This beautiful chair became homeless after my parents moved last summer, so I decided to take it with me to my small studio apartment in Chicago. The rounded arms of this corner chair worked perfectly in my small space to make the “living room” feel distinct from the “bedroom.” The only problem was the forest-green fabric; it was old, faded by the sun, and clashed with the other colors in my space. Since the chair itself was so beautifully shaped and constructed, I thought this would make a perfect re-upholstery project!
- Upholstery Weight Material: You can obviously choose any fabric you like, but a thick twill is going to better stand the test of time. I used this Coral Chevron print from FestiveHomeFabric.
- Phillips Head Screwdriver
- Flat Head Screwdriver
- Staple Gun*
- 5/16” Staples*
- A beautiful chair in need of a little love: I already had a perfect chair for this project, but solid wood chairs with bad upholstery can go overlooked in thrift stores and at rummage sales. You can find one for a steal and take it from dumpster to dazzling with a custom upholstery job.
*If you don’t already have a staple gun, you can buy a decent one for $18-$25. There are two numbers to consider when buying the staples for your gun: the depth and the size. Your gun will always use the same size staple, but you can get those in different depths for different projects. My staple gun uses sizes 20 for flat head and 25 for rounded head, so I bought a pack of 5/16” flat head staples in size 20.
Steps 1-4: Removing the seat panel. Every chair is built differently, but most wood chairs with upholstered seats are built with the explicit intention of removing the seat for periodic re-upholstery. Therefore, it should not be too complicated. When I turned over my chair I saw that it was held together with 4 screws, one in each corner. Using a Phillips Head Screwdriver, I removed the 4 screws and detached the seat from the chair. The resulting seat-less structure was very confusing to my cat.
Steps 5-8:Removing the old Fabric and prepping the New. When you turn over your seat cushion, you’ll notice that the fabric has been stapled into the wooden panel. Remove the staples by prying them out with a thin flat-head screwdriver. This step could take awhile… so I suggest turning on some TV or music to occupy your mind. (Removing all the staples in my seat took approximately 2 episodes of Arrested Development and 1 Beyonce song.) Once you have removed the staples, move the seat panel and padding aside, and use the old fabric as a template for measuring your new fabric piece. I pinned down the corners of the old piece and cut around the edges. Once your fabric is cut, iron out the creases… and your fabric is ready to use.
Steps 9-12: Stapling the Fabric Sides. Begin your project by securing one side with your staple gun. Once you have one side secured, pull the fabric tight on the opposite side and use a ruler to check for fabric alignment. This is a small step, but it can make or break the professional look of your project. I like working with stripes and geometric prints, because you can use the pattern as built in guide for alignment, but if you choose a solid fabric, just look closely at the grain for help! Here I made sure that the pattern was perfectly even, both horizontally and vertically before stapling the second side. Once your sure of you alignment, start stapling the opposite side. Secure the other two sides the same way, but leave the corners open, as pictured in step 12. Don’t worry about making mistakes with the staples! It doesn’t need to look pretty underneath and if you ever need to fix something, you can easily remove staples and readjust.
On using a Staple Gun for the first time: It’s pretty difficult to get injured with a staple gun, unless it’s being used against you as a weapon Battle Royale style, but as with anytime you use a new tool, it’s important to think carefully about how it works and take any necessary measures to ensure your safety. Make sure there are no jams in the staple carriage, never point the “action end” towards your body, and keep your free hand away from gun. Additionally, if you are weak in the upper arm department, like me, it’s easier to use a staple gun if you balance the carriage on a solid surface, as pictured in step 9.
Steps 13-15: Securing Corners and Finishing Touches. The corners can be a little tricky because you’re dealing with a lot of fabric. I recommend folding in the corners from both sides and pulling it tight slightly to one side. Place a staple on the side with the tighter fold when viewing from the side and continue to pull the fabric tight while securing with staples. Complete this procedure for all 4 sides. Step 15 is not necessary, but it hides any mistakes and prevents any loose frays in the upholstery. Choose any fabric that you have around the house. Cut a piece the size of your seat cushion. Fold the sides underneath and secure with staples. Repeat for all four sides until the bottom is covered. Once your seat is finished, drop it back into the chair and replace the screws. Now you are ready to enjoy your custom upholstery job!