How to Reupholster a Chair

by Chris on August 31, 2010

Okay. I was trying to find one of my own posts the other day, and I couldn’t. That’s bad. As a result, I’m making my post titles a little “less creative”. No fun…but way less frustrating!

Alert! Alert! There are a LOT of words in this post. Prepare yourself.

You’ve asked, and I’ve heard ya. You want a tutorial. You want me to say, “Oh, it was such a breeze. These three pictures will walk you through the easy peasy process.” That’s not gonna happen.  I really did try to be conscious of taking pictures throughout this “easy” project, but I definitely skipped over some steps—usually the ones that made me want to cry.  Here goes.

First, rip off all the old fabric. For me, this was a combination of a pair of needle nose pliars, and a flat head screwdriver. There were approximately 7,301 staples. It’ll take forever, and you’ll never want to do it again.  It will basically become a shell once you’re done.  I did NOT worry about removing every single staple. There were plenty left behind, but it was the staples or my nerves. I chose my nerves.

chair frame

Everybody told me to save the old fabric as a pattern. I did that. I didn’t use it, however.  In hindsight, it would have helped me around the front arms, but I was afraid it wouldn’t work for me. That’s up to you.

chair pattern

Because I couldn’t use the archaic fluff/ batting in the back of the chair, I bought a piece of fiberfill/padding to replace it with.  I simply laid the chair on it, and drew out a stencil. Then I cut it out to fit.

chair backing

One of the most difficult parts was getting the back fabric on. I chose a linear fabric—bad idea. Notice the squigglies. I stapled it at the centers and just pulled around as I went. On top of this fabric is an upholstery “ribbon” to offer some support for the back. Just one strip, but I imagine you could use more.

reupholster chair

Once the back fabric was on, I stuffed the batting into the shape of the chair. I used the new batting as my stencil for the fabric for this section. I laid it on my fabric and cut a couple inches more around it.

how to reupholster a chair

This is probably the best picture to show you the back portion. I stapled, stapled, stapled. This was a fairly easy section to work on. I bought an electric stapler at Lowes for $30.00. I would never have done this with a manual stapler. I got a blister using the one I had—I can’t imagine what my hands would have looked like without it.

chair reupholstered

Onto the seat. Since the cushion was in fairly good condition, I opted to leave it on. I did put a layer of batting over it just to keep the seat smooth. I stapled it on and trimmed off the excess.

chair foam batting

Here’s a good picture to show that it’s just kind of cut around the arms. The old cushion can be seen underneath.

IMG_3089

recovering chair

Well, here’s where it gets tricky. The arms. Ick. I hated them. This is where I wish I would have used the old fabric for a template. I didn’t, and it shows. You can see there’s a slight tear right behind the arm. If this was going to be used as a more functional chair, I would have re-cut the fabric. Since it’s mostly a “show chair”, I didn’t worry about it. I just kept tucking, and pulling until I got the best look. Then, stapled.chair trim

The other tricky part was making the corners smooth around the seat cushion. I imagine everyone has their preference as to how it should be tucked. There’s no set way, I guess. I just tried to make it as smooth as possible, and I stapled it on!

reupholster chair

chair tutorial

Once all your staples are in place, it’ll be a little tricky to make sure you trim all the excess fabric around them. You don’t want it to show on the other side of the decorative cording. That was kind of a pain.louis philippe chair

The easiest (and final) part is the trim. I chose a chunkier trim because I knew my staples would be a bit wonky. Every bit of coverage helped me! Nothing fancy here. I just hot glued it all the way around.

IMG_3097

I let the hot glue set for just a couple seconds before applying the trim. It saved me from another second degree burn, and it kept the glue from oozing out around the edges too much.

chair trim

Here’s a close up of some of the details just to see. Far from perfect, but who looks that closely anyway?

french chair

My fingers are crossed that my company stays about 6 feet away from it and looks at it from a 33 degree angle with their eyes slightly closed. Then, it’ll look just perfect!french chair

I can’t imagine I answered every question you have, so feel free to Facebook me if you need more info! A couple of people have asked about the fabric/paint. The paint is Benjamin Moore’s White Dove, and the fabric is Tommy Bahama San Cristobal.

