Friday, October 14, 2011

How to Upholster a Chair Tutorial


Hey everyone!  I promised you all a tutorial on how I re-did my kitchen chairs in my Kitchen Chair Reveal Post, so here it is!

Here’s the before and after photo of my kitchen chairs…they were on sale for 2 for $139.99 when my hubby bought them for me for Christmas LAST year! (can you say procrastinate?!)



When they arrived at our house they were not assembled…that was actually good, since I was going to tear them to smithereens anyway! lol

Here’s a picture of the back section.  I had to CAREFULLY pry the upholstered piece from the was glued and nailed into place with some tiny little brads.  Then I had to remove about   1,000 staples PER chair! (I swear my hands were killin’ me by the time I got all those staples out!


I had to remove the piece of fabric they had in the back too…more staples!


The seat was much easer…I just flipped the chair seat over, removed the screws that held it on, pulled out the staples that were holding the fabric into place and pulled off the old fabric.


Here’s what I was left with on the seat………


Here’s what the back looked like. (I just stuck it back into place to show you what it looked like.) It was just a piece of oval wood with foam rubber on it…no rocket science to this chair…….

how do you upholster a chair

After I removed the back and the seat, I started sanding.  My hands were completely black with all that paint by the time I got finished. I used a medium grit sandpaper on my orbital sander to sand everything down. I did have to use a piece of sandpaper and sand by hand on some of the harder to reach areas.  (can you see the HUNDREDS of staple holes on the inside of the oval…that’s where I pulled them all out!) Yikes!

how do you upholster a chair

I had already picked out my lovely fabric  at this point, it was just lying around waiting for me to get to it…I just LOVE this fabric! It’s a Waverly print called Norfolk Rose.

waverly norfolk rose

It was time to get these chairs primed and painted and I KNEW I didn’t want to do all that painting with a brush. I opted for a Harbor Freight Spray Paint Gun…I was very blessed that we had a store in the next county over, but you can find them online at   This bad boy was only $14.95!

harbor freight

I hooked it up to my handy dandy air compressor and started to spray paint. (you most definitely could use spray paint in a can if you didn’t want to mess with a spray gun!)

Here are my chairs after two coats of primer and two coats of paint. I used a color from Lowes called Betsy’s Linen. It’s just a nice creamy white color.  My hubby actually picked up the paint chip for it while we were in the store, and I knew it was perfect the minute I saw it! (although, I must admit I didn’t want it to work since I hadn’t personally picked up the chip myself…but it did!  HA!)  :0)


In this picture, I was trying to figure out exactly how I wanted my pattern on the fabric to fall on the chairs……….


I started upholstering with this air stapler after I figured out where I wanted the fabric to go.  I would HIGHLY recommend using one of these pneumatic staplers.…I can’t imagine trying to do this with a regular staple gun. (unless maybe it was an electric one)  I honestly would even go rent one of these if I didn’t have one handy. (I borrowed this one from my dad…it’s about the only nailer I don’t own!)


To upholster the seat I made sure the fabric was in the right place and then flipped it over. (make sure you have a nice allowance of fabric too, better to have too much, than not enough)  You need to put a staple in the center on each side to start.  You’ll want to make sure you pull it so there are no wrinkles in it and it’s nice and tight. (but not so much that it would tear the fabric when you sit on it.)  Then just go around and staple the whole perimeter of the square seat, folding the corners in as you go. (like a hospital corner, on  a sheet)  Then you just screw it back to the seat frame…just reversing what you did when you removed it. 


The back was a smidge more challenging, but still not hard really. I just did the same as the bottom, starting to staple in the center section of each side all the way around.  Then I went back and kind of pulled and gathered so it was nice and tight, but without making gathers along the sides.  Here it is right after I got it fully stapled….


Then I went around and used scissors and cut off all the excess around the whole thing. You REALLY want to make sure to get as much of the bulk off the back as possible, or it’s not going to go back in the back of the chair.


Here’s the silk rope trim I used to go around the sides.  See how it has the little edge on it…that part is where you’ll be stapling, so you won’t see it when you put your chair back together. This particular one was about $3.00 a yard, but I used my 50% off coupon at Hobby Lobby…score! You’ll leave it a little bit extra at the ending spot, so you can tuck both ends in, so the ends won’t show.


You can see in this picture, how the rope is the only thing that shows once you staple this edge onto the side of the upholstered wood piece that goes in the  chair back.   You don’t see any of the  edge I’m showing you on the rope trim after it’s installed.


