How to Restore a 1950s Chrome Kitchen Table & Chairs

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Things You'll Need

  • Fine-grade steel wool

  • Lacquer remover

  • Chrome polish

  • Naval jelly

  • Emery cloth or 0000 steel wool

  • Cloth

  • Mineral spirits

  • Masking tape

  • White primer

  • 320-grit metal sandpaper

  • Chrome spray paint

  • Lacquer spray

  • Vinyl cleaner

  • Sponge

Tip

If the upholstery needs to be replaced, remove staples holding the old upholstery on the chair seats and backs and use the old material as a template for the new. Staple new material on in the same fashion as the old. Fabric batting may be added beneath the vinyl for added plushness.

Wet, balled up aluminum foil can be used to remove rust on chrome in place of chemicals. Rubbing the foil on chrome, with water, creates a chemical reaction that cleans and polishes chrome.

Warning

Some chrome furniture—particularly if it’s peeling—needs to be re-plated by a professional. Re-plating chrome furniture can be very expensive.

Wear a protective mask and gloves. Some of the chemicals used in the process can be harmful to skin. Read and follow the directions on each product.

Paint outdoors on a non-windy day, or in a well-ventilated area to avoid breathing in fumes.

It may look like it belongs in a junkyard, but with patience, elbow grease and the correct technique, you can restore a chrome kitchen table and chairs to near its original beauty. The resurgence of retro furniture has spawned many do-it-yourself projects. According to Dante Restorations' owner, Marcos Estrada, the restoration process for a chrome kitchen table and chairs takes close to a week. The required materials can be purchased at local hardware stores.

Step 1

Test an inconspicuous part of the metal to ascertain whether old lacquer is part of the dullness and pitting problem. Use fine-grade steel wool and lacquer remover. This could expose shiny chrome underneath. In that case, simply apply a chrome polish.

Step 2

Remove rust with naval jelly. Apply a moderate amount of the naval jelly because it is very strong. Use it only on affected areas, as it could weaken areas not rusted. Sand the entire surface of the metal with an emery cloth or very fine-grade steel wool, such as 0000 steel wool.

Step 3

Wipe the chrome parts of table and chairs with a cloth that has been doused in mineral spirits. Do not use water, as it contains calcium and will sit on metal surfaces and create stains.

Step 4

Remove the seats and backs of the 1950s chrome chairs. Apply masking tape around the parts of the tabletop that are not chrome.

Step 5

Spray the chrome parts of the furniture with a primer—preferably white primer. Apply several coats, and let it dry thoroughly. Smooth rough spots with 320-grit metal sandpaper.

Step 6

Layer several coats of chrome spray paint. Purchase chrome rather than a silver color as its appearance is very close to the original chrome. Allow at least two hours between each coat for a proper shine.

Step 7

Lacquer the metal as an extra protection against further rust. Use a water-based lacquer spray. Wait at least five days before putting the furniture back together. This ensures proper drying and eliminates scratches on the painted surfaces.

Step 8

Clean the vinyl parts of the kitchen set with a vinyl cleaner and a sponge. Wipe down again with a damp sponge and dry with a cloth.

references & resources

Karen LoBello

Karen LoBello is coauthor of “The Great PJ Elf Chase: A Christmas Eve Tradition.” She began writing in 2009, following a career as a Nevada teacher. LoBello holds a bachelor's degree in K-8 education, a secondary degree in early childhood education and a master's degree in computer education.