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Gloppy, Distressed, Monteagley: A Chair Story

Dear Kay,
Today I’d like to talk about distress. I’ve been thinking a lot about distress–not mental distress particularly, because you can read about that at my other blog, www.iamlosingitbutiguessiwilljustkeepfakingitforonemoreday.com–but the physical, beat-upon distress that happens to stuff once people start using things. Our cottage, for example, is a temple to distress. I’ll take you on a little tour sometime, but right now we’ll focus on a tiny, isolated area that has been causing me a lot of, well, distress.
It’s the porch chairs. For the past two years, ever since we got this cottage, I have been watching four of our rocking chairs decay, right before my eyes. Last summer, toward the end of the season, the green paint started to fail–a flake here, a bubble there. You sat down, kind of hot after wandering around outside, and you got up to discover that your forearm was part green. So ANNOYING.
The thing is, I think the peeling paint is pretty. Look at these colors:
See proof of the 1970s, right under that green paint:
See how people long ago dealt with a dried-up leather chair seat:
Kay, I realize that this sort of distressed paint tends to give you hives. I know that peeling paint is not your idea of a good time. But think about the chair painters of years gone by–the one who thought orange was the right color, the one who hated orange and went for yellow. The one who first decided boldly to paint a stained hardwood rocker in the first place. Palimpsest, I tell you–these chairs are a palimpsest of summery history.
An annoying palimpsest. I’m all for authenticity, but the peely green paint HAD TO GO.
So the other day, my summer neighbor Ginger wandered over and suggested we take our four boys on a hike. I looked out, saw the four boys playing a hot game of badminton, and I said, “Aw, they’re playing badminton. Let’s not mess with that.”
“Right,” she said, clearly not too committed to the idea of a hike. Getting four boys to play badminton together in such a charming, picturesque way was almost unheard of. Plus, a hike sounded a lot like work to me. Then she said, “Well, we could always paint those chairs. You’re all the time talking about painting those chairs.”
A real bluff-caller, Ginger is. We headed off to Greeter’s hardware store, scored some wire brushes and sandpaper. We deferred paint until we could see how bad the cleaned-up chairs looked. And endlessly stare at paint sample cards.
We commenced to scraping and sanding, and it was wildly satisfying to see all the crappy paint fall off. It wasn’t coming off very evenly, however, and I started to wish we’d just stripped the chairs altogether with a big jug of cortex-eating paint remover. The chairs were turning into a Vietnam-scale project.
Ginger kept saying, “It doesn’t matter. It’s Monteagley. They’ll be great.”
The hardware guy persuaded us that spray paint, every Monteagle porch chair painter’s first choice, was not going to solve our problem, that spray paint was what had caused our problem. I decided, having never painted anything in my life, that oil-based paint, with a paintbrush, was the only real solution if I was going to avoid painting the damn chairs again anytime soon.
Picking the color took two days of retrieving paint samples and deciding whether to go dark or light. Light meant I would need to prime all the chairs, but light was obviously the way to go.
I had a moment of mourning when I finally put the primer to the first chair. To glop over all that summery history seemed disrespectful, but glop I did. I glopped for hours and hours, glopping the chairs and me and my shoes, soaking myself in mineral spirits from time to time and making just a huge mess. I got totally drunk on fumes, thought I saw Bigfoot at one point. Painting a chair spindle with a paintbrush is just terrible. If I’d had the steam, I’d have rented a paint sprayer and really gone nuts. But once you’re into a project with both feet, and both feet are covered in oil-based paint, you can’t really change your course. Days passed; civilizations around the world fell in the time it took for the chairs to dry in the humidity.
Then they were done.
They’re really creamy.
But they’re not what you would call Nice. Ginger, who conveniently moved four streets over to another cottage during this effort to avoid the glopping process, came by and said they were really Monteagley. Then she proceeded to rearrange all the furniture on the porch.
I happen to know that under this creamy paint, that there is peeling orange and green and yellow and pink and blue.
Which reminds me. What is missing from this picture?
Chair cushions. I’ll be knitting up some chair cushions, and they’ll probably be orange and green and yellow. They’ll match just great once the creamy paint starts to peel, and we’re back to cream and green and orange and yellow.



  1. They’re gorgeous!

  2. I have to say, I do wish I were painting chairs at your summer cottage instead of sweating in the nuclear NYC summer heat. They may not be Nice, but they look nice!!!

  3. They look lovely, very restful and calming and cooling. What I thought was missing from the picture was you with your feet up, knitting. Wait, you are knitting a chair cushion — yes!

  4. I admire your will to glop. I’m big on The Painting but oh man, it can be a pain. Last summer I painted an old sewing table I found in the garage trash-area of my apartment building, intending to turn it into a bar for the balcony, but the weather hasn’t been kind to it. I think I might try the spraypaint.
    Love the color…even though the chairs have some rough texture, they look very elegant in cream.

  5. They look nice. That’s what matters isn’t it? If the paint does start to peel, you could always go for the chemical peel process and paint sprayer next time.

  6. Nice Miter on the hardwood floor.

  7. Nice Miter on the hardwood floor.

  8. I think they look great – They clearly belong on that porch just they way you have them. Looks like a great place to enjoy a tall drink of lemonade.

  9. Yay! I’m so happy they’ll get their colors back!
    And they look like fan-freakin’-tastic porch rocking chairs from here.
    Paint-peely? Like the boro textiles, and we All Love The Boro.
    Can’t hardly wait to see those cushions!

