A Bistro Set Makeover with an Unexpected Surprise

June 8, 2010

So as I was touring the backyard the other day, I realized there’s definitely some sprucing that needs to happen, especially with guests coming on the Fourth. 

As I meandered up the hill behind the grapevines, I was reminded of the thrift store bistro set I found a couple of years ago that I had every intention of refinishing but I just never got around to it.   The set sits on a little gravel patio that has a great view of the vines, but it certainly been been neglected.  After leaving the bistro set out all winter (so dumb), the set was, how shall I say . . . . what’s the word ?  . . . oh yes.  


I meant there was moss growing on top of the table, the paint was chipping everywhere, and it was covered in spiderwebs.  ICK. ICK. ICK. 

So I decided the time had come to give it a makeover.  I convinced myself I’d have a fresh new set in no time at all with just a little paint and fabric.   Well, that’s what I did, repainted and recovered the seats.  But in the middle of my revamp, something rather unexpected happened.  Something I hate to relive.  But you’ve just got to know. 

First, take a looky loo at this retro bistro set Before:

bistro before


And After:

bistro after


Purty, huh ? 

It’s just such a great set for sitting and watching the grapes grow. 

chairs after 2


The Revamp:

So the first thing I did to revamp it was carry the set all the way down the hill into the front driveway. I had every intention of spray painting it, so I need a wide open well ventilated spot. 

Wearing a mask AND goggles, I sanded the top of the metal table with my orbital Black & Decker.  Moss and paint particles went flying everywhere, hence the mask.     

 sand top of table


Then it was time to give the spiderweb covered set a good scrub and power wash.  So I filled my carwash bucket with suds and began to scrub. 

But then I felt some beady eyes staring at me. 

beady eyes


Oh, you can’t quite see down that disgusting umbrella pole chamber ? 

Neither could I at first. 

Then a creature from ‘Arachnophobia’ leapt out of the middle. 


2  inch spider (2)




Let’s move in a hint closer shall we ?

giant black widow

That would be an extra large poisonous black widow spider ready to pounce. 




First, I have to tell you I am not typically afraid of spiders.  In fact and in general, they do not scare me at all.  I find most spiders useful and think the little ones are kind of cute.  But my reaction to spiders is based solely on size. 

My Sliding Scale of Responses to Spiders:

1/2 inch or less:  “Awww, how cute, hey kids, come look at the baby spider!”

1/2 inch to 1 inch garden spider:  “I see your value – you may live in my garden at least 20 feet from the house.”

1 inch to 2 inches:  “You shall swim with the fishes.”   Translation: you shall be flushed down the toilet. 

2 inches or more:  “Holy mother of God – EEEEKKK – call animal control !” 


I didn’t know what to do at first – I’d NEVER seen a black widow this big before, usually they’re only an inch big, but this mama was twice that size and had molted many times.   I panicked.  Then my primordial mama bear instinct kicked in and I killed it with a big garden spade.  What’s a mother to do with small children nearby ?   EEEEEEKKK !   So it perished at my hand.  

When Mr. CG came home and I showed him the pictures, he said this, I’m not kidding, “Why didn’t you preserve it for the Natural History Museum for future study?”

“Um.  Because it’s a black widow spider.  And I’m a mom.”  

Needless to say, for the rest of the day, with every wisp of hair that brushed my cheek, I felt like there was something creepy crawling on me.  

The worst part is I realized that I carried that table all the way down the hill, over 30 stairs, with that poisonous spider inches from my fingers.  EEEEEKK !!!!

Sorry, I just had to share that eerie experience. 

Those of you who live in the country near woodpiles feel free to mock me.

Now back to my revamp. 



primer and paint


After my close encounter, I power washed the entire set, then gave the table and chairs one coat of white primer and two coats of spray paint in Rustoleum’s ‘Shell White’, designed for outdoor metal furniture.   

Yep, I cheated on my favorite ‘Heirloom White’.

