Refinishing an ugly chair

Last weekend I took an upholstery class and loved it! Had been wanting to do it for a very long time. Upholstery has always intimidated me a bit, so I was glad to learn a lot.

However, there are some pieces that are actually quite simple to do with no real training. This chair is one of them – I did this a while back and it was quite easy. I bought this chair on CraigsList for a bit more than I should have paid. I liked the size of it and the shape, but the fabric was not pretty. Kinda gross actually. But it fit in my front window alcove so perfectly. I figured this one was a project I could tackle.


Supplies you’ll need

  • Staple remover/flathead screwdriver/pliers
  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Spray Paint
  • Fabric Scissors
  • Staple gun/staples
  • Glue gun/glue sticks
  • Enough fabric to cover the chair (I highly recommend fabric made specifically for home décor – it is heavier and will last longer)
  • Trim (cord, etc)

Strip the fabric from the chair

I removed all the fabric from the chair. It was only attached with a staple gun, so it actually came off very easily. In places, I had to use a flat head screwdriver and pliers to get the staples out, but it was a quick process. I made sure to not rip the fabric, as I used it as a template to cut the new fabric. I also seam-ripped the cushion. The cushion had a zipper so you could remove and wash the cover. I removed the zipper and set it aside to use with the new fabric. Thankfully, the cushion was in great shape, so I was able to reuse it. If it hadn’t been, JoAnn’s and other craft stores do sell foam and cushions for just this purpose.


Spray paint the wood

I’d like to say I did my due diligence and sanded the wood first. I should have. But I didn’t. I highly recommend that you do, though. It will make the paint stick better – mine is already chipping a bit in places. With this chair, I did not bother to cover the chair stuffing with anything. I could have taped down paper or plastic so as to not get paint on the rest of the chair. But I didn’t. Ok, I’m a little lazy…

I love me some spray paint. So much easier than using a brush. Be careful to spray from a decent distance – a foot or two away. This will help you not put too much paint on and will prevent drips. Spray a couple coats to ensure even coverage. Most of the furniture in my living room is white, so I did the chair in white. But I am looking forward to one day spraying a great bright color on a piece of furniture!

Cut out the new fabric

I got a great light green suede-type fabric. I laid it out on my living room floor and pinned the fabric I had taken off the chair to the new fabric. Pinning it before cutting is crucial. In some places it was hard to get the fabric completely straight, but do the best you. It will, of course, be more accurate the flatter you can lay it, and the better you pin it to the new fabric. I did give myself some wiggle room, cutting a half inch or so from the edge of the template just to give myself leeway.

Staple the new fabric to the chair

Using a staple gun, I attached the fabric to the chair. I found that the pieces didn’t always fit perfectly, even though I was careful to cut to the template. There were some places I needed to stretch a bit, and some had a bit of overage that I had to trim later. When attaching the fabric to the chair, it is best to put staples in the main corners or at least spread them a ways apart to get the fabric in place. Then go back and staple every few inches to really tack it down. I also kept the staples as close to the edge as possible, knowing I’d be covering it with trim later. You can see, though, when you lift up the seat cushion that it doesn’t look the greatest. But who’s really gonna lift up the cushion to check your work? Again, just do your best.


Sew the zipper cushion cover

Actually a pretty quick task (if you know how to sew). It is best to stitch the pieces together before putting in the zipper. Also, try it out on the cushion to make sure it fits and adjust as needed.  It is easier to do this before you put in the zipper. Make sure it is a snug fit. Sew in the zipper last.

Glue on the trim

I chose a darker green cord in a medium weight. There was a fatter cord, but it was overwhelming. And a thinner cord would not have covered the staples. This seemed to work perfect. Using a hot glue gun, I started in the least visible corner and glued the cord down a couple inches at a time, pressing into where the fabric and the chair meet, and being sure to cover the staples. Tip: keep a bowl of ice water nearby when using a glue gun. My mom taught me that. You WILL get hot glue on you, and it does burn. The ice water helps!


And done!

The trim’s done, the cushion sewn and in place – you now have a beautiful chair!

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