Disclaimer: I am in no way an expert on reupholstering furniture. I KNOW there is a better way to do this, but it’s a scary thing to attempt. I want people to know that it can be done. It might not be perfection, but it sure did save money! Good luck!!!!!

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{ 39 comments }

La Vita Bella August 31, 2010 at 4:03 am

Thanks so much for sharing. I think it looks great! It's not easy to reupholster chairs and make it look perfect. I think it turned out so well. :)

susan August 31, 2010 at 4:03 am

I'm still impressed! I have fits just recovering my very simple outdoor cushions each year. I'm glad you didn't sugarcoat it! I should have skipped college and learned to sew and upholster :) I think the chair is fabulous!

Ashley Ann August 31, 2010 at 4:08 am

At least you have the guts to jump in and do it! However long it may have taken to get to that point. :) Great tute! You should be proud, it looks amazing! Of course, I have an eyepatch on and am squinting my good eye…J/K!! :)

Camie at "Home is where they love you" August 31, 2010 at 4:09 am

Ummm…you are my hero…I have to attempt this on some chairs I bought at GW and I am a little chicken. BEAUTIFUL…Good Job!

Kristen August 31, 2010 at 4:11 am

Um, when did you start typing in Germanese? I didn't understand a word of this post besides "wonky." I love you said it.

Maybe you could get especially judgmental company drunk before taking them on the remodeled home tour? Just a thought.

Holly @ posypocket.blogspot August 31, 2010 at 4:20 am

thanks for posting this! I'm in the middle of reupholstering a chair as well. this was encouraging! I've gotten the new fabric stapled on so far, and just need to make some cushions and add trim.

:)

Ashki August 31, 2010 at 5:02 am

Thank you so much for posting this!!!

momof3girls August 31, 2010 at 5:20 am

wonderful job!!! Thanks for the pictures

AntiqueChase August 31, 2010 at 5:31 am

I have a chair like this that I did myself too!!! I actually had to ask my company not to sit on it… My chair looks pretty, but I don't trust that it will hold up to it's intended use…

Good job on yours!

Cindy August 31, 2010 at 10:56 am

i think it looks fabulous….i am just going to have to invest in an electric stapler. i get a blister on my hand from the manual stapler too, and then i have to hammer them in tighter anyway.

thanks for the great tutorial.

cindy

Beth@The Stories of A2Z August 31, 2010 at 11:22 am

Fantastic disclaimer. I would've added one too to ward off the "experts" from giving advice :). Your chair looks fantastic and I'm skeered but might be ready to tackle my very similar looking chair that I literally tried to spray paint (yes…the fabric) to avoid recovering. I'll let you know how it goes!

Lisa@Pickles and Cheese August 31, 2010 at 11:46 am

I have been so afraid to try this on a chair like this one. I love the shape of it. Your's turned out wonderful! Thanks for showing us how you did it. Great job!!

Zsóka August 31, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Wauu! Congratulation!

Christa @ Modern Vintage Interiors August 31, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Bergere chairs are tricky, but yours turned out great! I laughed at your 33 degree angle with eyes slightly closed.

Richella August 31, 2010 at 1:16 pm

It really does look wonderful! Perfect is terribly over-rated. You are very kind to tell us what you did, because many of us might be too intimidated to take on something this difficult. You show that it CAN be done in a way that looks great! And you do a good job of the telling. Your words are as much fun to read as your projects are inspiring to to see!

Laura August 31, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Thanks so much, Chris! I'm at the "I can't believe how many staples are in this chair" stage, and I'm waiting for hubby to help remove some of them. I'll be coming back to visit this post a lot!

These Are The Days August 31, 2010 at 1:38 pm

OK, OK, I'm going to the garage right now to bring in the chair I've been putting off for seriously 5 years. It's an antique family heirloom. I've done it before, but this time it needs a new cushion too. 4 years ago I paid $250 just to have a guy sand it and restain it {gasp}, obviously that was before I found blogland. K, off to do my project!

Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions August 31, 2010 at 2:40 pm

But you did do it, Chris, and you completed it. You could have just given up and shoved it in the garage, but you followed through and, really, it looks good to me. I love the fabric and the color!

