Restoring Worn and Faded Leather

Haymount Homes LLC Restoring leather chairs

Hey y’all! Can you believe it is December? It seems that time flies faster each year. Last night we had a Christmas potluck and it was wonderful to see so many friends. One of the topics that came up was about our two leather chairs (that currently have no actual home) so I snuck them into the dining room. Like most things that have snuck their way into our home, these two chairs had a story behind them. Also, you have to promise to excuse my unswept floors in all my photos. Alas, it’s true….my floors get dirty and I often don’t feel like dealing with it (especially during a project).

I am a craigslist junkie. There. I said it. I love to look for furniture and other household things that someone is no longer needing and see if we can give it a new life. Just like fixing up our homes, I love to fix up something that has been worn and forgotten; it gives it a new lease on life! Not only does it keep landfills from filling, it gives me a fun project with the kids and it is a great creative outlet. The sense of pride from fixing something is really fun!

That stated, Carl is convinced I am going to die someday by meeting someone on Craigslist. Thus, I have to control my habit to the extent that I know he is going to have to get involved to participate in the exchange. This is NOT his favorite thing to do (I know, right? He just doesn’t quite understand the thrill like I do :) Therefore, I have to be picky about what I have him do.

My two leather chair babies were born onto craigslist a few months back. They were out on a horse ranch in Southern Pines (which is a good hour from us) near Pinehurst. In the photos they looked amazing and I thought they would be perfect for staging our next home. They were priced at $300 for the set. Although they were not a “cheap” craiglist buy, they looked like they were well made and actually real leather, so knew they should be worth the gamble. I tried to pretend I did not want them, but I am a poor actress in that respect. Carl sensed he was about to get roped in and offered to go get them (yes, he is awesome).

Now, the only real issue with Carl going to get something I want on craigslist, is that he doesn’t quite share the shame discerning eye that I have. Therefore, you can imagine my surprise when my two leather chair babies showed up at our house…..completely faded and PINK (like 1980s mauve pink!!!). !'?#& was the word shouting in my head the moment they arrived. Of course, Carl, who had just driven three hours to get them for me, was less than thrilled that I was less than thrilled (that is the lot of a husband, right?). He even offered to take them all the way back for me, but I could not bring myself to do that. My sunk cost of time and money was too high to just scrap all of it. $300 is not crazy high, but it was high enough that I could not just give them away.

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So I had two pinkish faded leather chairs on my hands. What to do???? I could tell they were very well made, so I new that they were likely worth keeping if I could figure out how to salvage them. I considered my options

  1. Just leave them alone. Terrified me. I did not want pink faded chairs. That was out

  2. Recover them. Holy pricey.

  3. Paint them. Seemed like a horrible waste of leather.

  4. Hire someone to fix them. I had no idea who did that or what to even look for.

  5. Stain them. This was the only thing I could figure out to do….so I went with it.

Staining leather? Yes. I figured leather was stained by manufacturers to gain its original color, so it must be the best thing I could do. I actually even considered using minwax wood stain or shoe polish, but then I stumbled across this:

I was intrigued. I figured it was a gamble worth taking. You use this balm to gradually stain back the leather colorization to the material. I did not really know what color the chairs were supposed to be, so I took a gamble on the camel color…..which ended up being wrong. Fortunately, this amazing company allowed me to order a second color free of charge. This time I nailed it with Medium Brown.

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The interesting thing about the balm is that you can apply it in layers and it gradually richens in color. That was handy since some of the parts of the chair were more faded than others. It was simple to use. I also started with the leather cleaner to make sure that the leather would absorb the color properly.

Here were the steps. Pretty simple:

  1. Test the leather for absorptive qualities (water drop on the chair and see if the leather pulls the water in. If you have a protective coating on the leather, then the balm cannot absorb)

  2. Clean the leather and allow it to dry (took about 20 minutes)

  3. Start rubbing in the balm. Think about polishing something. If you have ever applied a wax to furniture, it is a similar process.

  4. Allow to dry and then repeat coats (it dries fast)

Clean the leather

Clean the leather

Apply stain

Apply stain

Recruites! Even kids could do it

Recruites! Even kids could do it

See the difference after a coat or two?

See the difference after a coat or two?

So my next fear was colorfastness. I just figured that the stain would transfer to clothing (and subsequently that I would have unhappy friends!). I let it dry for 24 hours and then I tested the chair by wiggling everywhere on it in a crisp white shirt (gutsy, right??) Guess what? NOT A MARK on my shirt! I could not believe it.

Now, let’s talk cons. This is not perfect. There are some areas that are a bit streaky and imperfect, but leather does sort of lend itself to imperfections. Also, when you consider the fact that the chairs would have been well over $1000 each to recover, I think I can handle my $40 dollar fix.

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Are you ready for the fun part? I found out that the chairs were made in Hickory, NC. For those of you that are unfamiliar with that, High Point/Hickory NC and the surrounding area is one of the most high end furniture markets in the world. They manufacture some of the best made furniture you can find. I managed to find out that each of these chairs can still be ordered from Hickory… the tune of nearly $3000 per chair! My all in cost on these chairs was $340. I will take that.

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I was now hooked. I started to think about shoes and purses in my closet and when I get around to it, I will likely stain those as well. The balm refreshes the leather and brings it back shining!

Also, for note, this tutorial is just from me. I was not paid or given anything by Furniture Clinic. When I was looking at the product, I was hoping that there would be an in depth review or blog post that had used it, but I could not find one. I figured I would post one to help out the next panicked craiglister!! This post does contain affiliate links to the products so you can find them and try them on your next project!

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Are you going to try it? I think you should! It was fun and easy, and it really worked pretty well. That is NOT good news for Carl; it opens up waaaaaay too many more options on Criagslist!

We’ll talk soon!

- Casey