GET CRAFTY: (re)new chairs project

Thinking of recovering an old chair or six? It’s really quick and easy. Here’s my long winded preamble with the basic steps (and even some videos) at the end…

image finished chevron chair

When we moved into our current house, we added a new dining room table and chairs. It was in fact a moderately old table bought on ebay, mahogany pedestal table in moderately bad shape. It was not a disaster, but it was not something that we would feel like we had to protect from at the time 2 little boys (now 3 boys and a girl). The price was accordingly low as well, which also meant it wasn’t precious enough to protect from hooligans, but it would look nice (at least if you didn’t look too, too close) The chairs came covered in a striped velvet that also wasn’t too, too hideous, but not something that would pain me each time it received a new glop of yogurt or a new layer of chocolate finger prints. The chairs are actually rather uncomfortable, so that helped not endear itself to us in any way. Being a lover of the downtrodden and rejected piece of furniture, that’s always a risk, so luckily this table never really gained a foothold that made me feel protective of it in any way at all. Four years later it’s just gross, which leads us to part 2 of this story, in a few minutes.

Part I is that we are getting ready to list our house and want everything to look as presentable as possible. The now rather yucky looking chair seats were one of the first items to hit our fix up list. Because they are covered at any time with from one to 3 children or sometimes me with 4 on top of me, they are also covered with all sorts of gloppity goo. I’ve avoided recovering them because I wasn’t sure it was worth the effort as I waited for the day that we could just replace it, which I thought meant when everyone was still a bit older and because I knew whatever material I picked, I’d feel more protective of once I’d spent several night stapling it to the chairs. However at this point it just couldn’t be avoided and we jumped into finding the perfect child resistant fabric to make the results hopefully last more than 10 minutes before being destroyed and me painfully, regretting having gone ahead with the renewal process.

So, even though we picked a very nice, very modern looking child friendly fabric, at the last minute, I impulsively purchased fabric that is far less child friendly and probably not with he most “wide appeal” which is where I should have been going since we’re trying to sell our house. But I impulsively loved it and therefore decided that it would, of course, work out. And it did. I do love it. Everyone here loves it. It looks great. So great, in fact that I stop breathing when little fingers, mouths and runny noses get within 5 feet of my first completed chair. So much so that I moved the one chair into protective custody and stopped, procrastinated and just avoided doing the rest until Part II of this story comes in…

The table itself is a  disaster. It’s veneer is peeling off, nothing can be really cleaned off of it at this point and the little fingers are peeling big chunks of the underside of the table off, bit by bit. The yellow duck tape hiding it all together may be a pretty color, but it’s not really the look I want. And so, I began thinking that if I could just find another table and maybe new chairs, all would be well again. However, being that the 2 hooligans are now 4 hooligans 6 and under with no table manners that like to smear, drip and spit everything they eat onto the table. the budget for a new one is still very, very low. With no hope of really finding anything, I still held off on recovering the remaining chairs and scoured the local listing with the back up idea of new legs for our stainless kitchen table as a possible option and painting the chairs before recovering. Did I mention yet that our house is supposed to be officially listed in about 2 weeks? Anyway, on the very last day, when I was going to just give up and pull my stapler out, I found a new table, along with 2 mahogany dressers all for about $200 at a moving sale in a big old house in the center of town, just a few blocks from the house I used to live in, which was good enough pedigree for me and I actually took it all sight unseen.

Luckily it’s turned out well. The new table is solid cherry from the 20’s or 30’s and in decent enough shape, much better than the old one, slightly nice enough that I’m feeling protective of it, but not enough that I won’t get over it once it gets it’s first good yogurt bath and hopefully survives. But, best part the chairs are wonderful. Comfortable, I’m sitting on one now, and pretty. I even like their velvet striped covers, much much better than the old ones. So this project is really on hold until possibly, the new chairs look like yucky disgusting science projects or I decide to just go ahead an do these in the rest of the new fabric in the days that I have left.


Either way, recovering a chair really is super easy in most cases. I actually didn’t really look at any instructions or watch any videos or the like. I just know how to stretch a canvas and took it from there.

You will need:

Fabric- Home decor or upholstery weight, I ordered enough to cover the seats plus a few inches out in each direction to pull around and staple. I chose Premier Prints Zig Zag in Orange/Navy. I love their fabrics, less expensive than the ones i usually love, but fabulous choices. I also used the Barber Print in True Turquoise  to create a cover panel for my old secretary that is missing its doors to cover up my computer, monitor, papers etc.)

Cotton batting- I just bought a large roll, so I’d have extra if I needed it. (you can also use a piece of foam cut to size)

Staple gun & staples- I’m using heavy duty staples 5/16" because that’s what I use for stretching canvas, but it might be a bit of overkill.

Scissors & measuring tape


one of our lovely chairs, pre-makeover

The basics for my chair were as follows:

1) unscrew seat from frame

2) cut a piece of batting just slightly large than the seat top, just enough to curl around the edge, but not enough to get in the way when you staple.

3) Cut your fabric to cover the top, wrap around and have enough to grab, pull an staple. Not too much or you’ll have a bunch to trim down after, but enough that you can pull tight.

4) lay the fabric face down, batting on top, then the chair seat, face down on top. Make sure your pattern is straight if you have one, then add 4 staples in the center of each side, opposite sides first (on the back side of the seat), pulling taught, but keeping the fabric straight and aligned.You wan the fabric to be close enough to the edges that you don’t cover your screw holes, but far enough it that it’s secure

5) flip the seat to make sure the fabric looks aligned properly, if not pull the staples and adjust & start again

6) Pulling taught and a bit to the side before you add each staple, staple to the left ot each staple you already have in place, flip the seat around, staple to the right all the way around, always pulling taught. Flip around and go to the other side after each 4th staple, so you add staples to each side of the first 4 staples equally which helps keep the material straight, taught and wrinkle free.Check the face side every so often to make sure it still looks ok. You can also just staple out to the edges after the center staples are set)

7) when you’re at the corners you basically just need to fold down the edges and secure them in a way that looks flat and neat and making sure the screw holes are not covered. I just fiddled and trimmed a bit until I had them secured with 2 staples at each corner. Trim any excess fabric if you want.

8) Screw the seat in place.

the first completed chair

That’s it.  For instructions with images see here or watch the video below from before & after TV:

Here’s a video on stretching a canvas, which is the method I used. Sorry about the music, you might want to mute it…

 (videos via YouTube)

* Note: I actually wrote this in August, but in the chaos of getting the house ready to list, lost the photos, so this waited and waited until I finally managed to find them last week. As a result, the photo at the start is the first finished chair making an appearance in the listing photos. We are, right now remaking over the house for when we relist it in the Spring, so we are actually now in a bigger state of chaos (for example, right now, as I’m preppring the post, we have no kitchen) and thus I am finally somehow getting this done. Over the next few weeks, hopefully starting this week, I’m attempting to write a few posts on our Re-Makeover process. If that actually happens will, of course, remain to be seen.