Have you been wondering how to reupholster a chair seat? It seems every time I go to the Restore or Goodwill, I see dining style chairs that just need updated upholstery and a little love. And, of course a little chalk paint for color never hurts! Once upon a time, I passed by these chairs, too afraid to tackle the reupholstering job they called for.
But, things changed one day when browsing my local Restore. I came across a beautiful Duncan Phyfe Rose Back Chair. The chair’s seat was in awful condition with old fabric and a flat worn out seat cushion. But the chair was otherwise beautiful with such pretty detail on the chair back. I had a vision of a beautifully painted chair with a newly upholstered seat. I paid for the chair and loaded it in the car. My next mission was to learn how to reupholster a chair seat!
Resources To Learn Reupholstering Basics
When I got home I hopped on Google, Youtube and Pinterest to find tutorials on how to reupholster a chair seat. Honestly, what I learned from my search, and from my experience now with reupholstering four different chair seats, is that you don’t need fancy expensive tools to do this simple job. There are tools that get the reupholstering job done more quickly and efficiently, but they are not mandatory for most jobs. However, that may be different f you have a set of 6 or 8 chairs you need to re-cover. In that case, you would benefit from professional equipment!
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Project Supplies Needed
- Screwdrivers – A Flathead Screwdriver is super useful. May need Phillips Head screwdriver as well to remove screws that hold chair seat in place. Here is a screwdriver set with both plus more.
- Gerber Tool, Needle Nose or Long Nose Pliers
- Staple Remover (not pictured below)
- Staple Gun – Electric or Hand Powered (and staple refills) – I have this Arrow Non-Electric Stapler that I got a few years ago. Super cheap and easy to use, but after a while it hurts your hand and it jams alot. I have since purchased a cordless stapler by Ryobi which I LOVE! It’s the Ryobi 18 Volt One+ Cordless Stapler found at Home Depot! And this thing is costly but it is the “topgun” of staplers in my book!
- Chair Seat Cushion Foam – usually pre-cut into different thicknesses and sizes – just make sure to measure and see that you order a big enough piece to fit your chair
- Material of your choice – I love Hobby Lobby for material. Joanne Fabric is also good
How To Reupholster A Chair Seat: Step by Step
STEP 1: Flip the chair over and look for the screws holding in the seat. This could require either a Phillips head or a flat head screwdriver. Remove the seat and set the chair aside.
STEP 2: If you are going to paint or re-stain the chair do this now before you replace the seat cushion. I just love a pretty painted chair! My favorite paints to use are Dixie Belle brand chalk mineral paints! So many colors to choose from, even metallics, and great coverage! Check out Dixie Belle products here
STEP 3: Typically the upholstery is stapled to the bottom side of the seat, which is most often a flat wooden base. It may also be held down by upholstery tacks or brads. The best way I have found to remove the staples or brads is with a combination of a staple remover, a flat head screwdriver and pliers. They can be stubborn to pull out so just use caution.
STEP 4: Once you have the staples out, pull off the old upholstery. Its always interesting to see the condition of the foam and batting underneath. If it is in good condition you can certainly reuse it. If it is in bad condition just toss it. I have learned to check the floor and area for stray staples that got away. I’d hate for anyone to step on those!
STEP 5: Using the chair seat as a guide cut the new foam cushion to the size needed. I use scissors or box cutter to do this. I find that most foam chair cushions are bigger than most dining chairs. When buying the foam cushions consider desired thickness too. They come in different thicknesses as well.
STEP 6: Cut out the new upholstery using the old upholstery as a size guide. Think about the direction of the pattern and how you want the pattern to face. If you have a big design you will likely want that centered in the middle of the seat. Cut a little larger than the old upholstery to give room to staple it down especially you are using more padding for the new seat cover.
When using new batting, go ahead and cut that batting to the right size at this point. Use the old chair material or the foam cushion as a guide. I find it helpful to layer the foam cushion, then the batting and then the upholstery when doing your cutting to make sure and account for the thickness needed. See Step 7 for more details.
STEP 7: Layer the upholstery, batting and foam and lastly the chair seat base. Lay the new upholstery (already cut) on a flat surface or table top, pattern side down, again considering which direction the pattern will need to face in relation to the the front of the chair seat. Then top that with batting and then next the foam cushion and lastly the chair seat base.
STEP 8: Pull the upholstery material taut but not too tight and keep the tension even as you pull the it around and staple it to the wooden seat base. The corners are the trickiest. I tend to fold the corners like pleats, accordion style, gathering the material and then stapling. I’ll admit I still haven’t mastered corners but just play around with it until you get the look you want!
STEP 9: Replace the reupholstered chair seat and screw the seat in place! When you are stapling down your material in Step 8 you have to make sure not to staple the material over the screw holes! I’m speaking from experience here! I’ve done this more than once! If you painted the chair this step would be done after the chair is fully dry and top coated or waxed. The newly upholstered seat is like the finishing touch on your masterpiece!
It’s So Simple To Update Old Dining Style Chairs!
Now that you see how simply you can update old dining style chairs, I encourage you to give it a try! It really is super simple and easy! Believe me, if I can do it, anyone can!
Next time you see those old used chairs that have those great bones, but need some love, don’t be afraid to take the leap and buy them! It’s so fun to see the transformation with new upholstery! And, if you just so happen to add a little chalk paint for some color then that’s even more fun!
There are gorgeous examples of dining style chair makeovers on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook groups from which you get inspiration! There’s always the option of adding gilding waxes, textured paint, furniture transfers, decoupage, and stenciling! These add even more fun details and make your project that much more unique!
So, are you ready to tackle a simple chair seat reupholstering job? I’d love to see your pictures in the comments!
If you need help with the basics of chalk painting check out my blog post here https://simplyrefinished.com/how-to-chalk-paint-furniture-makeovers-made-simple/ or this blog post https://simplyrefinished.com/five-tips-for-a-success-with-your-first-furniture-chalk-paint-project/.
For tips on prepping furniture for a smoother finish with chalk paint, check out this blog post https://simplyrefinished.com/how-to-get-a-smoother-finish-with-chalk-paint/. Let me know if I can answer any questions you have about your projects!
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