Since the set was spray painted outside, I also lightly sanded between coats with a sanding wedge to rid the surface of the few teeny floating particles that got stuck in the surface. 



I recovered the seats with some medallion print outdoor fabric I found at Joann’s – ‘Morgan Tile’ in cardinal. 

fabric and foam


With the help of some 1” foam and a staple gun,  the seats got more comfortable and more stylish.  

chairs before and after

I just love the retro look of this outdoor bistro set !

Total cost for the makeover ?  $12 in spray paint + $9 in fabric + $15 in foam = $36 dollars.   

bistro after

chairs after 2

    The perfect spot for lemonade.

What about you ?  Are you shaking up your spray paint cans to makeover some furniture this summer ?  Had any creepy experiences with a poisonous spider ?  Do share !



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151 Responses to “A Bistro Set Makeover with an Unexpected Surprise”

  1. Addie says:

    I hear you on the spiders! We had a huge black widow on our back porch & my husband tried to scoot it into the grass so it wouldn’t make such a huge mess on the patio. But I was afraid it would get away & bite one of my children, so I just smashed it with the shoe. It still gives me the heebie jeebies thinking about it!

  2. Lisa~ says:

    The bistro set look great and you did a wonderful job. But I’m not sitting there (shutter!!). Lisa~

  3. Jaimie says:

    The bistro set looks amazing. So cute.

    But honestly, I feel bad for that spider. She probably thought she found a great new home to live in uninterrupted, only to be squashed a few weeks (or a couple years) later. I understand, when you have small children, you don’t want to put them at risk, but it still makes me a little sad.

  4. kelley blake says:

    Oh my gosh SCARY SPIDER! I would have possibly passed out after seeing that monster! You’re so brave! And that bistro set looks great! Yay for battling the black widow and tackling the mold and debris on the set! :)

  5. shelly says:

    It looks great! I hate that feeling like a bug in on you! Creep-tastic!

  6. kristina says:

    Ya that is a big one..

    Ran into one that size a couple months ago at Goodwill. I was browsing the furniture area for treasures… and there she was heading across the floor. I froze and shouted “OH MY GOD, is that a black widow???” So a lady came over and said “YEP” and smooshed it. (live in a rural area). Figured it was probably hanging out in a piece that was stored in a barn or something.

    Certainly makes me take a second look at furniture I’m checking out.. I certainly don’t need to bring one into my living room.

  7. jenjen says:

    Scary spider – eeek! I love your bistro set though. the yellow paired with the red is a beautiful combination. Very nice!


  8. Rhonda says:

    My daughter almost picked up a black widow last year, so I am with you on the arachnophobia! Great bistro set… the cushions kinda coordinate with the hourglass from the spider – LOL!

  9. Stephanie says:

    I share your feeling about spiders. Most I am fine with as long as they stay in the garden. I constantly find black widows around the exterior of my house and pool. I find it interesting that my dog will “attack” and proceed to chew almost any spider it finds crawling around except a black widow!

    Your table and chairs look great!

  10. OMG – my skin is still crawling just from reading this! I hate spiders, although I have become slightly immune to the little ones since I do a lot of gardening. Nowadays, how loud I scream depends on how big and how fast the spider is!

  11. Victoria says:

    Very nice!…gorgeous work as always :-)

  12. Doreen R says:

    That looks awesome. You did a rocking job.

  13. Amy says:

    Why, oh why would you share that with us? I hate spiders, now I’m gonna have that creepy crawly feeling all day.
    Cool bistro set though…

  14. Kristin says:

    Such a gorgeous transformation Kate. It’s such the perfect spot as well. Ok the spider ummmm……I hate spiders :)

  15. Stacy says:

    Great transformation…I love your style and all of the befores and afters…you have been such an inspiration to me! I just started my blog this week! I have so much to learn and my blog needs lots of work, but you gotta start somewhere I suppose. Black widows are common here in AZ and I too have had close run-ins with them, along with rattlesnakes and scorpions…yuck! Hate them! Good reminder to be careful when working with old furniture that has been outside.

