vintage high chair

I love, love, love painting furniture because it is an inexpensive way to get the exact look you want. I started my furniture painting adventure with my grandmother’s dining room set using this multi-step process to get an antique white finish, complete with cracks, chips, and worn edges. I love the way it looks- very cottage chic- and I especially appreciate the fact that the more wear and distress the better; no worries about scratches and stains here and there.

table and chairs

A few months ago, my parents visited and brought Hayden my high chair from 28 years ago! It has the spindled french country look that I thought would be perfect for a shabby white finish, and besides, it lives right next to my table in chairs in the dining room. I just love the fact that it matches my house and furniture which wouldn’t have been possible with the high chairs they sell at Babies ‘R Us these days. Here is how it has looked for 28+ years:

It is still in really good shape; my dad repaired the footrest that had broken, but otherwise it looks good.

Here’s my little munchkin trying it out.

And here is how it looks now:

You can see the crackle detail closer up.

To get this look, your furniture will need at least three steps: base layer of paint, applying crackle medium and second coat of paint, applying and removing the glaze. It may sound time consuming…and it is in comparison to using a can of spray paint, but the overall antiqued look appears much more difficult than it really is. This high chair is small, so it took me three nights of working about an hour and a half, so a little less than six hours not including drying time; considering I spent all of this painting time catching up on Downton Abbey, I’d say it was time well spent!


  1. 2-3 paint brushes
  2. drop cloth
  3. fine grit sand paper
  4. white paint (I used about half a quart for 3 coats total)
  5. crackle medium (I used Behr from Lowe’s and I’ve had a quart for almost 5 years – a little goes a long way)
  6. glaze (I love Ralph Lauren’s Tobacco – also have had a quart for 5 years)
  7. a good show or movie to keep you entertained – that way it feels less like work πŸ™‚


Make sure your furniture is clean and free of dust. If it has any type of glossy finish, it’s a good idea to give it a light sanding. I removed some stuck on food particles with some steel wool then wiped it down with a microfiber cloth. If you have any holes or cracks, fill them with wood filler and give a light sanding.

Next, apply one coat of paint using smooth strokes and making sure to wipe up any drips. Allow to dry for recommended drying time. I quickly came to the realization that reusing my Kitchen and Bathroom latex paint was not a good idea because it is the stickiest paint I’ve ever used! It left a ton of brush strokes and drips, so don’t make my mistake and go for a semi gloss or eggshell. After the first coat dried I sanded down some of the drips and brush strokes before my second coat.

I decided to apply a second coat of paint because a lot of the wood grain was showing through and I wanted to cover the brush strokes from coat number one. If you do not need a second coat of white paint, you can apply your crackle medium.

antique vintage furniture

I strongly recommend reading the directions before beginning. I apply crackle to only a select few areas where the furniture would naturally wear- as in the seat and headrest areas on this high chair. The picture below shows the shiny crackle medium on the left side; it’s clear so be sure to remember where you applied it when it comes to painting over it later.

The directions recommend letting the crackle medium dry approximately one hour before brushing on your top coat. It can be very tricky to apply your paint on top of the crackle, because you can only do one smooth, fairly thin stroke before your paint starts to crack. If you go over the same spot a second time, the paint will pull up and the crackle look won’t be achieved. The cracks might be hard to see until you use the glaze, but here is what it will look like after the glaze is applied.

vintage furniture

One you have painted over your crackle medium and everything is dry, applying the glaze is the fun part! This will bring out the cracks, creases, and imperfections in your wood and make it look perfectly aged with time. It’s really simple: just paint on the glaze and wipe off with a rag. If you want a cleaner look, wipe away almost all of the glaze (especially in the creases where it will collect); if you want a dingier look, leave more on the furniture.

After I wiped it away, it looked like this. I went back and cleaned a little more out of the creases.

And once finished:

The glaze is pretty easy to work with, just make sure to stick to one small area at a time so it doesn’t dry. With this chair I kept checking the back of the places I applied the glaze to make sure I didn’t forget to remove the dark spots that were out of eyesight. Once the glaze effect looks the way you want it, let your piece dry and you’re done!

In the dining room, ready for the next meal:

Once again, the before and after.

French Country, Shabby Chic, Glaze, Crackle, distressed

PS. I’m linking up to Miss Mustard Seed’s Furniture Feature Friday Link Party – stop by for some great ideas!


6 thoughts on “vintage high chair

  1. I picked up a high chair exactly like yours at Goodwill for $7 but haven’t had a chance to do anything with it. Yours is SO cute… I may just have to copy your idea. πŸ™‚

  2. I just purchased a painted vintage high chair for my one year old. I’m curious if you put anything special on the tray part to seal it and make it easy to clean?

    • I did not seal it, though that is a good idea. In my experience with my dining room table, the paint or glaze didn’t have any trouble with chipping or fading so I just kept it simple.

  3. I just purchased this exact chair from a Craigslist posting. I am going to refinish for my little girl’s first birthday party. Yours is absolutely adorable and exactly what I am wanting to do. I have been wanting to know more about it though… Do you know how old yours was?

    • I only know that my parents used it for me, so probably about 30 years old, maybe more!

      FYI, the paint on mine is chipping pretty badly. If I could go back, I would’ve used primer or maybe an oil based paint. Good luck!

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