Decorating / how to / Look what I found! / Making / upholstery

How To Reupholster a Mid-Century Chair

As you read in my previous post, my ugly brown chair has turned into a beautiful (mid-century) swan!

Want to know how my mom and I did it? Follow along in our *simple* 7 step, 2 day tutorial!

1. First, start with an ugly (but FREEEEE) brown chair. (Gray foam cushion not usually included.)

2. Take apart the chair carefully, making sure to remember where each piece of fabric needs to be stapled to the frame. Take out all tacks and staples as you go. 

The old staples make a cool art piece if you keep them all in one place: (You don’t want to step on these things!)

3. Sew some welting. Sew like 20 yards of it. This can be done simultaneously as your partner takes apart the chair. 4. Sew the welting together with some fabric to form a slip cover for the arms. This may take some maneuvering, especially if the arms are tapered and smaller on the bottom than on the top. Make sure any lines or patterns match up in the fabric.  
5. Cut out a seat cushion from high density foam. Do not attempt to use gray foam that may have come with the chair. It’s not comfy! Luckily, foam was half off at the fabric store when I went on my singular trip!

Cover the cushion foam with batting, and then your sewed cover. (Did I miss the part where you sew a cover for the cushion? Oh yah, do that too!)

6. Carefully carefully staple each section of the remaining chair with a piece of fabric to the frame. Don’t worry about putting in too many staples! Remember to make sure your pattern goes in the same direction and lines up, and copy what was previously done on the chair. You can always take out a few staples if you need to readjust. 

7. Reattach arms and cover the bottom in a plain upholstery dust cover. It gives a nice finishing touch!

Ta-da! A perfect chair to curl up in!

I learned a few things on the way:
  • Always check your fabric to make sure it is going in the right direction. The front of the arms originally had the pattern going horizontally, which looked funny. My mom had to redo them both for a professional look.
  • The back of a chair can be tricky. You can use tack strips or decorative nail heads. We went for tack strips for a seamless look, but you only have one chance to get them in right. My mom said that this chair has her most perfect looking tack strip job on it.
  • Want to restain or paint the legs of a chair? Make sure you do it before you begin to put the fabric back on. Otherwise you could mess up all your new fabric.
  • My manual staple gun worked fine, but did require a bit of force. An electric one would work really well.
  • This job would have been tedious all by myself. I have so much respect for people who do this professionally.
  • I probably shouldn’t have spent $200 on fabric, but I’m so glad that I really really love it!
Would you or have you tackled a difficult upholstery job?

15 thoughts on “How To Reupholster a Mid-Century Chair

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  5. This looks awesome! I love the chair and the fabric you selected. I think it was a good splurge esp. since the chair was FREE!!!! And on a side note, I the fabric on the chair in the back is the same as the one I have in my music room!

  6. Wow, I’m amazed and intrigued and itching to try this on my living room furniture. Can you recommend any books or sites for basic novices to review and research?

    The chair looked awesome!

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