DIY Decoupage Map Chairs

Decoupage Furniture Tutorial | Wood Desk

Map Desk Decoupage

I know what you want to say to me.

You want to tell me that you’ve already seen decoupage map furniture.

It’s ok, I know.

But, the heart wants what the heart wants…

And this time, it wanted another map chair.  Uh… desk.  Map chair desk thing.

My fondness for a project like this began when a friend, (I’ll call her Lisa) showed me a picture of an Anthropologie Map Chair.

Instantly, I was distracted.  I started seeing everything covered in maps.

Chairs, tables, my dishwasher… maps on everything!

It was a rough few days until this friend, Lisa, dropped off a set of six vintage school chairs.

Vintage Desk Chairs

I swear, if chairs could talk and jump around like puppies, thats exactly what these were doing.

They were begging to be covered in maps.

Six completed map chairs later, I was hooked.  I could never look at vintage school furniture the same again.

Map Chair

While out looking around with my husband, we stumbled upon this little Student Chair Desk Combo at a local thrift store.

Decoupage Map Chair

Those who know me can predict what happened next.

Yup, paid the ten bucks.

Yeah my husband carried out to the car.

And, yes…. when I got home I was itching to take it apart.

I removed the desk top, but didn’t mess with the fat rivet things holding the seat and back on.

I gotta pick my battles, right?

**Side note to my smarty pants older brother…

“Yes Lynn, I know they can be removed, but not everyone is a chronic overachiever.  I’ll let you have this one.”  😉

After the desktop was off, the real prep began.

If you ask me for advice in life, I will always say you need to research before you begin.



Careful though, you can find yourself looking up from your iphone, wondering when everyone went to bed…

My research this time led me down a path of learning about the American Seating Co.

This desk-chair in one was actually called a “Student Chair-Desk Combo” (circa 1960’s).

What I found peculiar, (love that word) is that post World War II models are both plywood, and veneer.

(Chair is plywood, desktop is mdf with veneer)

For some strange reason, my brain had a problem with this mis-matchy material (I know! Right?!).

However, I soon realized that the soft plywood of the seat, had a gazillion carved initials in it, and the desktop didn’t.

Decoupage Map Chair

(Lightbulb!)  Can you imagine what a mess that desktop would be if it was made of soft plywood too?

Let the sanding, begin!

Decoupage Map Chair

Ok…. gathering supplies…

Decoupage Map Chair

Notice I have Minwax “Wipe-On” Poly sitting there.  Not the brush-on kind.  (More on that later.)

Also notice that the bottle of Mod Podge is purple.  That is because it is a hard-coat version, meant for furniture.

Decoupage Map Chair

The map I chose to use came from this National Geographic Close-Up U.S.A. set.

They are the only maps I will use for any decoupage project.  The paper they are printed on is thick,

(almost like fabric or vinyl) and won’t get soggy and tear like other “paper” maps.

My attempts with any other type of map have failed miserably.

National Geographic started making these sets in 1973, and you can find them all over ebay or Etsy.

Moving on, I used a regular paint brush to coat the desk surface and the backside of the map with Mod Podge.

Student Desk Supplies 2

(Jeez, this stuff dries fast.)

Decoupage Map Chair

Quickly, I smoothed it out.

Decoupage Map ChairDecoupage Map Chair

I had to stand there and smooth for several minutes.  If you have decoupaged before, you feel my pain.

You also know that stuff happens.  This process is never perfect.  Usually, I have too much Mod Podge and it oozes.

(Better to have a lot of ooze, than not enough.)

If I have too much right in the middle and I don’t want to try pushing the undercover bubble of Podge clear across the surface,

I cut a little slit with a razor and smooth it out.  (This works for air bubbles too.)

Decoupage Map Chair

Then, there were those rivet thingys I had to cut around…

Decoupage Map Chair

In case you are wondering why I didn’t cut out my map to the shape of the chair first, This is why:

I’m a shortcut taker sometimes.  But really, I don’t like things to look intentional.

My tracing and cutting ability leaves a lot to be desired.

My lack of skill in this area, would leave this project looking very intentional.

Meaning, it would look exactly like I picked up this chair-desk yesterday, cut out a map,

and glued it on.  I would rather it look like the map’s been there for a while.

That way if someone doesn’t like it, I can shake my head slowly, raise my eyebrows and back up saying:

“Hey- I didn’t do it.  I found it like this.”

So, I apply the map, leaving extra over the edge.  Then with the sandpaper and block, (or with a Dremel Multi-Max)

I edge it.  I keep my sanding strokes going away from the chair, so the map melts and the edge.

Decoupage Map ChairStudent Desk Sanding Edge

This cuts the map better than I ever could with scissors.

I multitasked too…

Decoupage Map Chair

After dusting things off, I applied the Podge with my new favorite bendy scraper.  (Thanks mom!)

I don’t like lines in any type of finish, and Mod Podge is no exception.  (Thant sounded mean…)

What I meant to say was: “To get a smooth application of Mod Podge, I use this flexible scraper in this manner…”

Decoupage Map Chair

Following my application of Mod Podge to the surface of the map, I let it dry overnight.

(I just have to tell you that applying Podge that way, makes me want to frost a cake.)

With the surface dry the next day, I sanded a little, then dusted off.

The next step was my favorite:

The grand finale.

The cherry on top.

The swan song…

Minwax Wipe-On Poly.

I applied it liberally and wiped up any overflow drips along the edges.

Decoupage Map Chair

When I did the chair-back, I had to lay it flat to apply the poly.

The idea around this is to drench it and let it “pool” a little on the surface.

Three coats later, this is what it looked like:

Decoupage Map Chair

So, there you have it.  Check out the Time Lapse of this project!


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