Screaming Meme August 31, 2010 at 3:02 pm

You did great! i love it! If you havent gotten the chance swing by and look at a room I am designing for a client…Hugs,Meme

Tam August 31, 2010 at 3:28 pm

It looks great, thanks for sharing! I'm not sure I'm ready to tackle reupholestering a chair quite yet, but you made it look do-able. Thanks!

Handy Man, Crafty Woman August 31, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Upholstering furniture is VERY difficult. You did a great job!

Kristin August 31, 2010 at 6:47 pm

I love how your chair turned out. The colors are wonderful. I know I'd never do this. I'd find a chair and it would sit in our basement until my husband took it to the dump!

Barb September 1, 2010 at 12:27 am

I'm so proud of you. I is absolutely stunning. I admire the fact that you come across some difficulties, but keep going. You are such an inspiration to your bloggers! Keep saving your friends tons of money by giving incouragement and tutorials that turn out sooooo beautiful. The colors are to die for. I love it!!!!
Your loving Mom

Holly @ Roller Coaster Life September 1, 2010 at 3:16 am

Oohhhh I love this one too!! I really need to find me this chair! Well I did the other day at an auction and I was bidding and then they went up and up and up and got up to 80 and I just was not going that high!

I do have two chairs downstairs but I am really scared to even start them! They are big arm chair like… the all upholstered ones! if I am making any sense!

Melanie September 1, 2010 at 12:21 pm

That chair is fabulous! I love it and you did a great job.

Michelle September 1, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Great job on the chair…what an amazing transformation!

Have a wonderful day!
~Michelle :)

rakhel00 September 1, 2010 at 7:25 pm

I think it looks great! And remember, we're always harder on ourselves than other are.

RandomWonders September 1, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Beautiful!!

Crystal Allure Beaded Jewelry September 1, 2010 at 8:43 pm

I think it turned out beautifully! And I admire the fact that you did it. I have a chair project that has sat since a year ago. Although in fairness, it is my dog's princess chair now…but it still needs to be redone!

check out the post:
http://crystalallure.blogspot.com/2009/09/chair-reupholster-project.html

-Stephanie

Anonymous September 2, 2010 at 3:09 am

Thanks for your tips! Your chair looks great. I have never done this but I have about 5 to try. Your steps will be very helpful!

vikki September 2, 2010 at 3:39 am

Thank you so much for your blog. I have a chair similar that someone else took all the fabric off and I don't have it for a template. I have been stressing on how to do the back. I knew I could do the rest, but the back has kept me from working on it for three (yes you read that right) three years. I think I may even get on it this year!! Thanks again.

C'est Magnifique September 4, 2010 at 1:44 pm

It looks really great and those little flaws you pointed out will never be noticed by anyone but you! You can test that out by asking someone who hasn't seen it before, "do you see anything wrong with it?" I'd bet $100 they'll say no!! I love it and I'm going to try my hand at it now!!

Tania

Amanda M. September 4, 2010 at 11:03 pm

This looks fabulous! I clicked over from the Nester and I am so glad I did! I love this!

Carol September 5, 2010 at 2:22 am

Whoa, that looks pretty!! Congrats! I have my first upholstery project in our bedroom. No one is allowed to sit on it either, I ran into the exact same problem as you around the arm and seat! Shoot, who cares !Mine looks good! ( from a distance!) haha
Carol in GA

Megan {Honey We're Home} September 8, 2010 at 3:49 am

Looks like a job well done to me. I like the fabric you choose too. and of course your company will only be looking from a 33 degree angle- just serve alcohol:)

Tiaras & Bow Ties April 26, 2011 at 3:15 am

I think you did an amazing job on this chair! I have one sorta kinda like it and have never attempted to recover because of the arms…I am afraid of the arms. Now I think I may just have to give it try. Not before I go buy an electric stapler! Wonderful idea

Melissa July 21, 2012 at 8:12 pm

I think it looks great! I would rather see a “real” person do it, than watch an expert.

Missy October 23, 2012 at 7:07 pm

This looks great. I have a chair exactly like this that was heading to the yard sale but now I am rethinking and trying to recover.

Linda Newman November 19, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Have one question: what is the best way to remove the trim that has been glued on my chair? Also, there is fabric with trim on the wood arm that I want to remove and will not be recovering the arm. We need to do this before we can remove the fabric and put on the new fabric and trim. This is a wonderful site and you really did a beautiful job with your chair. Thank you.

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