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Restoring a Chair Is Easier Than You Think. Ask the Brownstone Boys.

BusinessRestoring a Chair Is Easier Than You Think. Ask the Brownstone Boys.

Furnishing your home with antiques doesn’t have to be expensive — not if you’re willing to do a little restoration work. Take it from Jordan Slocum and Barry Bordelon, better known as the Brownstone Boys.

“If you get a piece someone has already spent a lot of time and effort restoring, it’s going to be expensive,” said Mr. Bordelon, 43. “But there are many pieces out there that need a lot of love, and to be restored, that you can get for a lot less. We do that a lot.”

The Brooklyn-based designers — whose new book, “For the Love of Renovating,” is out next month — are always on the hunt: in vintage shops along Atlantic Avenue, in architectural salvage yards, even among piles of trash on the sidewalk.

“We’re fortunate to live in New York, where stooping is a thing,” Mr. Slocum, 41, said.

Recently, they rescued a wood side chair with a ruined seat and gloppy paint from the curb. To restore it, they employed many of the same techniques they use on woodwork in historic brownstones.

Start by removing any upholstery you don’t plan to keep, so you can work on the wooden frame. Then use a heat gun on the old paint and peel away as much as you can with a metal paint scraper.

“You heat the paint, and then you scrape,” Mr. Bordelon said. (Just be careful not to burn the chair.)

“That’s going to get most of the paint off,” he continued. “It’s going to come off in globs, but also leave some remnants.”

To deal with any tenacious paint, use a liquid paint stripper, like CitriStrip. Spread it on generously with a paintbrush — and be patient.

“We’ll let it sit for at least 5 to 10 minutes,” Mr. Slocum said. “And then assess how it’s scraping off.”

Work stubborn areas with steel wool and wipe them with a rag.

Now that most of the paint is gone, spray the chair with denatured alcohol and scrub with more steel wool to clean off any residue. Then sand the entire chair to remove any remaining flecks of paint and refresh the surface of the wood.

“We do want to get down to the raw wood,” Mr. Slocum said.

Start with coarse sandpaper — maybe 80 grit — and work up to progressively finer grades, ending with 400 grit. The Brownstone Boys sometimes use a power sander, but to get into curves and crevices, Mr. Slocum said, it’s often easier to work by hand with ordinary sandpaper.

“Sometimes we tape it to a wood block if we need to get a little more force into the furniture,” he said.

With the bare wood exposed, add stain in a color of your choice. The Brownstone Boys wiped Varathane Early American stain onto their chair with cheesecloth.

For even coloration, Mr. Slocum said, “you want to work with the grain.”

After the stain dried, they sanded the chair again to smooth out any raised grain.

An upholstered seat is always a nice option, but Mr. Slocum and Mr. Bordelon were feeling ambitious. So when they noticed a groove around the seat of the chair, they decided to use pressed-cane webbing they bought on Amazon instead of fabric.

To add cane to a seat, cut the material a little larger than needed and soak it in water for about 20 minutes.

“That will help us not only apply it, but get rid of stiffness we don’t want,” Mr. Slocum said.

Use wood wedges or a screen-rolling tool to drive the edges of the cane into the groove and trim off the excess. To hold the cane webbing in place, add wood glue and a reed spline — a continuous strip of material that fills the gap.

To complete your restoration, add a clear coat. The Brownstone Boys applied Varathane matte polyurethane. It’s best to use a fresh paintbrush or rag, Mr. Slocum said, to avoid brushstrokes.

For their chair, one coat was enough. But if the finish looks uneven or you want better protection, you can apply additional coats.

Then all you have to do is figure out where to put your new piece of furniture.

“We’re going to put it in our office,” Mr. Slocum said.

But the chair, he added, may eventually end up in a home they help someone else renovate: “Then they can enjoy it for the next hundred years.”

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