how to paint windsor chairs black

black windsor chairs

As promised, here is a step-by-step guide to painting windsor chairs black. This project took us about two weeks to complete, but only because we did not work on it daily. Transforming these chairs was truly a labor of love.

Where did we get the chairs? Chris bought six windsor chairs for a steal at an estate sale. They were made of beautiful cherry wood, and, at the time, we had no dining room chairs. It was a deal we couldn’t pass up.

cherry wood windsor chairs
Original chairs

Why did we paint over CHERRY wood?! Because our living room and dining room flow into each other and all of our furniture in those two rooms are made of wood. Thus our main living area feels like a heavy, brown, masculine space. We needed something different and modern.

How much did this project cost? Supplies cost about $60. Chris’s dad let us borrow his electric sander (life-saving), so we didn’t purchase any tools besides paint brushes and sandpaper. Obviously, we already owned the chairs.

Now, the nitty gritty details:

First, let me preface by saying this really wasn’t difficult, just very time-consuming and detail oriented. Research and understand what you’re getting into before starting a project like this.

I used the electric sander to rough up the surfaces of the chairs so the paint would stick. Chris followed, sanding the hard-to-reach areas with sandpaper.


Next, we cleaned off the chairs, removing the dust with a vacuum.



Then, we painted the chairs with black milk paint. We used milk paint because, historically, craftsmen used it on windsor chairs. Also, it’s durable with a matte finish. We used sponge brushes to avoid streaks.

First coat of paint

After the first coat, we lightly sanded the chairs with a steel wool. The wool left some fuzz on the chairs which we removed with a cut-up T-shirt.

Second coat
Second coat
Second coat

Our chairs required three coats of paint due to the dark wood color. Once we finished the third and final coat, we applied wax and buffed the chairs by hand.

A few things you might be wondering: Why no primer? Why didn’t you sand the chairs after the last coat of paint?

We didn’t use a primer because, when and if the paint wears or chips, we wanted the natural cherry wood to show, not an unnatural white or grey color.

Final coat with wax finish

We actually started to sand the chairs with 400 grit after the final coat, but the sandpaper was far too rough. Luckily, we tested the sander in a small area first. The sandpaper altered the finish from the matte, so we just skipped that step.

Final coat with wax finish

All of this to say, our cramped hands, aching backs and shivering in the garage were worth it. The chairs add a much needed “pop” to our dining room. Plus, we enjoy the satisfaction of looking at them every day.


Product list:
General Finishes Milk Paint in Lamp Black
Minwax® Paste Finishing Wax in Natural
Foam brushes
Sandpaper – 120 grit for initial sanding, 400 grit for final sanding but didn’t use
0000 grade steel wool

Ask questions or voice opinions in the comments! I’d love to hear feedback.



18 thoughts on “how to paint windsor chairs black

  1. Love them! We are working on a dresser right now and will be using the milk/chalk paint. Why did you choose that brand of paint in particular?


  2. These look beautiful! I’m about to do what you did as well. Can you explain exactly what milk paint is? I’ve seen a lot of DIY talking about this and chalk paint. Also, is the wax a rub on or paint on project?
    Thank you!


    1. Sure! Milk paint is water based, non-toxic, extremely durable. We used the pre-mixed kind, not powder. The wax was in a pot like Vaseline and we just rubbed it on the chairs.


  3. Your chairs look awesome! I was wondering how they are holding up with the wax? I am painting mine now and I haven’t decided on wax or a poly topcoat.


    1. Hi, Liz! They’re holding up pretty well but are starting to show some wear now. My husband doesn’t mind the rustic patina look of the fading paint, but I’d like to touch up the worn spots on the seat edges and chair backs.


  4. Gorgeous!! I’m getting ready to paint some oak pressed back chairs in milk paint with a black wax. Your point about not using white/grey primer was so helpful! I’m wondering how your chairs have held up now that it’s been several years?


    1. Hi, Kendra! The chairs are just now starting to show some wear. The paint is rubbing off on heavily used areas like the edges of the seat and chair backs. We’re considering touching them up and putting a gloss top coat on them. Hope this helps!


  5. What finish was on chairs before you sanded I have wood that has part finish and most pets worn off. Would you recommend sanding off all the finish before painting with milk paint . Would you use chalk paint instead? Would that save me having to sand so much?


    1. We sanded down quite a bit since the chairs originally had a glossy coat on top of cherry wood. I believe if you use chalk paint you technically don’t have to sand, but the finish may not be as smooth.


  6. What color/brand did yo use for the bottom of the table ? Im going to paint my chairs and also my Ethan Allen Table


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