Do-it-yourself or buy new? That is the question when looking for photography props. Sometimes we just have to look beyond what is easy and imagine what could be...
I had been searching for a vintage wooden high-chair for a good amount of months since I decided to start my photography business. I wanted to use it as a photo prop for sitter sessions and baby's 1st birthday sessions. The chairs I had come across on yard sale sites or flea markets were either in very bad condition or WAY out of my budget. Sure, you can find a newly restored high-chair at most antique stores or online but it will cost you! I enjoy DIY projects so I didn't mind restoring it myself, as long as I could find the style high-chair that I was envisioning in my head and at a good price (easier said than done I know). Low and behold I came across this adorable wooden high-chair while purchasing another restoration piece that I had been looking for (a blog for another day). The seller happened to notice via Facebook that I was a photographer and asked if I was interested. He was offering it for the generous price of only $5.00! Without hesitation I said "YES!" and this little wooden chair came home with me too. Meant to be? I think so!
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change” - Unknown
I have tried many DIY projects and some always look easier to create until you actually start getting your hands dirty. Also, finding free time to actually complete these projects are another challenge, and with three kids, two dogs and essentially three jobs (Mom, Graphic Design Contractor, Photographer) my "free" time is limited! Any-hoo, I made this little gem my priority one weekend and I think it came out great! There are SO many different ways you can restore a wooden high-chair, depending on the look you want. I toyed with the idea of painting the chair white or gray but then I decided to keep its aged wooden charm just maybe a touch darker to give it that rustic look. Here are the products I used...
Black and Decker Mouse
White Distilled Vinegar
Norwex Microfiber cloth
Rust-Oleum Staining Pad
Synthetic bristle brush
Rust-oleum Aged Wood Accelerator
MINIWAX One Coat Polyurethane (Clear Satin)
Step 1: Sanding
The first thing that I had to do which was probably my least favorite step of the entire project, sanding the entire chair and tray! One minor step prior to sanding was removing the metal hardware that attached the tray to the chair. They had years and years of crud, dirt and rust caked onto the metal so I decided to soak them (and screws) in about 2-3 cups of white distilled vinegar. Just enough to cover the pieces in a wide Tupperware.
Sanding is actually the most important step because it eliminates any imperfections found on the high chair. There were lots of uneven areas and scratches. This chair was actually easier to sand than I thought because unlike those spindle back high-chairs this one was solid and had square legs and pegs which were easy to sand with my helpful Black and Decker mouse. I pretty much was able to sand the entire thing without having to do it by hand! (whoop-whoop!) I took a few breaks during my sanding step, but overall it probably took me about 1 1/2 hours to complete. OH, and don't forget if you sand anything, wear a mask!
Step 2: Cleaning
After the entire chair was sanded smooth I vacuumed all the residual dust and then used my micro-fiber cloth to eliminate any remaining dust particles. After about 24 hours of the metal hardware soaking in vinegar I rinsed them off in hot water and scrubbed them down with steel wool, I was amazed at how clean and shiny they got. Simple Step!
Step 3: Staining
This step took the longest because I am a perfectionist and I had to get the stain color JUST RIGHT. I used blue plastic gloves that my husband brought home from work, it took me about three coats until I reached my desired color. Having to wait about an hour in between each one, this step required ALOT of patience! I used Rust-oleum Aged Wood Accelerator because I wasn't sure what "color" I wanted, until I saw it. Again, I wanted to keep it's aged charm but add that deeper rustic look. Yes, I'm picky!
Step 4: Sealing
Almost there! After letting the last coat of stain dry overnight I applied a light coat of MINIWAX One Coat Polyurethane with a synthetic bristle brush. I chose to use a Clear Satin instead of Glossy so I didn't have to worry about any glare in photos but I still needed to protect the wood and the modifications I made.
Step 5: Finishing Touches
Lastly, once the chair was fully dry I screwed the metal hardware back on to the chair and tray. Viola! It was done! Now all I need are some cute babies to pose in this adorable chair! Teddy seems to like it ;-)
I wanted to share my restoration journey because in this case it is also a part of my photography journey. Besides a great photo prop for my business it will get lots of use for my daughter's baby dolls. I did a little research on this style high-chair and it seems to be vintage mid-century. It's missing the foot step and waist belt, and there may have been a decal on the seat back. However, beyond the missing pieces and the work it took to bring it back to life I really like the curve lines of the chair back and the tray. I'm glad I was able to restore a piece of history that may have otherwise been thrown in the garbage. Just imagine where this chair has been for the last 60 years...how many babies used it growing up? It's actually amazing when you think about it. After all the searching and circumstances that brought me to find this diamond in the ruff I truly believe this little chair actually found me!