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How to Reupholster a Chair and Make It Look Brand New

Got a nice chair but the fabric belongs in another decade? With a few simple tools and a little imagination, you can turn it from drab to fab in no time at all.


Here, we've picked a lovely chair with good bones, but it's aesthetically not up to speed with the times. So let's reimagine it, shall we?

Step 1: Choose your color scheme and fabric

First, decide on your color scheme and fabric. When choosing your fabric, find one that offers durability. It will need to stand up to a lot of use! An indoor/outdoor fabric is preferable if the room is bathed in sunlight -- it will help prevent fading. It may be a good idea to take a sample of the fabric and give it the "spill and clean test.” Go ahead and smear ketchup, jelly, chocolate, or wine on it, and see how the fabric looks after you clean it with a wet and soapy cloth. Once you've done this, select your material, keeping in mind you will need ½ yard per seat. Steam or iron your fabric and lay it on a flat surface. Now it's time to gather your materials!



-  heavy duty staple remover or flat head screwdriver

-  large piece of paper or newspaper

-  ruler

-  washable fabric pen or chalk

-  hand stapler

-  Dracon fiber fill for upholstery

-  steamer or iron

Stipped Seat

Now, it's time to strip! Start by removing the staples with your staple remover, then remove the upholstery and cushion material. If you do not have a staple puller on hand, a flathead screwdriver will do just fine. If the foam cushion is in good shape, there is no need to replace it.


It's pattern-making time! Place your cushion on a larger sheet of paper, wood side down. This pattern will be for the top portion of the seat. Trace your wood all the way around, adding 1/2 inch for the seam allowance, and cut out the pattern.

Cut out fabric

If you are using fabric with a design, a small hole should be cut out of the center of your pattern paper. This way each seat will have the same focal design and will match. For example: If you are using a flower fabric, you will use this hole to match up the center of the pattern with the center (or the focal point) of your fabric's design.


To make the hole, fold the pattern paper in half, then half again, to find the center, then mark and cut out a notch. On your fabric, mark an X where you want the center of the cushion to be. Place your pattern on the fabric matching the peekaboo hole to the X.

Now how silly would a cushion be with only a top? It is time to measure and cut the sides! For the perimeter, measure around the seat and add a 1 1/2-inch to 2-inch seam allowance. To find the width, measure from the top of the foam to the bottom of the wood and add a 2 1/2-inch seam allowance.


Match up the center front of a band to the center front of the seat fabric. Fold over 1 1/2 inches of the seat piece over the band piece and sew down. Flip the fabric over and repeat with the other bands. You can overlap the flaps and sew right over them.



Cut out a sheet of Dacron that is large enough to wrap around the seat to the bottom of the wood, and trim off the excess. At the corners, be sure to trim off the point for a rounder edge and so that no bunching occurs. Slip the sewn cushion over the seat matching up the centers and corners.


Starting at center front, match up fabric to wood and place a sub staple in halfway. This sub staple is only to hold the fabric in place and will be removed; to put a staple in halfway simply turn your staple gun at a slight angle. Continue to the three other sides. Once all sides are sub stapled in place, we can start stapling the fabric into place.


To make sure you evenly attach your covering, you will need to find the band size (which is the thickness of the foam). Our foam is two inches thick, so as we made our way around stapling the fabric in place, we stretched the fabric until it measured two inches from the edge of wood to the seam.


Dont forget! Before permanently stapling the fabric in place, remove the sub staple on the side you are working on.


Staple each side down, with a staple at least every half an inch apart form each other. When you get to the side, leave a little room to fold over and continue on to the other side. When all sides are permanently stapled in place, fold down the corners and staple.


Here is the finished cushion.


And here is the before and after! We also decided to paint the chair white, and it really made such a huge difference. Sometimes a fresh coat of paint on the walls and a new fabric on your chairs may be all you need to reinvent a room. It’s as simple as that!

About the Author

Lili Batista

Who knew my passion for beautiful furniture could turn into such a wonderful business? From the moment inspiration struck, my husband, Gary, thought up the name "The Painted Ox," and we were off and running! Three years later, we have several very talented upholsterers and painters creating one-of-a-kind masterpieces all from estate-sale finds. If the piece has good bones, we will...


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