  16. Beth says:

    I hate spiders! Now I’ll be slapping my face everytime my hair touches my cheek!!! Maybe I should stay home today so people don’t think I have some kind of slapping-face-disease. :)
    I Love that fabric!
    Great job, as usual!

  17. kathysue says:

    That was one large widow!! Yikes!! Even reading it I felt something on my leg and had to check and make sure it was not a bug. The set turned out darling. I have had my original glass top garden set from the 70s in my garage waiting for a makeover, this has inspired me to do it!! No lets see if Hubby is up for some spray painting,Kathysue

  18. Brenda Moore says:

    I cant say I’ve laughed so hard in a long time!!!

    I wonder what it was thinking when it saw the multitude of spades coming down on it, as they have all those damned eyes to go with all those damned legs.

  19. OMG – hysterical! I would have TOTALLY killed that thing. I’ve never seen a black widow spider before. I don’t think we have them in Massachusetts (at least not unless they’re kept as a pet and escape). Eek!

    The good news is, the bistro set now looks great! I really like that fabric.

  20. Diane says:

    Did you have to unscrew the chair seat from the the chair frame to wrap the fabric around and staple it? I love this!!

  21. Jody Davidson says:

    I have ONE of these chairs. I am pretty sure it is identical to yours. It is at my mom’s. I live on the IN/MI border but if you want to pay shipping you may have it.

  22. this was such a hilarious post! if you were here in Malaysia, “all creatures great and small” will take on a new meaning for you! i LOVE your bistro set!

  23. Amanda says:

    OH MY GOSH!! Black widow?! So scary! Love the makeover but I’m freaking out (for you) about the spider!!

  24. Jen says:

    Ha! This post cracked me up. I am not particularly scared of spiders either but, like you, the bigger they are, the more freaked out I get. I grew up in Phoenix where we had to worry about spiders AND scorpions AND rattlesnakes! Now spiders I can handle…but snakes? Forget it! Glad you showed that black widow who was boss and managed another great revamp!

  25. Virginia says:

    Lemonade? Watching Syrah grapes grow – wine baby, wine!

  26. Pam says:

    Looks great…and I hope you took care of that ugly creature.

  27. Dawn says:

    The bistro set is too cute. I love it!!! I have the same sliding scale for spiders…Eeeeek!

  28. Katharine says:

    I feel the same way with spiders. They are everywhere in my neighborhood because 40+ years ago there were Almond Grove and I have large mulberry trees in my yard. The first time I knew we had black spiders was when my husband told me that he found one in my (then 2 years old) daughter’s toy chest. I had to teach her real young…this is a bad spider and the daddy long leg is a good spider. Yikes!! Other spiders I let be except if I’m having a party then I attack spider webs inside and out. At halloween my daughter wanted to buy spider web stuff and I said huh, we have the real thing. lol

  29. Nancy says:

    That bistro set turned out darling! Oh…. I found a link to your blog (and mine too!) on a RUSSIAN website. I’m sending the site and I also translated it with Babelfish translator. Thought you might get a kick out of this. Too funny!


  30. Elena says:

    I understand you perfectly… look what was my surprise last week in the backyard: http://ministryofdeco.blogspot.com/2010/06/que-miedo.html

  31. Lizzie says:

    My first thought is did you plug the hole so future spiders don’t crawl in there? I would have to or I could never sit there. Nice job, as always.

  32. Kate says:

    Just wandered upon your website today. Great work on the bistro set. I include “de-spider” as part of my reclaimed furniture process before anything else. I probably would have had to abandon ship if I found the 2inch black widow though. Everyone has their limits.

