How to Re-Upholster a Chair

September 07, 2012

You may remember this mid century beauty that I picked up earlier in the summer. My goal was to finish it before school started and I just about did it, finishing on the evening after the first day! I am SO happy with how it turned out! You would never know it was the same chair!

The whole thing cost me about $20. I got the chair for free as I rescued it from a friend who was going to throw it out. The fabric was on sale for 75% off, coming in at 8$/meter (I used about a meter and a half). The paint for the arms and legs cost me $7. I reused all the screws and hardware to rebuild the chair after it was painted and upholstered, but had to buy new furniture nails for the back and some wood plugs to cover the screw holes (coming in about $5).

Here's the before and after:

The first step was to take the chair apart. I started with the arms, which were screwed onto the sides of the seat of the chair as well as the back. 
Then I took off the back of the chair which was screwed onto the seat of the chair at the back. It all came apart quite easily. 
Then I began taking the previous fabric off the chair. I started with the seat, being careful not to rip or cut the fabric as I wanted to use the pieces as a pattern for my new fabric. 
All I used was some small pliers to pull out the staples. The fabric was not sewn on at all, just stapled tightly. 

There was another layer of fabric underneath, which I began to take off as well, but decided it wasn't necessary as it was holding all the batting and foam together on the seat. This was all in fine condition, so I left the oldest fabric on and covered over it. 
Taking out staples on the back....
As soon as the pieces were all removed, I had to prepare the wood parts for painting.  
I sanded them all with fine sandpaper and then went over them with fine steel wool. This chair was so old, that the stain  just sloughed off easily with little elbow grease! Bonus!

Next I moved all the pieces to the garage to paint them. I used a black, gloss finish spray paint. I had to hang the arms between 2 sawhorses as the whole 360 degrees of them needed to be covered in paint. 

After 2 coats of paint and a day or so of drying time, I was ready to put it all back together. I laid the original fabric pieces out on my new fabric and cut around them, making them a little bigger than the old ones. I wanted to make sure I had lots of extra fabric on the edges to that I had lots to hold onto while I was stretching the fabric taut around the seat and back. 
I started with the seat and stapled all four sides first, stretching it and pulling it as tightly as possible. I did the corners last, folding them as if I was wrapping a present and being careful not to staple a single wrinkle into the edges or top. 

When it was all stapled down, I trimmed all the excess fabric off. 
I did the same thing with the back, stapling and pulling it tight as I went. I had to cut 2 slits in the fabric in order to stretch it around the wood pieces. 

I trimmed off the excess and was ready to put the back on! This would have been where I would have had to add the covered buttons to the front, but I decided to leave them out because the fabric I was using was already quite busy. I just didn't think I needed them. 
Lastly, I used silver furniture nails to hammer the back piece of fabric on. I couldn't use staples, as this part would show. I folded the edges of the fabric under as I went and evenly spaced my nails around the perimeter of the back, still pulling it tight as I went.  

Mr. Tweedle helped me screw it back together! 
We used a needle to poke through the fabric in the general area of where the old screw holes were  in order to find them and use them same holes again. 

The last step was to cover the screw holes with these wooden buttons, which I had bought and painted when I painted the rest of the chair pieces. 
TA DA!!!!
It looks great in our bedroom!


I'm linking this post up with Primitive and Proper


  1. wow, great fabric!

    also, I've been going through your wedding posts - love your dress, especially the lace!

  2. Love it! bet your friend is kicking herself now for getting rid of it!

  3. beautiful job! i love the black and love the fabric!

  4. Love love love it im dying to find the right chair to try yours turned out fabulous


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