I cut out a piece of fabric a smidge bigger than the back of the chair and stapled it into place, (short staples!) so you wouldn’t be able to see the unfinished back of the oval I had just upholstered……

how to upholster a Louis chair

After you get that back piece stapled in, then you can put the oval fabric piece into place.  This was the trickiest part of the whole chair.  To get this piece to stay into place, I had to use a brad nailer (it was an electric one) and staple THROUGH the front of my fabric.  I had to make absolutely sure that brad wasn’t so long that it was going to poke out the back of my wood on the chair, but it had to be long enough to hold the back into place.  You can see in the pic below, where the brad went it through the fabric.   After I got them all nailed with the brads, I went back and tugged on the fabric until the head of the brad went under the top of the fabric. This particular one made a tiny little fray in the fabric, so I just put a dab of clear finger nail polish on it. (it’s the only one that did it, but I wanted you to see it and know the fix.)

how to upholster a chair


Here’s the finished product! 
It really wasn’t THAT bad.  I think the absolute worse part was pulling out the bajillions of staples! :0)

How to upholster a chair

If I forgot to mention something, or you have any questions….feel free to ask!

Hope you enjoyed the tutorial on how to upholster a chair!



Debbi said...

LOVE your chairs !!!
I have some of that fabric in my house too
Forget the name of it...chemobrain going on
Sorry I haven't been around , but my first chemo knocked me for a loop. My Dr put me back on steroids at day 11 after...and I feel like a new person now..and am trying to catch up on my bloggie friends

Crystal Rose Cottage said...

Hi Missy....I still can't believe how beautifully you transformed those chairs! Great tutorial! That is a great price on that paint sprayer...I may have to look into one of those. Did you have to put up some kind of barrier in your garage? Btw, I LOVE that fabric! Beautiful!~Hugs, Patti

pbrenner said...

The chairs turned out beautifully! I'm in the process of redoing my dining chairs too, it's so fun to see the transformation, and people are impressed when I tell them I'm doing it myself - but as you said, not rocket science :-) I bought my pneumatic staple gun at Harbor Freight (LOVE that place!) for about $25 - it does staples or brads, and works great. Thanks for sharing your process so more of us can impress our friends and neighbors, lol!


Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces said...

These turned out so great, Missy! I especially liked seeing how the roping was used, I'd always assumed that it was glued on! Thanks for the tutorial!

Cindy said...

Sooooo that's how that trim works! I have seen the trim in stores, but didn't know what the deal was on the edge. What a great tutorial! I soaked up every drop of it! And the chairs are breathtaking!


Marilyn said...

Hellooo-you make me laugh-"it's about the only nailer I don't own". If I EVER work in the garage to find out what all is out there, I don't think I'll come across even one nail gun. How do I know this--there seems to be a bazillion little nails in paper bags from the hardware store that Wally needed for some little project or another. I LOVE seeing everything you do. I'm so glad you share!♥♫

PS You make me smile whenever I visit.☺

❁Velma ~Down Our Country Road❁ said...

Great tutorial Missy!! You make it seem easy even though I know it's a bit more complicated. ;)

Mrs. Jones from the Circus said...

Great work on your tutorial!! The chairs are beautiful; I especially love the extra detail of the rope (and that you told us how to do it...I have a wicker stool that needs to be reupholstered... I've done stools but nothing with rope around the top).

I'd like to know more about your experience with the paint sprayer. We have had our rounds lately with them! Did you have to dilute the paint? Were you able to clean up the sprayer feasibly to use it again or was it such a pain that it's a one time use? :)

Fairfield House said...


People that are talented always make things seem so 'easy'! Great job. I have this Waverly pattern in my dining room. Where are you using your chairs?

Your Friend,

Marty@A Stroll Thru Life said...

Wow, what an unreal transformation. I love the pretty floral fabric. Great tutorial also. Hugs, Marty

Jessica said...

Your chairs turned out so cute! I love the fabric. :-)

Fabrics said...

Those are gorgeous chairs and gorgeous fabric. I love the older rose patterns. Nice choice!

Unknown said...

Any idea how much fabric you used? Per chair or for the whole project? Even a ballpark estimate or guess would help. My husband and I are thinking of doing this for our dining room with the same chairs! Awesome job!

My Cottage Charm said...

April, I would guestimate that I used 1 1/2 yards per chair. I had to center the floral part, so it took a little more. I imagine you could get away with using a little tiny bit less if you used an all over pattern fabric so you didn't have anything to center. :) Hope that helped!

Kisha said...

My goodness those are beautiful. Absolutely stunning. Great work!

Unknown said...

These look great. My wife is doing this too by were confused on how to get the back padding off the chair??

Unknown said...

How did you get the padding off the back of the chair?? Thank you!!

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