If You’ve Got an Hour, You Can Reupholster a Chair
Rookie DIY-ers, pay attention.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 7:05 AM
Maybe it’s an antique family heirloom you can’t bear to part with but can’t bear to put in your living room either. Or maybe it’s a Craigslist score that you couldn’t resist but definitely needs a little TLC. Either way, we all have that one piece of furniture that exists in home decor limbo: You’re not willing to toss it, but you also don’t quite know what to do with it. This is when reupholstering your furniture comes in handy. A great way to get a customized piece for less (plus bragging rights that you semi-built it yourself), reupholstery is frequently touted as the solution to all secondhand furniture woes—but it can seem like quite the daunting DIY.
Here’s the good news: It doesn’t have to be. While some items (for example, sofas) may require expert assistance, smaller fixtures like accent chairs or dining chairs are actually super-simple to reupholster at home. What’s more, you can do it in under an hour and without so much as a sewing machine. Keep reading to find out how to give an old chair new life.
Step 1: Lay out your tools
First of all, pick your fabric. From ethereal watercolors to modern graphics, there are tons of options on the market, at every price point; it just takes a little digging. Once you have that figured out, assemble your equipment. You’ll need fabric scissors, needle-nose pliers, a flathead screwdriver, a ruler, a dish to hold loose screws, and a staple gun. Make sure the staples you get match the model of the gun you have; it should state what you need on the side of the staple gun. Here, we used a T50A.
Step 2: Prep your chair
Flip the chair upside down on a work surface, making sure that it’s secure enough so it doesn’t topple over. Not all chairs are made the same, but most will have a simple seat cushion that’s attached to the base via a set of screws. Here, our chair was attached with slotted screws, so we used a flathead screwdriver to loosen them.
Step 3: Pull out the screws to remove the cushion
Once you’ve loosened each screw, pull them out—though, depending on how deep the sockets are, you may need to use needle-nose pliers to retrieve them. Pro tip: Avoid losing your screws by keeping them firmly housed in a small dish. You’ll need them at the end of the DIY, and, trust us, the whole process will go a lot smoother if you’re not running around hunting for screws that have rolled under a table.
Step 4: Measure and cut the new fabric
Depending on how much extra fabric you bought as a backup plan, this is the step requiring the most concentration. Lay out your fabric on a flat work surface, with the front side facing down. Then place your cushion upside down in the corner of the fabric; this minimizes waste and ensures you only have to cut two sides.
Once the cushion is situated, pull one of the sides up to make sure there’s enough fabric to staple to the base. Lay that piece of fabric down flat, and measure the distance from the edge of the fabric to the chair so you can use the same dimension on the other two sides. Mark the sides that need to be cut, and use your fabric scissors to cut out the two remaining sides so you have one loose piece of fabric for your upholstery.
Step 5: Time to staple
Start stapling at the middle of each side of the cushion’s base, pulling the fabric taut as you go. Work your way around, so that the fabric is stapled thoroughly on all sides, leaving the corners for last. Once you get to the corners, staple each corner of the fabric down first, then, making neat folds with the remaining fabric, staple it all down into place. No sewing machine required.
Step 6: Clean it up
Use your fabric scissors to cut excess fabric away. Be sure to leave the original screw holes exposed, so you’re able to re-adhere the base of the chair back onto the cushion.
Step 7: Reassemble your chair
Place the base back onto the cushion, making sure the holes on the base perfectly align with the screw sockets on the cushion.
Step 8: The finishing touch
Using the screwdriver, put the original screws (which should be safely stowed away in the aforementioned tiny vessel) back into their sockets. And voilà! Your chair is as good as new—literally. Just be sure everything is tightly screwed in to avoid any accidents, and you’re ready to enjoy your vibrant new accent chair.
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