  33. Debbie P says:

    Oh, my God! I don’t know how you even continued with your project after that, let alone had the courage to take photos! Just looking at the pictures is scary enough. I think after I showed them to my hubby, if I even got that far, I’d have deleted them so I’d never have to see them again! Of course, that image would be (and is) etched in my mind for the rest of time! I am not like you and are pretty much afraid of all spiders, though I guess daddy long legs aren’t too bad. I’ve never seen a black widow, and hope I never do, cuz I’m not sure I’d live through it!
    On the other hand. your patio set is now gorgeous, so I guess it was worth it. I guess. Maybe. Yeah, it’s worth it. It does look like the perfect spot for a glass of lemonade or maybe a nice glass of wine! Great job, and you’re braver than me…

  34. Cheyanne says:

    Great transformation of the bistro set. I’ve got a long neglected one of my own that I’ve been putting off re-doing. This might just be enough motivation to get me started.

    I’ve got to say that I love that although you were probably scared to bits you could find the courage t take a nice close picture of that black widow. It just wouldn’t be the same trying to describe it would it?


  35. Cristel says:

    happened upon your site from a series of sites that I follow and Love it! Bistro is fantastic! Love Love the fabric! As for the spider I have zero tolerance! My nephew was bitten by a brown recluse several years ago while he slept, had to be life lined to the Children’s Hospital, nearly lost his life and then his arm. Thank God for doctors that knew how to deal w/ it and how critical the the bite was from the onset. 2 surgeries later he is fine minus a lot of forearm muscle tissue and some thin bone scraping he has full use of his arm back. Praise God! But the poor guy is a ninny when it comes to bugs of any kind now and so is everyone else in our family. I would have killed it too!!! I always worry when I am at auctions, consignments and the like that there is a deadly spider waiting to bite me so I debug everything! I must say that the pics you were able to take are awesome!

  36. Judi says:

    A few years ago I decided to spray paint a wicker chair a different color. So, I hauled the chair out and put it on a plastic tarp and sprayed away. It started to rain and so I opened the garage door and slid the chair into the garage. Well, it sat there a few days before I got it in the house. I put it in the corner of our bedroom complete with new cushions. It looked so nice!! The next morning I got up and had an itchy little red spot on my ring finger and on my forearm. I took my ring off, thank god, because I thought the finger was swelling a little bit. By noon I was at the doctors and by five I was at a specialist who was trying to save my finger. I had been bitten by a brown recluse spider. They had to scrape all the skin off down to the bone. My finger was black and I’ve never had anything that hurt as badly as that bite. It took forever to heal. The bite on my arm wasn’t as severe as the one on my finger–the doc’s think it was the second bite and didn’t get as much poison. The exterminator that we called said his wife had been bitten on her leg several years ago and almost lost her leg. As you might guess I’m very careful to de-spider anything before I bring it in my house!!

    BTW I love your bistro set

  37. Joanne says:

    OK…I knew there were reasons I live in Northern BC Canada…no black widows and rarely a spider that large! I love the bistro set though…just need to find DIY set myself…off to the recycle shed I go!

  38. Julie says:

    So, thanks to your high resolution camera and pinache with photography I am know sick to my stomach! YUCK!!! A girl’s gotta to what a girl’s gotta do. You should be proud of yourself for continuing your project after a close encounter like that!!! The bistro set looks adorable, by the way! But you couldn’t pay me to sit there!

  39. Katie says:

    I LOVE your idea for this! I am using it on my inspiration page on my website!

  40. Vivian says:

    Finally, someone who described my feelings about spiders to a tee! Three days ago I came across my first two inch spoked-legged spider that made me jump out of my skin. My creepy basement laundry room and family room half bath are being converted into a finished 3/4 bath and finished laundry room oasis. The toilet has been relocated. So of course, there is open earth with exposed pipe in the ground. I was happily taking a million ‘BEFORE” shots of all the construction mess while barefoot. Then I saw ‘IT’ running towards me and my feet! I’m so not afraid of spiders like every one I know. I love that they not only stay out of my kitchen and cupboards but they set up little webs to catch other non-welcome critters. Who can hate that?? But this spider experience made for an instant screamfest. I yelled blood curdling screams for my 15 year old son to come save me. He came running and I just knew he was going to roll his eyes at me. Surprisingly he froze in silence when he saw it. Even he was careful. He managed to grab some nearby shelved wasp/hornet spray and soak it like nobody’s business. I stood there cringing and shivering in disgust while watching it die a slow death. Ever since, I’ve been so stinkin’ jumpy! It wasn’t even the deadly kind either. Anywhoo, your adventure made me laugh out loud happily knowing somebody out there knows exactly what I just went through. I’m so glad you’re still alive.

