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Antique Rocking Chair: Seat replacement and Painted Finish

Paris Grey chalk paint paired with Old White.

At long last I've finished antique rocking chair. I initially picked it up in September this year along with some other furniture. I thought I would have all of the projects completed within a week or two, but it took longer than planned. A supply list is included at the end of the post for your convenience.


The chair itself is petite in size, but the seat is nice and wide making it perfect for rocking a baby, or to snuggle up with a pillow, blanket, and a good book.

Seat back of antique rocking chair

The main problem with the chair was the broken seat.

Broken rocking chair seat

A previous owner replaced the cross support bar. It didn't exactly stick out like a sore thumb as it's underneath the chair, but it didn't match the rest of the chair.

Previously repaired cross support bar

Before painting I needed to make a few repairs. A few quick spots of wood filler were required for areas with missing veneer and deep scratches.

Wood filler used to patch missing veneer

I wanted to replace the cross support bar, but it was wedged in pretty tight, and I wasn't sure I could remove it without damaging the entire support structure. If you look closely you'll see the the bolt is facing upwards instead of downwards.

Nut and bolt facing upside down

So I removed the nuts and bolts and flipped them right side up. Easy peasy.

Nut and bolt flipped right side up

Seat Repair:

The broken seat repair wasn't as easy. To be fair, it wasn't too difficult, but it was time consuming. I had two chairs that needed new seats, so I ordered fiberboard seats for the replacements. They are available in different sizes, so I made sure that I ordered ones that were large enough to fit the seat openings.

Chairs waiting for repairs

The first step was to remove the old seat. I used needle-nose pliers to grasp the upholstery tacks and tugged them out. Most came out easily, but others put up a fight.

Removing old upholstery tacks

Eventually all the old upholstery tacks were removed.

Old upholstery tacks removed

I used the old seat board as a template and traced the shape onto the new seat board. In hindsight I should have measured and traced my own circle as the original seat wasn't a perfect circle.

Old seat used as a template.

The seat board has to be sturdy enough to hold the weight of someone sitting in the chair, but pliable enough to cut. I initially tried using metal clippers which cut through easily, but they were harder to control a precise circular cut through the thick board. So I switched to my kitchen scissors. These allowed more control but were harder to cut through the thick material.

Cutting through fiberboard with scissors

I just took my time and eventually got the job done. If you look closely you'll notice a few gaps, but hopefully the upholstery tacks will hide that.

Testing the fit of the seat replacement

The seat board can be either stained or painted. Now that I had my seat cut to fit, I went ahead and painted both the chair and the new seat board. Next it was time to attach the new seat. I drew a border line with a pencil as a guide and then marked off where the tacks would go with a small "x".

Guides and marks for upholstery tacks

The big lesson I learned from the first project I did with a fiberboard seat is to pre-drill the holes (you can see that post HERE). Otherwise you end up with a bunch of broken and bent tacks. You don't need to drill much. In fact don't drill all the way into the wood beneath the seat. At a minimum, just drill enough to get a hole started to accept the upholstery tack.

Pre-drilling holes into fiberboard seat

Next I used an upholstery hammer to tap the tacks into the pre-drilled holes.

Tapping upholstery tacks into the fiberboard seat

I was going to paint the tacks grey to contrast with the seat. But decided at the last minute to paint them white to coordinate with the other trim work.

New seat attached


And here's the finished chair painted in Paris Grey with accents of Old White.

Antique rocking chair painted in Paris Grey and Old White

The trim on the seat back now contrasts against the main color.

Seat back of painted rocking chair

I think the trim is especially lovely and is the star of the show!

Trim painted in contrasting white

I added some distressing to the painted trim.

Distressing added to painted trim

Before the beaded trim on the front of the seat was barely noticeable. But now that it's painted in white it pops against the grey.

Beaded trim work painted in contrasting color

Here's a closer view of the beaded trim and the distressed paint.

Close up of beaded trim

My original plan was to paint the spindles white for contrast. Instead I painted them grey with a touch of white on the rounded beads to coordinate with the beaded trim and upholstery tacks.

A coordinated balance of secondary color

It would have been so much easier to paint the entire body of the spindles white. Let's just say it wasn't easy getting the white painted -- tight spaces and awkward angles, but once the idea grabbed me I couldn't let it go.

Rounded beads on spindles painted in white

Here's a closer look at the spindles from inside the chair.

Painted spindles

And a closer look from the outside.

Painted spindles in Paris Grey and Old White

I added some accents of white to the chair legs, too. However, I didn't want to accent the previous repairs, so I painted the white on either side to draw the eye away from the old repair.

White accents draw the eye away from previous repairs

Here's a closer look at the new seat. The pattern I choose was a pair of birds with a nest of eggs. I painted the seat white and dry brushed the raised design with Paris Grey.

Replacement fiberboard seat painted in Old White.

And finally a comparison of the before and after.

Before and after of antique rocking chair

Supply List: (affiliates included)
Wood filler
Needle-nose pliers
Fiberboard replacement seat
Upholstery tacks
Upholstery hammer
Paris Grey
Old White
Flexible sanding pads
Soft Clear Wax

Replacing a broken chair seat can be expensive. Try this inexpensive and easy option instead.

Paris Grey and Old White chalk paint color combination.


  1. Beautifully finished! Can you tell me why they used fiber board in the center of older chair seats? Almost every one I've seen on old furniture was damaged. As opposed to those with a solid wood seat. Thanks!

    1. Thank you Bev. Many chair seats were finished with leather or caning. Once the material wore out or broke it was often replaced with the fiber board. Probably as a less expensive option. I agree that a wood seat would last longer.

  2. Did the raised pattern on the seat come with the fiberboard or did you make that somehow?

    1. The replacement seat included the raised pattern. I purchased it online from Kennedy Hardware. They carry a variety of sizes and patterns.

  3. Painting over a solid oak chair makes me sad. My choice would have been to refinished and leave natural wood.

    1. If painting a chair would make you sad then you should definitely refurbish it instead. Do what makes you happy.

    2. You did an incredible job and I would love to own this chair!


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