Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Chair Makeover Story

I had a great, comfy couch in the basement but I also wanted a chair for people to sit in.  I’ve loved the barrel chairs that other people have made over so when I saw one at a local antique store I had to have it (Vogue Vintage Too in Ferndale for you Detroiters).  For less than $50, this chair came home with me.

chair1I loved the shape of the chair, the detailed legs and the caning.  What I didn’t love was the color of the wood and the cushions.  I normally like tufting but this chair had a bit much for my taste. 

I started by removing the old fabric, making sure to keep it as intact as I could so that I could use the old fabric as a pattern for my new fabric. The fabric on the back of the chair was stapled directly to the wood so I had to carefully pull up the staples and remove the fabric and buttons.  Fabric was also stapled to the backside of the chair so I removed it as well before moving onto the seat.  The seat was screwed onto the chair frame with four screws that I easily removed.  Then it was just a matter of removing the fabric from the cushion.

I knew I wanted to paint the chair white and I wanted a white/black fabric for the cushions.  What I didn’t expect was the difficulty in finding a fabric I liked.  I searched through local fabric stores (Fabric Warehouse in Warren, JoAnns, and Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak) without any success.  During a random trip to Pier 1 I noticed gorgeous linen lined curtain panels that were 20% off.  I immediately bought the following curtain panel for roughly $32.


Using this panel gave me more fabric for my money, allowing me to make two pillows for the room.  But, back to the chair!  I cut out pieces that matched the shape and size of the old fabric from the chair and then ironed the fabric to remove any wrinkles.

IMG_2781Before attaching the new seat fabric to the cushion I had to determine if I would reuse the existing cushion.  Since the cushion was in good shape I simply filled the holes from the tufting with batting and then wrapped two layers of new batting over the cushion.  I did the same for the back support for the chair.

IMG_2780 Next, I needed to paint the chair so I could attach the cushions.  I sanded, primed and spray painted the chair with Rustoleum’s Semi-Gloss White.  The first piece of fabric to attach was on the backside of the chair. I simply stapled the fabric directly to the chair frame and then trimmed any extra fabric.

IMG_2784 Then I placed the chair back’s cushion on the chair and stapled the new fabric directly to the chair frame, holding the cushion in place. This was the hardest part of the entire process since I made the back a little thicker than it previously was and it was hard to get the stapler into a good position to staple the fabric.

IMG_2786 I trimmed any extra fabric and was left with an ugly edge that needed to be covered. 

IMG_2787 The chair originally had corded fabric edging this cushion but I wanted to glam it up a bit so I opted to use nail head trim.  You can buy strands of trim at any craft store – I bought mine at JoAnns for $15. You simply place the strand where you want it attached and then gently hammer in a brad every third hole using a rubber mallet (so you don’t break the trim). Using pliers, I easily cut the other end of the trim after wrapping the trim along the back cushion.

IMG_2788 I then covered the chair seat cushion with the fabric and stapled it using the same technique I used for my Craigslist folding chairs. I screwed the chair cushion back into place and added nail head trim to the front of the cushion.  That was it!


IMG_2839 IMG_2817For less than $100 I have a new (to me) chair that I absolutely love.  Have you recovered a chair lately?  What do you think about the resurging popularity of the barrel chairs? 


  1. I absolutely love, love, love that chair - what an amazing job you've done. Could not, in a million years, envisage doing that myself - no confidence whatsoever.

    Well done,

    Janis from Scotland

  2. Thank you for this post. I have 2 chairs identical to yours and have been wanting to paint and reupholster them. I just didn't know if I could do it myself or if I should take them in to have them done. After this post I think I may be able to tackle it myself. We'll see :) I love how yours turned out and such a smart idea to use the curtain!

  3. Thanks! Good luck, Megan! This was my first attempt at reupholstering anything other than a footstool or simple chair. It definitely took a little longer than my folding chairs but it wasn't hard at all. Just make sure you remember exactly how the chair was originally put together so you can put it back the same way (I almost goofed on the back until i remembered that the fabric was stapled to the wood and not around the cushion like you do for the seat cushion!).

    I'd love to see pics!

  4. i bought a chair like this over the summer at a garage sale for $25. :) I want to paint and reupholster it also... but haven't figured out where i want it yet...

  5. Looks great! Love the nailhead trim :) Did you use one of those strips of nailhead, or did you pound in each nail head individually?

  6. Oh wow - totally the same chair! AWESOME... I'll just do you're tutorial! :) Was it gnarly??

  7. This chair is so amazing, can't wait to re do mine!! Thanks for the step by step!

  8. I found this same chair almost a months and months ago at a local thrift store (I live in SW MI... YAY) for only 4.99! Its been sitting in my garage for almost a year cause I've never redone furniture so its kind of intimidating... Anyways, after this amazing post I feel like I might just be able to do this! :)

    You can check out my post about the chair below

  9. What a fabulous makeover. I also have a similar chair and am in the middle of redoing it. Fabric is next! I hope mine comes out as good as yours did!

    P.S. Just found your blog ~ so cute!


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