How to Reupholster a Chair, Guest Post by The Doodle Bug

Hello everyone!  I'm Becky, The Doodle Bug, and I am so excited to guest post for Kate and say hello to all of you!  Today I have a fun little upholstery project to share with you, a simple chair that is very misunderstood most of the time.  I got this poor neglected chair from a lady about a month ago, and it desperately needed some TLC.  Oh, and something to fill that gaping hole that you're supposed to sit in.

Here she is, doesn't it bring a little tear to your eye?  It doesn't help that these pictures look like they were taken in a prison cell.  They get better, I promise :)
I said before that this little chair and its brothers and sisters are often misunderstood.  And they are misunderstood because many people see that gaping hole and think "Hey!  Who took the board from the chair seat??"  Well, if that's what crossed your mind, you are not alone.  But in fact, you are wrong. (Is it okay that I say that?  Yikes.  I'm going to get fired first day on the job!).

If the pictures weren't from chair-prison, you'd be able to see that there are a lot of tack nails all around the edge of the seat.  This is a giveaway that this chair is meant to be upholstered as-is, directly to the frame.  I learned that in my super-duper upholstery class two years ago.  This is an older style of upholstery, but is really comfortable when it's done because it "gives" with your...derrière.  It's surprisingly strong, though I might not recommend standing on it.

So what you need for this project is:
1.  Chair
2.  Stapler & Staples.  I have a pneumatic gun, but a normal heavy duty hand-held stapler will do the trick just fine.
3.  Jute Webbing (can be found at any fabric store, or even at Wal-Mart)
4.  Strong Fabric or burlap--doesn't matter what it looks like.
5.  1"-2" Upholstery foam, large enough to cover your seat.
6.  Upholstery Fabric--again, large enough to cover your seat with a few inches extra on each side.
7.  Glue Gun
8.  Trim that coordinates with your fabric.

The first thing I did was prep and paint the frame.  I sanded the frame down using my handy-dandy orbital sander, and then used Rustoleum's new water-based spray paint in black to paint the frame.  This was the first time I used their water-based formula and I have to say I definitely prefer the regular oil-based version.  It worked alright, though, so I went with it.  A girl doesn't have time to do things twice, right?

Once that was done, it was on to the fun part--upholstery!!  Here's how to upholster a chair directly to the frame.  
 Start with two strips of webbing in one direction.  Staple one end (following the placement of the old nail holes as a guide), then fold over the excess and staple again.  On the other end of each strip, PULL.  HARD.  Use the frame as leverage, because this webbing is pretty much all that keeps your lovely guests and small children from falling through the chair.   Once that side is stapled, again fold over the excess and staple again.  Many, many staples.  Next, do the same thing with two strips in the other direction.  If you have a larger chair or bench, just add more strips to give you more strength.
In the real world of professional upholstery, you're supposed to use burlap for this.  But...I'm not a professional upholsterer, I didn't have any burlap, and this worked just as well!  Sorry, upholstery purists.  This fabric keeps the foam (next step) from pushing through the webbing and gives a nice, even surface.  
Cut the fabric to the size of the seat, plus 2"-3" on each side (or if you prefer to leave it very large, it can give you more leverage when you're pulling it tight).  Start at one side, staple that down.  Then on the opposite side, PULL.  HARD.  (are you sensing a trend?).  Staple that side down, as well.  Next,  do the same with the other two sides.  

Once all the sides are stapled, fold the excess in on itself and staple again.
Now to attach the foam pad.  It's pretty simple, just trim it slightly larger than the seat (about 1" extra on each side), curl the upper edge down and staple in place.  This gives you a nice rounded edge.
I generally get the best results if I start in the middle of one side, staple about 3" of it, then go to the opposite side and do the same thing.  Then, I go to the other two sides and do the same thing.  If you skip around, starting in the middle of each side, and just staple little-by-little, you will usually end up with the foam pad in the right place instead of a pucker.  This rule goes for the fabric on top, as well.
We're getting there!  Put the fabric on in pretty much the same way you put on the foam, starting in the center of one side, and skipping to the opposite side.  Repeat, repeat, repeat, until you're done.  Make sure to do lots of smoothing of the fabric.  You don't have to pull very hard on this one, because that will create unevenness.  Just smooth it down firmly and evenly, and staple.  Then, using scissors, trim very close to the staples--only leaving about 1/4" extra.

Then, heat up that glue gun and take the trim that you bought and glue it around the edge of the cushion.  Nope, I'm not joking.  When I took the upholstery class I was shocked when my very-picky-professional-upholsterer teacher told me to just glue it on!  WHAT!  Real people use glue guns for everything, too??   Yes, I give you permission to just glue on your trim, guilt-free.

I used a thick cotton cording to trim this out, available at the Wal-Mart for under $2.

Now you've worked your tail off, and it's time to take a seat in your newly-upholstered chair!!  Ahhhh...

Oh, so much better.

Thanks so much for letting me come and share this little beauty of a chair with you all!  If you want to check out some of my other projects, you can find 'em at

Happy Vacationing, Kate!

~The Doodle Bug 


  1. Great tutorial. Thanks, I have a couple that I really want to redo.. Hugs, Marty

  2. Very nice. I love old chairs. I've only reupholstered one that had to be done by this method and I had to wing it. I wish I had your post to follow when I did that.

  3. I have a chair just like this that needs this same upholstered job done. Thanks for showing me how to do it.

  4. terrific tutorial! I LOVE the LYRE chairs in the background ;)

  5. Oh wow, this is fantastic. Such a huge difference, you did an amazing job on these chairs. I wish I had the patience to do this with some of my older furniture, it really makes them pop-out after a nice cleaning.

  6. I just found this tutorial ...THANK YOU!!! I bought an awesome old rocker and had no clue how to replace the sorry old seat. Now I'm a woman on a mission. Thanks again.


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