  41. I have to tell you that I too subscribe to your sliding scale of spider reactions.

    Hate to break the news to people in the Pacific Northwest, but we have black widow spiders here, too. Just remember they like dark places to spin their webs, spaces like between boxes and the spaces between boxes and garage/shed walls, and keep your hands and fingers outta them! Bug bombs and wear gloves!

    Most of our spiders are harmless, tho’ but the rule of thumb is…those big enough to be ridden with a saddle must stay outdoors and tied up at the hitchingpost! (Just a little western humor)!

    Just found your site in a link from Mary @ Owlhaven.net. Love your projects, I’ll be here all day catching up! Thanks for sharing!

  42. Lisa says:

    Love the set – and I really relate to your spider story. I recently moved and one day after returning home from a business had the same spider of the same size fall down and greet me at my door. I quickly grabbed the wasp spray (conveniently located within arms reach) and used 1/3 of the can on it. It fell to the bottom of the door and began digging with it’s legs into the foam pipe cover I use as a weatherstrip on my door. It sounded like a mouse scrapping up a wall. I looked closer and the stupid thing was trying to lay an egg sack – I used the rest of the spray on it and stuck it on the table for my family to inspect upon their arrival – I knew if I told them the story they would not believe the size if they didn’t see it for themselves!

  43. […] respirator is essential when spray painting, and the goggles are necessary when particles like paint chips or sawdust go flying.  Safety […]

  44. […] I had a close encounter with a black widow spider while trying to makeover a bistro set. […]

  45. What a creepy spider story. Makes me just shudder. You are a brave, brave girl. I might have passed out, but then again with two little ones, I might have done exactly what you did! Lovely little bistro set by the way!

  46. Jenn says:

    I’m right there with you on the death of the black widow. They move much faster than you would expect and are not to be messed with.

    Her sisters can carry on elsewhere. She just crossed the wrong line!

  47. Erica says:

    Wow, the set came out great! I actually have a similar set an this post inspired me to update it this summer. One issue I have though is that I have some rust on the legs of the table. Do you have suggestions on how to get the rust off the metal before priming and painting? Thanks so much! I really appreciate your advice!

  48. I had a similar experience with carrying a table in the back yard. Since I felt it crawl over my fingers I’m glad it wasn’t poisonous!

  49. Zobiana says:

    The bistro set is lovely. The story gives me the creeps, though. You are much braver than I am. I once came across a spider the size of my thumb, that was making a web in the folds of my kitchen curtains. I still have no idea what kind of spider it was – I live near the river in Montreal. I freaked, it (thank God!) fell in the sink so I turned the tap on and flushed him down. I STILL can’t touch my kitchen curtains without carefully examining them first. My man doesn’t believe in killing them, he likes to get a peice of paper and carefully escort them outside. Not me. Trespassers will die, their body thrown outside as a warning to their brother and sister spiders.

  50. EvelynV says:

    i just wanted to say that this project is si great. i have an antic outdoor table and chair set that has been sitting out side in my yard for 6 mo with no love. i plan on havin my husban d ( while i wait safeli behing a screen door with my three dogs) to power wash and paint it. and then i will sew new covers and seat for the chairs since they dont have any. i love your site. its very insperational. thanks

  51. LMAO! I love that you have “spider” in the tags of this post.
    I would have nearly passed out if I would have come within 10 feet of that spider. Holy camoly… I would have smushed it, then stomped on it, then lit the remains on fire, just to make sure it was dead. EEEEEEWWWW!

    Great patio set redo, by the way ;)

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