How to Restore Old Cane Furniture

paint & restore cane furniture

Do you have a set of cane chairs that has lost its sheen and natural color? Wondering if you should give it a new lease of life or just give it away to somebody? In this post, I show you how I painted a set of chairs and the cost of the project. 

I had a cane furniture set comprising 4 chairs + 1 table + 2 side tables that were over 5 years old. One look at them and you’ll know they had seen better days. During a recent moving exercise from a BIG house to a smaller apartment, I gave away 2 chairs, the center table and the side tables. However, I retained 2 chairs for use as balcony furniture in the new place. One day while scouting the net, I was inspired to give these chairs a new look.

Before Painting : Cane Chair

Before Painting : Cane Chair

You have two choices while restoring old cane furniture: giving it a polished look while retaining the natural color or painting it in a different color to complement the surroundings.

I went with the second option, but stuck onto a neutral color in turn with my balcony’s decor rather than paint it in a bright green/orange/red or a much more subdued blue. I’ll take you through my little DIY project for restoring cane furniture.


  1. Sand paper/ Emery sheet (180 and 320)
  2. Wood Primer
  3. Wood Enamel
  4. Thinner
  5. Brush
  6. Varnish
  7. Waste cloth
  8. Newspaper
  9. Mixing mug
  10. Old clothes


  1. Put on old clothes and cover your face with a mask if you are not accustomed to strong paint/primer smell. I used safety eye glasses and covered by nose with a cloth instead of a mask.
  2. Spread sheets of newspaper on the ground and place the chair on top of it.
  3. Tear palm-sized emery sheet and rub the chair to remove dirt, old paint/varnish. This process will lead to a lot of dust. The more you scrub, the better will be the finish. Do it in intervals if you are not able to scrap in one sitting.
  4. The smooth surface is now ready for a coat of primer. Follow the instructions on primer can and mix it with the required quantity of thinner in a old mug. Remember primer can only be removed using thinner. So ensure you have adequate quantity of thinner before you start the project. Apply one coat of thinner throughout the chair. For good finish, take just about enough amounts of primer on the brush and ensure it is not flowing/dripping.
  5. Let the first coat dry for a good 24 hours before you apply the second coat. Follow the same process as you did for the first coat.
  6. Once both the coats have dried, rub the surface again with sand paper (180 grade) to get a smooth surface.
  7. Mix a small quantity of paint with thinner (follow the ratio as specified in the back of the container) and apply in over the chair. Wait for a day or until it has dried completely to follow up with another coat. I applied one coat of primer and two coats of paint.
  8. Once both the coats have dried, apply one layer of varnish. Varnish will protect the chair from dust/dirt and help retain the coat for a longer duration.


  • Brush – Rs. 40
  • Emery Sheet – Rs. 8
  • Primer – Rs. 40
  • Thinner – 100 ml for Rs. 10
  • Paint – 120
  • Varnish – Rs. 110

Total cost: Around Rs. 300. Remember you’ll be left with a lot of paint and primer enough to paint another chair.

After painting - ivory cane chair

After painting – ivory cane chair

After completing this project, I’m brimming with ideas to recycle old furniture and regret giving away those side tables.

You may love these before and after pictures of furniture makeovers. Check out the post to be inspired for some fresh ideas. Here’s a teaser image.

Before painting furniture

After painting furniture


Cover photo: