Sewing, Refashioning, Repurposing & Thrifting Through Life

Mad Men Inspired Chalk Painted Sofa

I am a huge fan of the Mad Men series. I loved everything about that show-the fashion, the furniture, the whole 1960s attitude. Watching the series brought back so many memories from my childhood. I started having a love affair with all things 60s/70s. The colours, the clean lines, the structure. I love them all and I knew that I would be incorporating some furniture pieces in our family room.


Roger Stirling’s Office – Mad Men

I posted a picture of this sofa a while back and finally got around to transforming it into something I absolutely love. I’m not completely sure which year it was manufactured, but have been told it’s probably from the 1960s or 70s.

Well structured, strong, heavy, and also a hideous olive green that just wasn’t going to work in my space.


I really wanted to reupholster, but being the impatient person that I am and wanting to rid my family room of the sofa and loveseat we’ve had for years, I just couldn’t wait anymore, nor could I commit to such a time-consuming task such as recovering at this time.

I hesitated and hemmed and hawed about my options and finally decided to just go ahead and chalk paint the thing. If it didn’t work out, I’d just set it aside until I had mounds of time to recover it properly.

The thing about vintage 70s furniture like this is that the fabric is very heavy. I wasn’t sure how it would take to the paint even though I’ve done several pieces with Annie Sloan. The other thing about vintage 70s furniture is that it has a certain…odour. Not stinky but not fresh either. I read that many of the vintage outfits used on the Mad Men show were deodorized with vodka. Yes, vodka! I had nothing to lose, so filling a spray bottle with straight vodka, I spritzed the whole thing down. You want to wet it down fairly well but do not soak it too much. Just use a light hand and spray everything. The next day I spritzed it again and voila! Stinky vintage smells were gone! Does it smell like vodka now? No. It smells like…nothing. That’s the beauty of this method. It gets the stink out and as it dries, the alcohol evaporates.

Vintage sofas are not cheap. I’ve seen many of them listed for amazingly high asking prices. I think I lucked out. I got mine through a private sale. The owner had fallen in love with it in the hopes of having it recovered until he found out how much it was going to cost him. People don’t realize how much reupholstery costs. You can easily expect to spend upwards of $2000-$3000 to have a piece done. This seems like a LOT of money. On the other hand, if you were to buy an equivalent quality piece brand new, the cost would likely be the same. If you want to spend less money, you can buy from a big box store and have a piece that was likely manufactured in China, will last you a couple of years and then it will be good for the dump. They just don’t make ’em like this anymore…at least not in my price range! If you’re a bit handy and have lots of time and patience you CAN reupholster yourself, just as I’ve done and documented on this blog.

The colour I chose is called Aubusson Blue. I love, love, love colours in the bluish-green family.


Using the same method of chalk painting fabric I’ve used in other projects, I got to work. The differences I found in painting such heavy fabric was that I only sprayed the piece with water before painting for the first coat. I still sanded between coats but it did not feel crunchy after drying like some other projects I’ve done and I found it best to dilute the paint with water and stir the can several times while painting. It was almost as if I was dyeing the fabric, not chalk painting it.

Some pictures of the process…



I covered the bottom while I painted but I did paint it when I was done everything else.


You can really see the difference in colour here.



You can’t tell from most of the pictures but one side of the cushions (both the back cushions and the seat cushions) is leather. The same olive green leather as the fabric. You can chalk paint leather but not sure if you’re supposed to spritz it with water first. I didn’t.


It covered quite nicely I think. Here’s what it started to look like as I was finishing it. In total, I probably did 4 coats. It took a LOT of paint.


So far, so good right? When I finished, I sanded everything down and started applying soft clear wax to the arms. This is when I ran into a problem. The wax did not have the same properties on this fabric as it did on other projects I’ve worked on. It created fuzz balls of the material and made the fabric look “muddy.” Oh no! I was so disappointed as the beauty of the wax is that it seals everything and gives the surface a leather-like feel. Ugh! I felt like I did all that work for nothing and was going to have to recover anyway!

Well, I figured I could live with it. It’s a little stiff but actually not bad at all. I plan on replacing the foam as soon as I can. I think the painting process did stiffen the foam a bit and even though I’ve sanitized with the vodka method, I still would like fresh foam.

Eventually I do plan on recovering this. Part of the reason I chose to paint rather than recover has also been because I have not been able to find a fabric I absolutely love and since this is our everyday couch, I really, really want something I am going to be happy with for years to come.

Here’s how it turned out.





And a final look at the before and after.




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