Concrete Faux Bois UpCycled Chair – Part 1

This concrete takes on a new form as it becomes a bit french; Faux Bois which means fake wood. It lets me take concrete design to an even more tactile interesting level. This detailed project spans a few stages… But let’s get started; Part 1 of making this Concrete Faux Bois UpCycled Chair!

The Frame:

I have always marvelled at some of the amazing Faux Bois furniture that has been built by artists. It does however usually involve a welded heavy frame; something that I don’t do (maybe someday!) yet. However I did save a couple iron chair frames that are sturdy and have lovely lines. I knew someday they would hit their full potential.

As you see, they did not have any seat or back since they used to have rattan there. I have seen many a chair with this fate but now they will be a perfect starting point.

The Materials:

There are many ways to add some structure on the frame to hold the concrete. I chose to use whatever material I had on hand; wire (thick & thin tie-wire) metal mesh, plastic gutter mesh, hardware cloth etc and some filler like pool noodles and styrofoam. Only some basic hand tools like pliers, wire cutter, xacto knife, gloves are needed.

I made myself a raised platform (few mild cartons) to be able to work easily as a table would be too tall and the ground too low.

Oh, and did I mention pool noodles too? I had some images of branches in my mind so the round shape would work well. They are hollow in the middle and cut easily to allow placing over the wires. You can even use some pipe-insulation. The rules are pretty lax here.

It’s a Wrap!

Wrapping the mesh and filler around the frame was done with the tie wire. Here’s a tip; to give it a sturdy start make a hook that can be anchored into the mesh or styrofoam.

The Branch & Wood Designs:

Go look at some trees, really look. Branches are usually reaching upward and get thinner as they go. Alternatively they branch out etc. Trees are usually not symmetrical or perfect. I planned a thick branch to travel up and across and added new branches across the seat by first tautly stretching and twisting strong wire. Envision that there will be thicker branches there eventually. Any styrofoam can be used as it will allow it to be lighter and not absorb any moisture in the future.

The leg is like a tree base and curving along. Luckily I have much inspiration available all around me but you can even use the look of old driftwood.

Make sure everything is secured tight and no wires poking out. The plastic gutter mesh was very easy to work with but chicken wire is very similar.

There, do you see the new branches travelling across the seat?! The pool noodles are wrapped tightly with wire as well.

Can you imagine it? DOn’t be too fussy as there will be ways to liken it to branches even more later.

I had some ‘sneaky’ tricks that will help transform the arms later on so I left them for now.

Utilizing Fabric with Cement:

You may know my Step Spook, he has held up great so I am utilizing this draped concrete method as a base coat. To start it is key to find the right fabric as my draped concrete tests as taught me. I prefer something with some way to absorb the portland cement but not be too fluffy and bumpy. An old polyester blanket was just right, thin but takes the portland nicely.

As with the Step Spook I used a Portland Cement slurry. It’s about the consistency of thick cream. If the portland is lumpy it helps to put it through a sieve.

If the fabric is very absorbent it may ‘steal’ the moisture from the concrete but I found that this could be added dry and massaged into the Portland mix.

Let’s get messy!

My intention with this Faux Bois is to wrap the branches well with the cement dipped fabric. Using thicker or thinner strips spirally wrap the branches smoothing as you go along.

This will be the first layer so you can be less fussy. I like the smoothness of the portland cement as I find the sand tends to not get absorbed.

It’s already taking shape… you just need a vision! As long as you can see it, is all that matters! Any parts than seem a bit thin can be coated with some of the Portland Cement slurry painted on so that once cured it’s a good strong shell.

I bet some of my neighbours were wondering what I was doing out back each day. It’s messy sometimes, so I keep these jobs for summer projects outside. Keep the mess down with some of my tips. You should wear a big apron and my new tip; double nitrile gloves!

It’s been brutally hot here so I covered the chair lightly to allow the portland not to dry too quickly as it cures. I even mist it regularly to strengthen it.

