DIY – How to Upholster an Old Chair or reupholster a dated piece. Let me show you step-by-step how I did it. First, let me tell you that I am not a professional. This chair was the first piece I ever recovered and that was way back in 1974. This post has quite a few photos so I hope you bear with me.
I love this old chair and I really wanted to give it a new look. By reupholstering it I was able to give this old chair a new lease on life.
Here is the before and after. What do you think?
Some of my chairs are just chairs but this one is special. In 1974, Hubby and I lost our baby girl at birth. My dad and mom came to the funeral. The day after the funeral my dad took me to my first auction. Just some daddy and daughter time. He bid $3.00 and bought this old chair for me. It was old when he bought it. 50 cents was the opening bid. The bidding process was so fun and it helped to take my mind off of our loss for just a little bit.
This old chair has been well used. For years, it was my sewing chair. It is very comfortable and the springs in the seat are still good. I decided that I wanted for my dressing closet. Or this space could become my prayer war room.
There were several pieces of fabric that I thought about using. They looked good in the store but I wasn’t sure about using them in this “Closet” space. Because I couldn’t decide, this is what I did. I put the fabric on the chair and walked away and then walked back into the space.
I used the first piece of fabric to cover the red stool in my kitchen, but it was too busy. The second piece was too similar to the pattern in the vintage tablecloth that covers the closet area and the pattern was too big. Number three was too pale and the wrong color. It just didn’t work at all. My favorite of this group was bottom. But, I decided it was just a bit to busy for that space. It will be used on another chair in the near future.
Now, I am not really a “polka-dot” kind of person (whatever that means), but I really liked this fabric. The polka dot fabric was purchased at Hobby Lobby.
As I backed off, left the space and then came back I thought this is just right. It was almost a Goldilocks moment! Now, it was time to quit playing with the fabric and get down to brass tacks.
Remove the old fabric from the old chair.
Save it to use as your pattern for the new fabric.
Removing not one but two layers of fabric was a nasty job. As you can see I did not remove the original fabric when I first covered the chair. The fabric had deteriorated. Yuck. It really needed to be removed.
Speaking of brass tacks. Here they are. Lots of them.
Let’s get down to brass tacks. What does that really mean? According to Merriam-Webster, it means “details of immediate practical importance”. Sometimes you just want to hurry up and skip over the details.
Everything was removed: all the fabric, all of the tacks, the padding, and the burlap,
Refinish or repaint the exposed wood
On the next step I painted the chair legs the same grey as the lower part of my bedroom walls. Because it was such a small project I mixed up just a small amount of chalk paint.
To make chalk paint I mixed together 1 teaspoon of plaster of paris and 1/2 teaspoon of water. After that was mixed I added that to 2 ounces of the paint. The legs needed 2 coats for good coverage.
Replace the burlap and padding on the old chair.
An electric stapler makes this job a lot easier. Cut the burlap larger than what you need and trim away the excess after you have stapled it securely to the base.
Densified Fiber 15″x17″x2″ was used for the seat padding. Premium High Density Cushion Foam 18″x18″x2″ was used for the chair back. Both were then cover with a thin layer of batting.
Cut new fabric. You might be able to use the old fabric for a pattern.
Staple one side then stretch and smooth out the opposite side, then staple. (eg. front and back)
Stretch and smooth the fabric as you go. Staple the other sides. Repeating the step above. Smooth out the corners easing out and distributing the fullness, stapling as you go.
Important Step: Get a cat to inspect it to make sure it is just right! Note the little bench in the background. You will see it’s transformation in another post.
For some reason, I don’t have any photos of the cording technique that I used on the seat. But I made a VIDEO of this whole project. I would love for you to subscribe to my youtube channel while you are there.
Attach the back fabric using brass upholstery tacks or nailhead trim.
Because of the age of the chair, the wood was very hard. Several times I tried to hammer in the tacks. They bent almost everytime. Nailhead trim work was the best solution for me. It comes in a continuous metal strip. There are holes about every 6th nailhead. Measure around the back. Cut the trim a few inches longer. After it is nailed in place, you can cut the excess off with a pair of wire cutters.
Here is the bench that was in the background. The peach cover was added in ’93 and purple and taupe cover was added in ’04. Those were both removed before adding the polka dot fabric.
Again, I am not a professional but I was pretty happy with the way this turned out. It’s old and holds a lot of sweet memories. My old chair has been refreshed, renewed and revived.
“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint”. Isaiah 40:31
I hope you can use some of these tips and techniques to give your old treasured chair a new lease on life.
’til next time,