Duncan Phyfe Dining Set | Transformation

Today I’m excited to share with you a beautiful dining room set!

Join me as I transform a broken down dining table and chairs! The  results are amazing!

But first here’s the backstory.

We were traveling home from Virginia after visiting our son and daughter-in-law and one of our daughters and we passed by a thrift store that looked closed. My eyes spotted the Duncan Phyfe dining room chairs from the road as we were traveling 55 mph.  I know – I have an eagle eye!  We had to stop!!

My husband thought I was a nut because the store looked closed. But I was hopeful that someone was inside. And there was!

The shop owner told me she had had the dining room set for a very long time and when she offered me such a low price for the set I couldn’t refuse.

The problem was our vehicle would not carry six chairs and a dining room table along with the the two bases that came with the table.

So my husband asked a friend to go down to the thrift shop (which was about an hour away!) the next day and pick up the set. This is what it looked like when they pulled in the driveway!

The fabric on the chairs tells a story about age of the furniture

From the look of the fabric, I could tell the chairs had been upholstered in the 1980’s and that the set was probably a reproduction. The upholstery was well done but the fabric had to go.

The right tools for the job

Removing staples from wood furniture is time consuming and tedious but if you use the right tools it can speed up the process.  I use an upholstery staple remover to pry off the old staples and then I use needle nose pliers to pull the staples out.  Needle nose pliers have a spring action which saves on your hands.  Especially if you have a bad thumb 😉

The first layer of upholstery was a challenge to remove. I used pliers to grab the fabric and twist. That was the easiest way to loosen the staples.

See that next layer of staples holding down another layer of fabric?  Well, after I removed the first layer of staples and fabric, I continued to use the staple remover to loosen the staples of the second layer of upholstery. This was time consuming but I put in an audiobook and that helped the process to move along.

The batting and staples left the sides of the chairs in pretty rough shape as you can see in the image. My plan was to only reupholster the wood seat without wrapping the fabric to the underside like it had been done originally. The sides needed to look nice since they would be exposed.  I used my orbital sander to smooth out the sides where the staples had been.

Facelift for the broken chairs

The chairs were in pretty bad shape when I took a better look at them. Some of the veneer layers were pealing and I knew that it would be too much to repair. So I decided to cut parts of the chair off and to create a new design!  Talk about reinventing!

This little pull saw is one of my favorite tools in the workshop.  It is small and easy to handle.  The blade is flexible so I can get close to the edge.  I filled the holes with wood filler and sanded them smooth.

Clean furniture always results in a better finish

The chairs needed a good cleaning.  Simple Green in warm water with a microfiber cloth is my favorite way to clean furniture.  The Simple Green really removes the built-up dirt and grime.

I decided to use a coat of Zinsser Shellac to prevent bleed through of the existing finish.  Two coats of Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint in Ironstone was just enough to cover the dark finish of the chairs and the table bases and apron.  Sorry I don’t have pics of the painting!  I think I was pretty busy doing Stories on Instagram and completely forgot to take photos!  I finished the chairs and the table bases with a coat of Miss Mustard Seed Hemp Oil – another fave!  It is so easy to use – apply with a brush and wipe off the excess.  I will do a post on this finish in the future!

Drop Cloth is one of my go to fabrics!

The chairs had to be reupholstered and I chose to use painters drop cloth as the fabric.  Drop cloth has so many uses!  Check out these two posts to see more drop cloth projects!

I prepped the drop cloth by soaking it in bleach water for several hours and then a cycle in the washing machine and dryer. Use high heat settings for both the washing and drying.  The drop cloth can shrink so it is best to prep it ahead of time.

Now on to reupholstering the chair seats!  I have a couple of videos for you to help you understand the process!

The first step is to measure and cut the upholstery-weight batting.

Prepping the decorative fabric (drop cloth) and layering is next!

Now for attaching the fabric to the wooden seat!  You don’t need fancy tools for this method!

Last step is ironing to flatten the fabric!

The final step is to reattach the newly covered chair cushions to the chairs.  Check this post for tips on reupholstering chairs and reattaching them to the chair base!

And there you have it!

A restored Duncan Phyfe Dining set that will last for years!  You can see from the images that we finished the two gorgeous table bases with the same finish as the chairs.  And of course, my hubby built a gorgeous farmhouse top. If you watch my Stories on Instagram, you saw a little sneak peak of the top being built!  Be sure and follow along on Instagram for future projects!

I tell ya’, so many people are willing to overlook some of the prettiest furniture!

I am so glad we found this set and were able to make it beautiful again for another family to enjoy!  Can you believe how this broken down dining table and chairs was transformed??

Gorgeous Farmhouse Table Top

Check out the beautiful farmhouse top that hubby built with reclaimed industrial pallet wood!  Be still my heart!

This Duncan Phyfe Dining table and four chairs will be available in our shop at Wilderlove Handmade and Vintage located in Greeenwood, Delaware!

There are also two additional chairs that coordinate with the set for extra seating!  See the chair on the right?  There is another one to match it!  The pair can be purchased separately.

Thanks for stopping by!

I hope you get a chance to recover some chairs one day!  Be sure and save this on your home decorating Pinterest board.

Follow along in our reinventing journey on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest!

Duncan Phyfe Dining Set Transformation


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  1. So inspiring to see! I LOVE how you cut the back of the chair…so clever! I couldn’t get the videos to play??
    Beautiful transformation!

    1. Cynthia Gayle says:

      Thanks Jaimee!! Hummm…. I’m not sure the videos didn’t play. Thanks for letting me know- I will look into it!! Thanks for commenting!!

  2. I’ve been dying to find someone who added a new table top to an antique base and I love how this table turned out! Great work!! I was scrolling through your projects and maybe didn’t catch all but was curious if you all have done other tables like that? I have an antique duncan phyfe table that I would love to give a new look, but in doing so I’d love to do a farmhouse style top and make it bigger than the current size, I’m just not sure if its possible! Thoughts? Thanks in advance!!

    1. It is absolutely possible to build a top like this for your table! We have made many tops like this one but I haven’t blogged all of them. Hubby builds these farmhouse tabletops in his workshop in the wee hours after work so I don’t have any photos or tutorials. I can say that he joins the board lengths with a couple of different joints, one being with dowels and of course glue and heavy-duty clamps. I suggest you do some research on joining boards for a tabletop. I wish I had a tutorial for you here, but I don’t. But thanks for the idea to create one! Have a great day!😊