Jan 9, 2011

Reupholstering a Chair

Since I'm in the process of redoing my bedroom/office, I thought I'd share my process of reupholstering a chair. I was in the market for something pretty that could be used as an office chair when I happened to stumble upon this one for free - I found it sitting outside next to the trash bin at my old apartment. I was hesitant to take it in because it looked really dingy (there was also green fringe trim on the bottom) but after going past it several times throughout the day I finally caved.

I wanted something a bit more feminine for my office space. I had received a free can of Glidden paint in white and decided that was the color I was going to paint the wood since the original finish was badly scuffed, chipped and wearing away completely in spots. I removed the layer of green upholstery fabric to save for later, and that's when I discovered a much prettier fabric underneath (although it was really stained and gross)

This fabric was nailed on with tiny handmade nails, similar to this:

After removing what seemed like a million of them, I finally was down to the insides of the chair and that's when I realized it was full of coir and horse hair! Coir is a fiber that comes from the husk of a coconut shell (it's seen a lot today in doormats). The horse hair thing is what had me worried - what if this chair was old? I can't paint an antique white, I'd be burned at the stake! Well, after researching for several days, I couldn't find anything mentioning my chair was some super rare antique piece. There were a few similar ones that sold for $50-125 which is about what I'd end up spending on a new office chair anyways. With that in mind, I took a deep breath and started painting. 

When all was said and done, I started in on upholstering it. I kept the coir and horse hair but added some new foam on top for more support. I used the green fabric as a template to trace the pattern onto my new linen fabric.

 I stapled it on using the same method I had used in art class to stretch canvases. Starting with a staple on one end, I moved to the opposite end and pulled the fabric tight to place another staple. I then went to the untouched sides and did the same thing so that by the time I was finished, I had a cross like this:

{image via Marion Boddy-Evans - About.com}
By continually switching sides to put in staples, this ensures that your fabric will be pulled as tight as possible resulting in a professional finished look. As you can see below, I was a little slack in a few places, resulting in some waves - eep!

The next step was to add something to cover up all those staples. I could have gone with gimp, which is a really affordable option, but I really liked the look of double welting. I purchased my double welt cord from Ebay and followed this tutorial from Curbly (I didn't switch out my sewing machine foot for a double welt foot or a zipper foot and still had success). With all my pieces cut out and ready, I glued them in place using hot glue. As I was gluing I was able to pull some of the fabric a little tighter to reduce the waves a little, but someday I may end up tearing the thing apart again to fix it completely.


...and ta-da! The chair as it is right now. The bottom still seems a bit plain so I've been thinking of adding nail head trim. I think it would also be fun to add a toss pillow in Pantone's 2011 Color of the Year - Honeysuckle. What do you think?


  1. Thanks for the step-by-step instructions! I've been so nervous to reupholster set of chairs I picked up, but you make it look doable!!

  2. Looks GREAT! I've been wanting to reupholster my couch and I'm scared. Do a couch next! haha :D

  3. great job! you made it look easy...maybe ill tackle that one day!

  4. Wow, this chair is stunning! It would be perfect for my dressing room!


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