How to Upcycle a Vinyl and Timber Mid Century Dining Chair

by DIY specialist Natasha Dickins at Little Red Industries
‘I love a vintage find,’ says Natasha Dickins, DIY specialist at Little Red Industries. ‘But usually old furniture needs some changes to make it collectible again, and I have a three-step plan that works for any makeover.’
1. Remove the one thing that makes it most dated. In this case it’s the old red vinyl.
2. Add an element to make it more functional and modern, which will be new varnish to protect the plywood.
3. Improve the experience by sanding the frame and renewing the finish for a designer result.’
Says Natasha, ‘I wanted to contrast the old orangey varnish with a rich, dark stain that highlights the woodgrain.’
‘Using Monocel Stain & Varnish in Walnut for the frame gives a smooth, tough finish to prevent further wear and tear.’
‘For the seat and backrest I used Monocel Clear Wood Varnish in Satin for a lovely matt surface that preserves the natural look while protecting the plywood.’

how to upcycle a vinyl mid century chairDIY MATERIALS

• Bondall Bondcrete adhesive
• 8mm dowel to fill holes
• Monocel Stain & Varnish in Walnut
• Monocel Clear Wood Varnish in Satin
• timber filler
• spare screws, from 15mm long


• drill or screwdriver
• hand-sanding block or random orbital sander, with 120 and 240-grit abrasive paper
• 2 paintbrushes
• paint stirrer
• clean cloths


A combination stain and varnish provides a tint to highlight the woodgrain while providing a protective coating.
Natasha says, ‘Satin finish is a modern contrast to the previously shinier, lighter tan colour popular when this chair was originally made in the late 1960s.’
DIY TIP Don’t scrimp on your brushes! It’s the key to a lovely finish and should be soft, clean and no wider than 50mm for working on small surfaces like a chair.

how to upcycle a vinyl mid century chairSTEP 1 Dismantle the chair

  • Remove the seat and backrest using a drill or screwdriver to undo the screws, keeping them to reuse later.

TIP Check the frame is sturdy, applying adhesive to any wonky joints and clamping to dry.

how to upcycle a vinyl mid century chairSTEP 2 Smooth out scratches and dents

  • Use a random orbital sander or a hand-sanding block with 120-grit abrasive paper to sand all surfaces, smoothing along the edges and corners, down the legs and around the feet. Wipe the dust away with a clean cloth.

how to upcycle a vinyl mid century chairSTEP 3 Renew the frame

  • Use a clean paintbrush to apply Monocel Varnish & Stain over the entire frame, working fast and watching for drips. Apply two coats, leaving to dry thoroughly between each.

TIP Load up your brush then seal it in plastic wrap to keep it from drying out between coats.

how to upcycle a vinyl mid century chairSTEP 4 Remove the upholstery

  • Take off the vinyl and foam using staple remover and multitool then sand both sides of the plywood with 120 then 240-grit abrasive paper, rounding over the edges so the seat is comfortable to sit on.

STEP 5 Clean up the plywood

  • Cover small holes in the plywood with timber filler and use dowel to fill bigger holes, gluing it with fast-drying Bondcrete, then cut the protruding ends and sand smooth.

how to upcycle a vinyl mid century chairSTEP 6 Seal the seat and backrest

  • Use a clean brush to apply Monocel Clear Wood Varnish in Satin, working it into the edges and leaving to dry thoroughly.

how to upcycle a vinyl mid century chair

STEP 7 Reassemble the chair

  • To put the chair together, check the old screws don’t protrude through the seat and backrest, replacing them with shorter timber screws if to upcycle a vinyl mid century chair

how to upcycle a vinyl mid century chair how to upcycle a vinyl mid century chair
thank you to Natasha for sharing this great project with us! I am sure there are LOTS of vinyl chair in need of some loving out there, so let us know if you go ahead and try the project!
Helen xx


  1. Kathleen on December 2, 2017 at 8:57 am

    What a delightful result! Would love to also see photos of Helen’s chalk paint on vinyl stools and chairs.

    • helene on December 4, 2017 at 9:36 am

      Hi Kathleen – this is the stool I painted 🙂

    • Helen Wilde on March 15, 2021 at 8:56 pm

      Love this!
      Good to see what’s possible!
      So much better than buying new & throwing useful beautiful things in the hard rubbish.

      • Helen Edwards on June 22, 2021 at 8:33 am


  2. Saurabh on February 13, 2020 at 12:18 am

    What am amazing transformation, Helene! Usually one would discard that Chair. How much time and money did it take for you to upcycle it?

    • Helen Edwards on February 28, 2020 at 11:37 am

      Hi – I wasn’t the person who did the makeover, but I would imagine a day or so

  3. Jenna Rak on March 1, 2024 at 10:15 am

    Do you know the manufacturer and model of the chair you refinished? Great work!

    • Helen Edwards on April 8, 2024 at 2:30 pm

      Sorry, no idea as it was someone else’s project, but it is lovely!

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