  10. The porch looks great and the chairs clearly belong there. Maybe some arm cushions so that when the cream peels off it will not affect the arms. My favorite thing is the word “palimpsest”. Impressive. To have that word sitting around in your vocabulary just waiting to be used! Love it! If I have ever had words like that floating around in my brain, they have long since peeled off and exposed my huge array of one and two syllable words that I struggle so hard to remember. It’s hell getting old. Those chairs will agree… and appreciate the face lift.

  11. I love the first picture–it’s the globe! I think that’s South America and Africa on the left, but my geography’s not so good. Could be Europe, Russia and Asia (left to right).

  12. Beautiful. The monochromeness of the porch and the furniture make it a very “clean” look. Sneaky.

  13. The chairs, they are lovely. And the porch, the very picture of porch-ness. But Ann, where’s the pitcher of tea?

  14. Nice work, m’dear! Can’t wait to see the cushions. Will they involve miters?

  15. I like them a lot!!

  16. New paint! Very cool.
    But I’m much more interested in this other blog you have . . . The url doesn’t seem to work . . .
    No link?
    (haha . . . I can just imagine . . . )

  17. Niiiice!!!

  18. I liked the peelyness too, but they look great painted, and are awaiting cushions and knitting water, I believe.

  19. Ah. Ginger (and you, Ann) must be like my husband who cannot BEAR peeling paint. I, myself, rather like it under certain circumstances. But… your gloppy chairs are smashing! Can’t wait to see the cushions!

  20. I’d say what’s missing is a nice tall glass of lemonade, a good book and a gentle breeze. Looks great!

  21. Not only does that porch look oh so inviting, but I really love the hardwood deck! Almost pique? Parque? I dunno what that is called, but it is loverly!
    Also, thanks for the now incurable warshrag disease you have given me.

  22. OMG I want the chairs and that porch! That looks like heaven!

  23. LOVE THOSE CHAIRS!!!!! I wish that I could enjoy them in your lovely venue! They turned out beautifully!

  24. So, I stop by and see “Dear Kay” and then I see fabric and I panic–not BOTH of them? Then I start reading. NO, it’s not some cool new Hoffman print, it’s peeling paint and I love it. I also love the textured cream FOs.
    Then again, I am still under the influence of those mahvelous colonoscopy drugs so maybe I should hold all judgment calls until tomorrow…(all is well, girls, not to worry)
    It all looks so great at Monteagle. Sweet tea and shortbread would complete the picture.

  25. You just HAD to be all tasteful about it with the cream, now, didn’t you. They look super lovely and if they didn’t have the lumps and bumps the neighbors would think you were getting all nouveau and Targetty. Why does that last picture make me feel like a game of Canasta and a piece of pie? xoxo Kay

  26. What a great porch you have!! Can I come knit on it? πŸ™‚

  27. Your porch looks like Country Homes! How beautiful! While you’re knitting those cushions, why don’t you take a little of that leftover sandpaper and just give the edges a little rub, just a little.

  28. Palimsest…..When I was in high school I worked at a store called Palimpsest! Really! It was the greatest place. All paper, all kinds, pens, markers, stamps (in the 70’s before stamping was cool) wax to melt on your envelopes……………
    Billy Pair’s mom owned it. It was the best. Thanks for reminding….the chair at Palimpsest was old, dark wood with a black leather seat.

  29. I love painting. And I love that you can make me love reading about painting. I think those chairs are magnificent.

  30. Very Country Living!
    I too love the look of peeling paint – it’s the texture & the hidden layers revealing themselves.
    Can’t wait to see the cushions.

  31. those chairs looks so inviting! can’t wait to see the cushions you knit up!
    ps. I did not know Kay has an aversion to peeling paint ….. maybe I need to get out the wire brush before she comes over ….

  32. I saw the globe too, Martha!
    I am enjoying your book very much, Kay and Ann!!!

  33. Oh, man, I think I would have picked the hike!
    They do look quite nice, though.

  34. How long did this project take, anyway? OY!
    The chairs and the porch (and that flooring!) are beautiful. Love it all.
    Go eat at Pearl’s this week.

  35. Very cool, I hope! Hanging out on a porch in the summer is one of those really nice things to do.

  36. Nice job on the chairs! They look beautiful and perfect for sittin’ and knittin’ – chair cushions, that is. πŸ™‚

  37. Looks like a shot from a Pottery Barn catalog! They are lovely.

  38. palimpsest: a parchment or the like from which writing has been partially or completely erased to make to make room for another text.
    I love when you make me go look up words. Miss y’all.

    Are you all aware that Project Runway has begun Season #3? Episode #2 airs tonight.

  40. ANN!!!
    Please pass this on to Mary Neal. She can e-mail me. We are having a meet-up, complete with our own sale at Loopy Yarns in a few weeks. Friday, August 11th. Would love for her to join us. It’s mainly people from Knitty coffeeshop, but the more the merrier!!

  41. Well done! Thanks for making me smile.

  42. Just had to add an extra comment –
    my morning trawl through the knitting blogs with a cup of Earl Grey has been punctuated by exclaimatons of “Mummy’s!”. Kai (now 2!) is pointing at any pictures of yarn and/or knitting & declaring them to be mine!
    (I wish!)
    Had to share as I thought you two would get the cuteness of it.

  43. *love* this moment of craft-blog-serendipity– i’m posting right after Jo, and i remember fondly being on tenterhooks while she was going into labour with Kai on these very comment pages!
    Ann, the porch furniture *is* Nice. it’s better than Nice. it’s so inviting. wish i could sit right down and do some knitting on that porch!!

  44. Oooooo, but imagine how beautiful they’re going to look when the creamy wears off! Oh wait, you mentioned that already…darn. I think they all look wonderfully inviting on that big ‘ole porch! Looks soooooo Southern!


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