Our dining chairs were so ugly. I can’t believe we lived with them for four years. When I realized that we will likely be living with them for another few years, it was time to make a change. I had seen my mom reupholster chairs many years ago, so I decided to give it a go. It’s a slightly tiring, slightly fun project with a huge payoff. If you have chairs as ugly as mine, I suggest you give it a try.
My chairs came with a chunky, woven knit in shades of brown and tan. Blech. After many years of sitting on them, they looked even dingier than they did when they arrived, and some stringy threads were coming loose. I looked into replacing the chairs, and there were some affordable and stylish options out there. But I figured that it’s silly to get four chairs I love, and then get rid of them when we upgrade to a larger table. Recovering the chairs was the route for me.
The first step was finding a great fabric. I imagined exactly what I wanted- a deep blue ikat print. The problem with having a vision was finding a fabric that lived up to it. Washington DC is a fabric store desert. I headed to Virginia to visit a chain store and a local store- both of which had slim pickings in the “cool house decorating” category. At the chain store, I found a sample fabric that I loved, but it was over $80 a yard and would take weeks to order.
At the local store, a salesgirl asked if she could help me. Desperate, I asked if they had any colorful ikat prints. She looked at me confused, and said “eye cats? Ohhh, you want a fabric with a cat’s eyes!” Granted, I pronounced “ikat” wrong to start with, but does cat eye fabric even exist? Thanks, but…no. I headed home, browsed the Internet, and found this fabric. Less than 1 week and $34 later, I had two yards of this beauty for Stella to luxuriate on.
Once I got the fabric, I determined that I could cover the seats without removing their existing fabric because the texture didn’t show through and couldn’t be felt. Hooray for skipping a step! To recover your chair, first unscrew its seat. Lay out the fabric, and align the fabric’s pattern on the seat the way you like it. Cut out the fabric in a square large enough to wrap around the seat and have about 2 inches of excess.
Turn the fabric over, and put the seat face-down on top of the fabric. Lean on the back of the seat, and use a staple gun to attach the fabric at one spot on each edge of the seat for place-holding purposes. Then, systematically lean on the seat and staple the fabric down along each side. I found it was easiest to save all of the corners for the end. Also, leaning on the seat compressed the cushion and allowed me to pull the fabric completely taut. That way, when someone sits down on the chair, the fabric doesn’t get loose and pinchable.
Stapling the corners are definitely the trickiest part. I experimented with a lot of different methods, but in the end, I think it was easiest to drape the fabric the way I wanted it, then hold it down, and staple it. I made sure that any folds were especially secure and able to resist any fiddling fingers.
Once all of the staples are in, use a hammer to make them completely flush with the seat. You can pull out any duds with some pliers and re-staple. Then, trim the excess fabric off, leaving about 1/2 inch. This extra border should prevent the fabric from fraying or from being pulled loose from the staples.
What a beauty. I could stare at that all day.
Reattach the seat to the chair frame, making sure that the loose ends of the fabric are tucked under the frame and not visible. Sit down and test it out. So nice! My chairs even feel more comfortable, somehow.
I love walking past my dining table and catching a glimpse of these babies. I love the color and the pattern, especially in place of that nasty brown. The chairs even make Stella so happy she wants to scream with joy. Actually, that was a yawn– she was tired of the chairs stealing my attention.
Do you have any home improvement projects going on? Do you have any upholstering tips I can keep in mind for next time?
- Upholstery fabric
- Heavy duty staple gun
- Heavy duty staples
- Screw driver