How to Reupholster a Chair

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Okay. I was trying to find one of my own posts the other day, and I couldn’t. That’s bad. As a result, I’m making my post titles a little “less creative”. No fun…but way less frustrating!

Alert! Alert! There are a LOT of words in this post. Prepare yourself.

You’ve asked, and I’ve heard ya. You want a tutorial. You want me to say, “Oh, it was such a breeze. These three pictures will walk you through the easy peasy process.” That’s not gonna happen.  I really did try to be conscious of taking pictures throughout this “easy” project, but I definitely skipped over some steps—usually the ones that made me want to cry.  Here goes.

First, rip off all the old fabric. For me, this was a combination of a pair of needle nose pliars, and a flat head screwdriver. There were approximately 7,301 staples. It’ll take forever, and you’ll never want to do it again.  It will basically become a shell once you’re done.  I did NOT worry about removing every single staple. There were plenty left behind, but it was the staples or my nerves. I chose my nerves.

chair frame

Everybody told me to save the old fabric as a pattern. I did that. I didn’t use it, however.  In hindsight, it would have helped me around the front arms, but I was afraid it wouldn’t work for me. That’s up to you.

chair pattern

Because I couldn’t use the archaic fluff/ batting in the back of the chair, I bought a piece of fiberfill/padding to replace it with.  I simply laid the chair on it, and drew out a stencil. Then I cut it out to fit.

chair backing

One of the most difficult parts was getting the back fabric on. I chose a linear fabric—bad idea. Notice the squigglies. I stapled it at the centers and just pulled around as I went. On top of this fabric is an upholstery “ribbon” to offer some support for the back. Just one strip, but I imagine you could use more.

reupholster chair

Once the back fabric was on, I stuffed the batting into the shape of the chair. I used the new batting as my stencil for the fabric for this section. I laid it on my fabric and cut a couple inches more around it.

how to reupholster a chair

This is probably the best picture to show you the back portion. I stapled, stapled, stapled. This was a fairly easy section to work on. I bought an electric stapler at Lowes for $30.00. I would never have done this with a manual stapler. I got a blister using the one I had—I can’t imagine what my hands would have looked like without it.

chair reupholstered

Onto the seat. Since the cushion was in fairly good condition, I opted to leave it on. I did put a layer of batting over it just to keep the seat smooth. I stapled it on and trimmed off the excess.

chair foam batting

Here’s a good picture to show that it’s just kind of cut around the arms. The old cushion can be seen underneath.


recovering chair

Well, here’s where it gets tricky. The arms. Ick. I hated them. This is where I wish I would have used the old fabric for a template. I didn’t, and it shows. You can see there’s a slight tear right behind the arm. If this was going to be used as a more functional chair, I would have re-cut the fabric. Since it’s mostly a “show chair”, I didn’t worry about it. I just kept tucking, and pulling until I got the best look. Then, stapled.chair trim

The other tricky part was making the corners smooth around the seat cushion. I imagine everyone has their preference as to how it should be tucked. There’s no set way, I guess. I just tried to make it as smooth as possible, and I stapled it on!

reupholster chair

chair tutorial

Once all your staples are in place, it’ll be a little tricky to make sure you trim all the excess fabric around them. You don’t want it to show on the other side of the decorative cording. That was kind of a pain.louis philippe chair

The easiest (and final) part is the trim. I chose a chunkier trim because I knew my staples would be a bit wonky. Every bit of coverage helped me! Nothing fancy here. I just hot glued it all the way around.


I let the hot glue set for just a couple seconds before applying the trim. It saved me from another second degree burn, and it kept the glue from oozing out around the edges too much.

chair trim

Here’s a close up of some of the details just to see. Far from perfect, but who looks that closely anyway?

french chair

My fingers are crossed that my company stays about 6 feet away from it and looks at it from a 33 degree angle with their eyes slightly closed. Then, it’ll look just perfect!french chair

I can’t imagine I answered every question you have, so feel free to Facebook me if you need more info! A couple of people have asked about the fabric/paint. The paint is Benjamin Moore’s White Dove, and the fabric is Tommy Bahama San Cristobal.

Disclaimer: I am in no way an expert on reupholstering furniture. I KNOW there is a better way to do this, but it’s a scary thing to attempt. I want people to know that it can be done. It might not be perfection, but it sure did save money! Good luck!!!!!

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