maybe I just need to be more vigilant about touching them up and fixing scratches – whatever that means. Hmmm. So now I ask you: what do you think? Should I strip them all and return them to a natural wood color (more kid friendly and more work)? Or keep them a dark wood color (and less kid friendly and less work?)  Noah wants me to paint them a really bright color.

What should I do? I made a poll so you can vote! It's over on the side bar. You can also leave a comment to give your vote some extra weight.

(I probably won't paint them a bright color, but I am truly undecided about re-staining them dark.)


Swistle said...

I enjoyed this so much: from "Why do people use dark stain? It's so impractical and unattractive!" to "Okay, it was me. I did it," to "Oh, actually maybe I should put the dark stain back on." Totally delightful.

A used furniture store near us does a LOT of faux distressing, and one thing I love about faux distressing is that it makes the real distress look intentional. I wonder if you could do them dark with deliberate peek-a-boo wood showing through?

Katie said...

I really like the natural wood. So impressed, by the way. I have a dresser I'd love to do this to but zero motivation for a project that time consuming. ;)

Pregnantly Plump said...

How funny! I'm in the midst of stripping and restaining furniture for our bedroom. The first thing I ever refinished was a dining room chair, and it was hard! It's good that there aren't all the bulbous finial things on the top of the chair back and legs, (that's my technical term for whatever they are) because they are a pain!
When I first started refinishing furniture, I did everything a dark red cherry. Depending on the wood, it held up fairly well. The big problem I had was when I wanted to put the darker stain on wood that was meant to be lighter. Any little nick made it obvious that I was faking the wood color. The dark looked nice, but I'm in a lighter wood mood this time. Have you thought about a medium tone? Cherry might be too red for you, but maybe a walnut? My favorite stain color that I used to use was American Cherry. It's not light, but it's not dark cherry. Good luck!

Ann Wyse said...

Swistle, it's a good point - maybe there's some sort of distressed version.

Or - Pregnantly Plump - yes, maybe a medium tone? That might look nice.

Or - Katie, yes, maybe the state of the chairs will be directly related to my motivational level.

Oh man, I am so confused...

twisterfish said...

I see your point about the dark stain and the curve, but I vote for the natural/light color. I think once you do all the work (and yes, it is a lot of work!) you'll love them lighter. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hey Ann, Mercury is done with its retrograding business - how are you doing? Are you busy working on the chairs, is everything okay? Sending positive thoughts...