A High-Style DIY High Chair

Spiff up a tired, old wooden high chair with a DIY transformation.

I may have already checked off my Mother’s Day present for my own mom, but I’ve also been busy at work on a little Mother’s Day present for myself, too. Pretty much since the day we started our daughter on solids, I’ve had a not-so-secret lustful crush on the Stokke Tripp Trapp high chair. It’s sleek, it’s modern, it grows with your child for years and years, and IT’S NOT MADE OF UGLY PLASTIC. For a design nerd like me, the Stokke is the cream of the crop when it comes to high chairs, kind of like what the G5 is to rap stars and business moguls. But, it also has a price point that I just couldn’t quite swallow. For such a tiny little human being, our girl can put a wallop on our wallet what with clothes, food and diapers alone. A luxury high chair wasn’t in the cards.

When Elsa outgrew her Chicco high chair (and by outgrew, I mean she refused to sit in it any longer because it wasn’t a “big girl chair”), we resorted to temporarily using a (hideously ugly) plastic booster until we could come up with a better permanent solution. And then, Sherry and John from Young House Love put up a post detailing how they refinished a wooden high chair that had been passed down through their family.

Sadly, no one in my family had a gorgeous antique child-sized chair to pass on to me, but I knew I could track down a wooden high chair with decent lines to gussy up with my very own DIY makeover treatment. I found a little wonder of a high chair at a consignment sale put on by The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire and snagged it for a spectacular $5.00. (WHAAAT? Yes. Color me a consignment sale convert.) John and Sherry of YHL I am not. But our little chair is now all kinds of pretty and sweet and I’m pretty darn tickled to kick that plastic eyesore of a booster seat to the curb. Happy Mother’s Day to me!


Step 1

 Open GalleryI got started by giving this old girl a THOROUGH scrubbing. And um, ewwww.  It was really, really gross to see the dark grime swirl around in the wash water. I’d actually thought the chair was pretty clean when I picked it up, so I was thankful I put in the time to give it a good washing. Nothing spells spray paint disaster like a surface that’s not clean.

Step 2

 Open GalleryOnce it dried out, I was ready to prime it. I pulled out my respirator mask and a can of Krylon Primer in white. Here’s my little darling with the first coat of primer. I primed the whole chair pretty carefully (light and even coats, constantly moving the nozzle as I sprayed), but also made sure I got good coverage into the ridge detailing on the legs and seat back posts. (There are probably technical terms for those ridges, but … I couldn’t seem to find that term in my Google research.) Then I let the primed chair sit overnight to dry.

Step 3

 Open GalleryOnce the primer was dry, it was time to paint.  I had decided that I wanted the chair to be a soft gray with pops of crisp white. I decided that those ridges would make perfect white accent points to set off the gray on the rest of the chair, so I gave those areas a coat of Satin Paint in Blossom White. Once the paint was dry, I carefully taped off the areas I wanted to stay white with FrogTape for Delicate Surfaces.

Step 4

 Open GalleryWhen it came time to give the high chair its first coat of gray, my husband helped me disassemble the base of the high chair from the top. He was also kind enough to lend me his side of the garage (he’s got better toys-I-mean-tools) and even showed me how to string up the two pieces so that I could spray paint like the pros. Yep, I’m a lucky lady. On with the respirator mask so that I could give both pieces two light and even coats using Satin Paint in Stone Gray. I was expecting to need a third coat, but was delighted to find I didn’t need it.

Step 5

 Open GalleryI let the base and seat hang out (you saw that pun coming, right?) while it dried completely, and then reassembled it before slowly and carefully peeling the taped areas. Sha-zam!  Gorgeous, crisp lines. Perfect little pops of white to set off the gray.

Step 6

 Open GalleryI gave the chair a once over to make sure I didn’t need to touch up any areas and then got down to business on my last step: the clear coat. I’m sure that the paint would have held up reasonably well, but if you’ve ever encountered a toddler even once, you know the kind of abuse a small child can inflict upon innocent household items. I thought I’d stack the deck and use all of the resources at my disposal to try to squeeze as much mileage as possible out of all of my hard work. I used Lacquer Spray in Clear, which promised me that it will “add an extra-hard, factory-like finish to furniture and accessories.” Yup, sounds like just what I need. Once the clear coat was on, I let the chair dry out and de-fume for a couple days in the garage.

Step 7

 Open GalleryWhen I could barely stand the mandatory two day waiting period any longer, I checked on the high chair for the 376th time and made the executive decision that it was sufficiently dry and fume-free to bring inside. Then came the fun part, introducing Elsa to her very own big girl chair. She loves it, I love it, and our house is once again free of the ugly plastic bumper seat. Which, unless my husband surprises me with a sprint trip somewhere tropical on Sunday, is the best Mother’s Day gift ever. Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!

About Ellen Foord 


A tight budget has never stopped Ellen Foord from creating a beautiful, modern, creative home and treating every day as one of life's smaller celebrations. A freelance writer and ...

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4 Responses

  1. MangultHenry says:

    You did a great job fixing up that high chair – I bet you can’t stop looking at it! Restoration projects are so much fun and the feeling of satisfaction at the end is worth all the hard work and attention to detail. Whenever I do them I can’t believe the final results, but I have to force myself to slow down and not be tempted to take any shortcuts. I saw the most amazing child’s bedroom at a furniture exhibit once and I managed to find a similar wooden activity table, an armoire and a toy wagon. I restored them all before my toddler turned 3. Now he has a beautiful bedroom for less than $100 – over 1/10th of the price at the expo!

  2. Pat says:

    DIY projects are my favorite. I like to make anything interesting and pretty. That DIY high style chair is impressive and though reading out this post I'm quite excited to make that chair by myself. Thanks.

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