How To Refresh and Enjoy Vintage Metal Lawn Chairs


Whenever I can score vintage metal lawn chairs, I am downright giddy. I don’t know if it’s because I’m sentimental about having them at my childhood cabin, or if I’m just enamored with their shape and myriad of colors they’ve acquired through the years. Whatever the reason, I want to make sure they look their very vintage best and will last for many more beautiful years. I’ll show you how today, with these two recent curbside clean-up scores (which you can read more about in “Curbside Junking Adventures and Tips” {Here}).

Vintage Metal Lawn Chair

Vintage metal lawn chairs have usually seen their fare share of makeovers through the years. From first glance, this one has for sure been most recently green, and before that blue, but you never really know it’s true heredity until you start sanding. That’s the first step.


Sand with an electric sander using 80-100 grit sandpaper.  

Sand over the rusty spots, sand the chippiness off, and reveal as much or as little different colors as your artistic self wants to!

Here’s what this cutie revealed after sanding:

Vintage metal lawn chair

Make sure you sand all the pretty grooves and lines to really reveal the great bones these chairs have!

Even 16 year old Mr. Freckles admired this chair-of-many-colors in the driveway!

Ironically enough, after I’d bribed these chairs off a fellow junker for $25, I picked up another on the way home from school! This white version is not vintage, which I could tell from the shinier paint job and less heavy weight. But I can give it some age to fit in with it’s elders:

White rusty metal lawn chair

You can really see the difference sanding and accentuating the lines makes with this piece:

white metal lawn chair with lilacs

What a difference, right?

This one’s already gotten the rest of the treatment, though, which makes a big difference too…

Blow off the sawdust (I love the power of compressed air) and wipe or hose down till clean. Dry quickly in the sunshine.

You obviously don’t want the chairs to rust anymore, so drying on a warm day in the sunshine works best. The warm metal is also perfect for the next step…

Varathane Urethane

A couple of brushed on coats of outdoor polyurethane. I’m usually a Minwax Polycrylic girl, but I haven’t had luck finding an outdoor version in my stores, so I used the Varathane companies product. I like that it’s soap and water clean-up and I like the Satin version-nothing too shiny for vintage!

Whenever I paint or seal chairs, I always start on the underside.

vintage lawn chairs upside down

Because then I can fix the drips when I get right side up! Sand a little and they’ll disappear…

poly drips on vintage metal

Just look how the poly brings out the beautiful patina of the rust and chippiness:

Vintage metal chair upside down.

And once again the chairs have a beautiful, smooth, yet lively appearance!

Yes, guess selling all those years made me learn to work en masse…

vintage metal lawn chairs

Brush on a couple coats of poly and dry thoroughly in the warm sunshine.

Make sure it’s a warm day-60 degrees or warmer and don’t apply at night. Cold or dew can make a not-totally dry poly job on metal turn opaque and blue. Not a pretty sight on your beautiful vintage piece…I know from experience:( Working in the sunshine is best, or pull your pieces in a warm garage if you are at all concerned.

Do you see the yellow peeking out from behind the second blue chair? Boy, was I surprised and happy to reveal that color combo!

Each summer, give your chairs a fresh coat or two of poly to seal.

vintage metal lawn chairs

I’m so excited my family of chairs went from 3 to 6 real fast! Now I’ve got a whole grouping for the grad party (you can read more about the decor planning in “Grad Party Planning Tips: The Decor” {Here}). I did find out with the last grad party that these metal chairs work better in the shade on a hot, summer afternoon (a.k.a. hot bun syndrome!). Good to remember.

Most of these vintage chairs have some type of drainage built into the design; holes or gullies to make the rain water not settle and rust on the seats:


But you can see they still have rusted where the water settles. On rainy days, I try to tip my chairs over so the rainwater won’t sit for long. I have one chair that doesn’t feature any drainage, so I’m thinking I maybe should just drill some holes in a design like the original designs had, because this one is definitely the most prone to puddle and rust:

rust on a vintage chair

Tip chairs upside down on rainy days so water doesn’t pool and rust on seats.

Don’t these chairs just scream summer? Maybe you’ve got a couple family hand-me-downs laying around you could refresh with these tips, or maybe you’ll have the luck of scoring some at a sale or alongside the road!

Please just don’t spray paint them and make them look new! Embrace and celebrate their history! If you want new…just buy new and let the junkers like me have the old ones;)

Because when given the right “beauty treatment”, they really are special…

vintage blue lawn chairs

Lilacs on a vintage lawn chair.

Ferns on a vintage blue metal chair

Make sure you pin and share for when you (or your friend) score one or more of these cuties!

Pin and Share button


Sharing at these lovely parties:

Friday Favorites

Saavy Southern Style

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This project was featured!



17 thoughts on “How To Refresh and Enjoy Vintage Metal Lawn Chairs

  1. Wow! Gad I found you today featured on Savvy Southern Style! This is an excellent post! Great information. The chairs look fabulous after sanding and sealing!


  2. Ooooh Laura, I am just giddy for you over these finds and a bit envious too, I can never find these in my area. I just love all that gorgeous patina, so happy you brought out the beautiful history over spraying them all shiny fresh. They are just sublime, and great photos too I must say I want to print them up for an 8 x 10 grouping! Lol thanks for sharing them at #FridaysFurnitureFix !

    Liked by 1 person

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