It’s not done, but the hard work is done! The next steps will take it over the top! I promise! Won’t you join in my journey of making beautiful permanent furniture out of something that could have ended up in the landfill! Let’s all make a Concrete Faux Bois UpCycled Chair…

Part 2 can be seen here

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  1. I saw some of this Faux Bois recently and it occurred to me that it was only a matter of time before we saw this technique from YOU! Haha! So logically perfect! Love love love all your works!

  2. My husband found an old metal bar chair along the side of the road 6 years ago. I’ve been wanting to do the exact same thing that you’ve done with your chair except using a papercrete finish. I have similar materials saved up to do the job but have lacked the time to start such a project. You have inspired me to “get ‘er done” sooner rather than later as summer will be over soon. I’ll be impatiently waiting to see Part 2 of your faux bois chair. Thank you for sharing your projects!!

  3. Hello Barb,

    I’m wow’ed and grateful you’ve shared your process. I’m wondering, is this intended to be ornamental, or used for sitting? I’m asking because I’m wondering if the substrate of foam noodle in some places, and wire meshes in others, is something that’ll hold up with the weight of a person sitting in it.
    I’ve two cafe style chair frames I salvaged from my local transfer station quite a while back, and was reluctant to put ordinary seats on them. I’d love to try your techniques on them.
    Thanks for any info, and again, for sharing your techniques.

    1. It can be sat in but might be the most comfortable! The layering of the concrete has encased and reinforced the shape quite strong. I can’t imagine how heavy a piece would be if it was all solid, as this is still quite heavy. It will all depend on how thick of a layer you cover with. Rapidset Cementall is a very strong mix as well! Maybe try a small planter or stool project first. I’m hoping to make a table next! Happy making!

  4. Hi….wow love ur sight…I hve made a bird bath out of Portland cement n sand. I’m really happy with it. My first concrete anventure…. I made it 3days ago. When can I paint it. How long should I wait. Thanks. Wendy

    1. I am not sure what climate you are in or how warm it is. I would wait as long as you can as concrete is not a fan of being painted since it likes to ‘breathe’. Maybe just a sealer that would be safe for food as the birds will drink would be better. Something that is used on concrete kitchen counters. Paint will usually need to be fixed after a while. I like it natural or antiqued at best Good luck!

  5. You’re amazing Barb, such an inspiration, love the cement work – the orbs and the chairs are awesome – thanks from New Zealand .

    1. Oh gosh, it’s been a lifetime of loving to make things and now is the time I’m allowing myself to do what ‘I’ want! ‘even if it’s slightly (often a lot) crazy!!! Everyone can be creative if they give themselves the chance…

  6. Hi barb, I love your art and have copied both the ghoul and witch porch sitter. I have this idea as well. I am in the beginning process of making a memorial garden for my daughter that passed this last dec at the age of 29. It was sudden and my family is still reeling from her passing. I am a huge gardener and love unique yard art. I have an idea of wanting to turn a pair of her shoes into a piece of art for her garden but I also want to be able to keep the shoes without damaging them. Is there a way to cover them in some way to make a mold and still be able to keep them? She wore pink glitter converse sneakers at her wedding and these are what I want to use. I want them to be able to appear as though she is walking through her garden. Could you help with advice?
    Thank you

    1. So so sorry for your loss. I have dipped much in concrete but it’s always porous enough to absorb the Portland cement. The problem with just dipping is that the Portland cement slurry will just be on the outside and not really adhere to the canvas/rubber. ‘Maybe’ you could use a thin dipped fabric to cover carefully, almost like paper-mache but portland cement slurry.. All the details may get filled with the concrete unless you fuss with it. If, then try on something not so precious first. Also there are ways to get shoes professionally bronzed. Hmmm, maybe there is a way of making a faux bronze finish on the shoes… Keep them inside and maybe add a plant. The outside elements are quite tough!

  7. i love this chair! i was thinking of using your technique on a metal patio dining table…just wondering if the finished chair was super heavy (as that is a concern for us with our table)? thanks in advance for any guidance.

    1. It is heavy but not as much as if it was sold concrete. I can shuffle it about and my hubby and I move it easily. Just make sure it isn’t likely to tip over and break a foot! Good luck! I also have a table that may get a faux bois makeover!