Finally, finally, after hours of watching my MacBook search through unallocated space (which falls just below watching grass grow and just above watching Jersey Shore on my scale of exciting things to do) I managed to recover the photos of the chair redo that I so foolishly deleted last time. After looking at the handful of pictures my scattered brain remembered to take, I’m not sure those hours were very well-spent, but eh. They’re here.
There are myriad tutorials out there on how to do a simple reupholstery job like this one; you can probably find much, much better instructions with a quick Google. But it really isn’t hard to do, so maybe these will be enough to get you started.
First, begin with a chair.
You’ve got one? Great. Flip that bad boy over and figure out how the seat is attached. Usually it’ll be with little tabs or screws. This one, however, was caned once upon a time, and whoever refinished it opted to just glue the seat over the old caning holes. Sounds good to me. I was able to just pry that sucker off with a flathead screwdriver and karate noises.
Keep that screwdriver handy, and grab a pair of pliers while you’re at it (bonus points for needlenose). As you can see below, this chair has been through its fair share of reupholsters. If I were super thorough and attentive, I would strip off all those layers back down to the wood. Since I like instant gratification and I hate prying up staples, I’m just going to take off the top layer of fabric so it doesn’t get bulky.
Pry up the staples with the screwdriver, and use the pliers to grab any staples that go rogue (pro tip: this will be almost every staple). Then just take the fabric off. Save it so you can make a template for the new fabric.
Since the chairs are older and they’ve been used pretty heavily, the foam has compressed down really thin so you’re basically sitting on bare plywood. Not so nice for a cozy, comfortable dinner. I picked up some new foam at Hobby Lobby (wait for a 50% off sale, they happen all the time) and traced around the seat of each chair, then cut out a new pad for it. If you like, you can stick the pad to the base with spray adhesive so it doesn’t shift around while you’re working. I skipped that step because it was cold and, again, I’m lazy.
Next, trace around the old piece of fabric and cut a new one. If you’re using a random pattern, you can trace it pretty much wherever on your new fabric. But in my case, I was using a very directional geometric pattern (chevrons) so it was important I lined up the grain correctly. I also tried to make each piece have an “up” chevron in the center, so they would look cohesive as a group.
Once you’ve got your fabric, you just start stapling. Typically I do one staple at the back, then pull it tight and do one at the front. Then I flip it over and check to see if the pattern is aligned correctly. If it is, I finish the front and back, then move on to the sides. Corners can be a bit tricky; I’d offer instructions, but every chair is different and I really think all you can do is play around with tucking and pulling until you find the right look. If you wrap a lot of presents, this shouldn’t be too bad.
Staple the corners really well, as they’ll be the most prone to popping out. And try to keep the amount of bulk on the bottom to a minimum. If you need to, trim away some excess fabric–just leave enough around the staples that it won’t unravel on you.
Then you just have to put the seat back on the same way it came off. Since mine were glued, I just did that again. I like Gorilla Glue, as it’s incredibly strong and keeps them in place, but will come off without destroying the wood if you want to reupholster later. You just dampen the wood a little with a wet paper towel, then put on some glue, replace the seat, and put a heavy object on it for a few hours until it dries. I’m sure our neighbors are used to my projects now, so they likely didn’t bat an eye at our porch full of chairs holding a tool box, a 12-pack of Pepsi One, two half-full cans of paint, and a stock pot filled with bricks.
After the glue dries, you’re done! Incredibly difficult, wasn’t it? Seriously, reupholstering these sorts of dining chairs is one of the easiest DIY projects I can think of, and it makes such a huge impact. Now, go forth and be unafraid of vintage furniture with less-than-ideal (read: fugly) cushions.
And the whole happy family:
Eagle-eyed readers might notice a little seasonal decor on the lazy susan there…the rest of the house isn’t finished so I can’t show it to you just yet, but here’s a bonus shot of Mitzy in her favorite winter spot, under the tree.
More to come on that. What do you think of the chairs? Good? Awful? Are you inspired to tackle your own lackluster dining set now?