How to Reupholster a Chair Seat

Changing upholstery on a chair seat is really quite simple and my initial intention wasn't to show a tutorial. But then I remembered there was a time when I didn't know how to do this, so I decided to go ahead and share just in case it might help someone else. I'd love to hear from you if you find this helpful or if you have other tips to share!


Here's the chair "before". As you can see it has an elegant shape. The fabric was worn and the padding under the fabric was very thin. I like a little extra cushioning for my tush, so I decided to replace the cushioning, too. Actually I always replace the cushioning when I purchase furniture with unknown origins. This way I know the entire item is clean and fresh.

Turn the chair over and locate the screws holding the seat in place.

Remove the screws and then lift out the seat.

There were actually two layers of fabric already on this chair. Normally you would use pliers to remove the nails and then lift off the fabric. But both layers of fabric were so worn it just disintegrated whenever I applied the slightest pressure. So I ripped the fabric off and then went back to remove the nails.

The nails were snug against the wood, so I first use a screw driver to slightly lift up the nail head.

That gave me enough room to grab the nail with the pliers. . .

 . . . and lift out the nail. Then repeat until all the nails are removed.

You can use the old fabric as a template for the new fabric. I did not in this case because I didn't want the dirty fabric to touch my new fresh and clean fabric. So I just measured the seat and added about 3" extra to each side.

I used the seat as a template for the new 2" thick cushion. There wasn't a cushion under the old fabric (only a thin layer of batting). I also added a layer of new batting between the cushion and fabric but forgot to take a photo of it.

I used a small amount of spray adhesive in the center of the seat to adhere the cushion to the wood. This helps anchor the cushion so it doesn't slip and slide when attaching the fabric. (Using only a small amount of adhesive vs spraying the entire area is helpful to the next person that comes along and wants to switch things out.)

Next I wrapped the batting and fabric around the seat and used a staple gun to secure it. I pulled the fabric so it was snug and then placed a staple in the center of each side. I filled in the remaining areas with staples while continuing to pull the fabric so it remained snug.

For the corners I tucked and pleated the fabric being careful to not staple over the holes for the screws. That's helpful if you plan to re-attach the seat, ha ha. Trust me I've done it before! I trimmed the excess fabric away on the corners.

At this point you can re-attach the seat to the chair. But since I was going to paint the chair I set the seat aside for the time being.

The chair frame was in good shape and sturdy, but there were a few gouges in the wood that I went ahead and filled in with wood filler.

I gave the entire chair two coats of Old Ochre and then distressed the edges and details. I finished the chair with a coat of clear wax.


Wallah! Here's the finished chair.

I paired the chair together with the desk in my booth. The photo isn't my booth; it's my entryway, but I've since moved both pieces to the booth for sale.

I think the new look is soft and creamy.

And now the seat has just the right amount of cushioning.

The next chair I plan to work on is a bit trickier. It has a rope seat and is very challenging for me. I've made a couple attempts which have failed so far. But I'm determined to get it done. Stay tuned. . .


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