09 March 2013

Gustavian Bench

I dreamed of a little gray bench
For at least 20 years or more this small neoclassical bench has been kicked around my tiny home - I used it as a vanity stool,  and for a while as a piano bench - all the while it was begging to be reupholstered at least. With a few hours to spare in my studio, I finally got around to doing something about it.

before:  the sweet fluted legs attracted me to this piece
Dating from the 1910s, this nice little bench is blessed with carved fluted legs and is solidly built- but it had a bad break in one part of the frame and had been buried under magazines and finally wound up in my basement gathering even more neglect.  Once in my studio, I  gave my old friend a good dusting-off.

straightened and cleaned

I repaired the break with fish glue and some clamps. All of the joints tightened, the entire surface was then cleaned with fine steel wool and some alcohol.  I didn't bother repairing any dents or scratches.  A couple of layers of walnut crystal stain evened up the wood color and brought it back more to its original intent. I could have given this a nice French Polish this at this point,  but I decided that what I wanted was a simple, painted bench.

after:  the wee painted bench of my dreams

Two coats of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint gave me the perfect Gustavian look.  This is really nice, easy to use paint for furniture. The color here is "French Linen."     I decided not to "distress" or artificially age the surface any further, as I am sure dings and scrapes will appear in time, quite naturally. The painted surface was burnished and polished with two coats of micro-cyrstalline wax, and finally the seat was re-covered with a bit of Belgian linen left over from one of my artists smocks.
I'm quite please with this little project.  What do you think?


  1. Looks like it was born to be Gustavian!!

  2. I think it's never looked better! Your choices give it a truly Gustavian look, and I'm glad you mentioned the chalk paint and microcrystaline wax combination — I'll have to remember that!

  3. Very elegant. This reminds me that I should pull out a little coffe table that has been languishing in my life for far too long.

  4. It looks pristine and fresh, but I must confess I liked the grandmotherly original look. Annie Sloan distributors usually insist that her wax is best for binding with the paint, how did you come to try this wax instead? I'm asking because I'd be interested in finding an alternative brand as well.

    1. Hi Marie!
      I usually wax all of my furniture work (especially if it's painted) with micro-crystalline wax because it is chemically inert, clear and easy to use. I also put color in it sometimes. It is safe with many kinds of finishes and materials.

      As far as I can tell the A.S. wax is also a micro-crystalline wax, but I don't suppose they advertise it as such. It is certainly more convenient to sell it as part of a product line knowing they are compatible and easy to use, and for many people they don't want to know what it is so long as it works. But I would never assume that you can't use something else especially if you know your materials. Always make samples to make sure your materials work well together.

    2. Hi Lynne

      It looks like my previous reply didn't register, sorry about that. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  5. Love the little bench and have been envious of that Belgian smock for some time now!

  6. Simply beautiful. Lovely by a picturesque window.

  7. Great updating on a beautiful & classic piece. Who does at least appreciate the clean chic look of a Gustavian anything, no dahhling?


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