DIY: Reupholster a Chair

Have an old chair in need of a modern makeover? Take a seat.
  1. Tool Box

    Photo by Antonis Achilleos
    Sanding and Painting
    120- and 220-grit sandpaper
    Dust mask
    Heavy plastic drop cloth
    1 quart of primer
    Rags and paper towels
    1 quart of semigloss latex paint for each chair frame
    2 high-quality synthetic brushes for painting
    1 trim brush for painting details on chair
    1-½ yards of upholstery fabric for each cushion
    Upholstery-grade foam rubber for the cushion
    Staple gun (or carpet tacks)
    ⅜-inch staples
    Fabric scissors
    Pencil or fabric chalk
    Screwdrivers (Phillips head and flat head)
    Measuring tape
    Needle-nose pliers
    Chef’s or utility knife
  2. Prepping the Chair

    Photo by Antonis Achilleos
    Sanding and Painting
    1. Turn the chair over and unscrew the cushion from the frame. Set aside.
    2. Clean surface with a damp cloth.
    3. Sand surface with a 120-grit sand paper; wipe clean.
    4. Repeat with 220-grit sandpaper, and again, wipe away dust.
    5. Apply primer. Allow to dry for at least 3 hours. (Apply a second coat if the dry primer looks spotty.)
    6. Once dry, take a clean brush and apply paint using long strokes and moving in one direction. Let dry.
    7. Add a second coat of paint. Let dry.
  3. Making the Cushion

    Photo by Antonis Achilleos
    1. With the flat head of a screwdriver or needle-nose pliers, remove any staples or tacks from fabric on chair seat.
    2. Remove fabric, foam cushion, and seat board from frame. (Most are a single piece of wood.)
    3. Lay the frame on the fabric.
    4. Using the frame as a template, trace the outline onto the foam cushion.
    5. Cut foam around the outline with a sharp knife or upholstery scissors.
    6. Lay frame on the wrong side of the fabric. If you’re using a specific pattern like stripes, you’ll want the design to align with the seat. (With this floral, we placed the fabric so that four flowers appear on the seat.) Trace around the frame with pencil or chalk; add 4 inches all around and mark again.
    7. Cut along the second markings.
    Tip: Use a straightedge knife with a sharp blade for a smooth finish.
  4. Putting it Together

    Photo by Antonis Achilleos
    1. On a flat surface, layer fabric right side down, then add foam, thread and the seat board. Place the frame on top. Make sure excess fabric extends evenly on all sides.
    2. Starting at back center, hold the cushion firmly in place and pull the excess fabric around what will be the bottom of the seat.
    3. Secure with a staple. Repeat at the front center of the seat; and again, at the center point of each side.
    4. Slowly work your way around chair seat, pulling fabric taut to staple in place. Allow 2 inches from each of the corners.
    5. Fold the fabric at one corner into a neat finish by tucking any excess fabric underneath and smoothing the top down. Secure with 3 or 4 staples. Keep the folds flat.
    6. Trim excess fabric, making sure screw holes are unobstructed by fabric.
    7. Once paint is completely dry, place cushion on chair and secure with screws.
    Tip: To avoid sagging over time, pull fabric as tight as possible.
  5. Optional

    Photo by Antonis Achilleos
    Tool Box
    Heavyweight tracing paper
    Repositionable spray adhesive (available at art supply stores)
    X-Acto knife or small sharp scissors
    Disposable plate (to use as a palette)
    Acrylic craft paint in desired colors for detail
    Foam stencil brushes

    Painting detail
    1. Lay a piece of heavyweight tracing aper or clear acetate over the fabric design and carefully trace the motif with a pencil.
    2. Cut out the pattern in the middle along the line with a utility knife to make a stencil.
    3. Spray adhesive on back of paper and stick stencil sheet to the center of the chair to keep it from moving.
    4. Squeeze paint colors onto your clean palette. Dab the end of the foam brush into the paint. (Be careful not to overload with paint.)
    5. Apply paint to the cutout areas of the stencil by tapping it in an up-and-down motion. Don’t brush! Remove stencil and allow to dry.
    6. Make the next smaller stencil from a second sheet of tracing paper or acetate. Repeat as before.
    7. For another color, switch to a clean brush. Apply in the same way.