I bought the cutest bamboo chair for $85 at a vintage market last year. It works ok in my house, but I wanted to customize it to work better. In the past I hired a professional to re-upholster a chair, but wanted to see if I could do it myself. I thought I’d share how to upholster a chair in case you want to try this great way to upcycle an old piece of furniture.
Here’s the before of my bamboo chair I’m recovering. The dark green paint and fabric weren’t my style (although they are pretty). This was a DIY before and there were some areas that weren’t done that well.
how to upholster a chair
Let’s start with the video tutorial so you get an overview on what I did. Then, I’ll dive in with more details below:
If the video doesn’t work here, you can watch it on YouTube here. I’d be over the moon happy if you subscribed to my YouTube channel! Videos are actually released on YouTube first (usually the night before they’re published on the blog). Thank you!
- Painter’s Tool
- Staple Gun
- 3/8″ Staples
- Hot Glue Gun
- Velvet Fabric 1 yard
- Sewing Scissors
- Paint- Garden Swing
For this chair I spent $5 on paint, $22.50 cord trim, batting $11.50, and $17.50 on fabric. The total came to $56.50 to reupholster the chair
step 1- remove old materials
Start by removing the trim. For my chair, it had been hot glued on so I used pliers to pull it off. It was pretty easy to remove once I got it started.
Also remove the fabric. Again, use the pliers and pull the fabric off. I found the more fabric I could hold in the pliers, the more leverage I could get with pulling off the old fabric.
The last time this chair had been worked on, the original fabric hadn’t been removed, so I took that off too. Note, you’ll use the fabric for a template to cut the new upholstery so don’t discard it yet!
Once all the fabric is off the chair, use the pliers to remove any of the old staples. I also liked using my painter’s tool to pull up any old stubborn staples. Hint, keep a garbage can close by to easily discard the staples. For my project, there were a lot of staples to remove.
The last item to remove is the cushion and padding. Gently pull them up and off the frame. Note, some chairs may need a screwdriver to remove the seat for reupholstering.
Some tutorials I’ve read/watched suggested removing the webbing and back frame work. I was worried about getting those back on correctly. Plus the top of the chair has a crack and when removing the fabric, it damaged the frame further. So I didn’t want to do any more damage.
step 2- clean and paint the chair frame
Now that the chair is down to the frame and support system, it’s time to prep it for paint.
First, clean the chair by mixing 2 Tablespoons or TSP with 1 gallon of hot water. Use a rag dipped in the solution to clean the entire surface of the chair you’ll be painting. Wipe the piece clean with a damp rag to remove any TSP residue. Let dry prior to painting.
Next, I needed to do a few repairs to the frame. The top of the chair had a crack that got worse when removing staples. So I used some wood glue to glue it back.
Then I filled the cracks with wood filler. Last, I sanded it smooth after the wood filler dried. I also sanded areas on the frame that weren’t perfectly smooth.
Lay a drop cloth on the floor. This will go underneath the chair before painting and will protect the floor from paint drips.
Since the finish was slick, I primed it first to help with paint adhesive. Without primer, the new paint would probably just scrape off easily so it’s important to prime.
Once the primer was dry, it was time to paint the chair the new mint green color. I did two thin coats of paint. It’s better to go light with the paint so it’ll dry smooth and do a few coats than have one lumpy layer of paint. It was kind of a paint to paint all the nooks and crannies, but it looked so good immediately that that made up for it.
step 3- upholster the chair
And now that the frame is prepped and painted, it’s time to work on the upholstery.
To start, cut out the batting. To get the right size, use the original batting as a template. If that’s not available, use the fabric to cut the batting the right size. I re-used my original padding and replaced the batting to better smooth it out.
Next, cut the fabric. For that, I used the original fabric and cut it out a few inches bigger. Having it a little larger will make it so that it’s easier to pull tight and gives a little more room for error.
Once all the batting and fabric is cut out, put the padding and fabric back on the chair. Take the time to position everything so it’s in right spot.
Then it’s the tricky part, use the staple gun to attach the fabric to the frame. I struggled with this. My staple gun had a guard so you can’t get too close to items. So the guard had to be removed so the staples could go into the frame.
I also had my husband help me staple on the fabric and I held the chair in place. It was physically too hard for me to hold the chair in place, get the fabric on correctly, and staple all at once.
Another tip I have is to keep your trim or cording handy as you’re stapling the fabric in place. If the staple goes too close to the edge of the frame, the cording won’t cover it. And if the staple isn’t close enough to the frame, then it also won’t be covered by the trim on the other side. We had to remove a bunch of the staples that were showing and redo them.
Once all the fabric is stapled onto the frame, use fabric scissors to trim the edges of the fabric.
step 4- add cording
Finally, add the cording to cover up the staples and where the fabric ends. To add the cording, use a hot glue gun. I prefer to use a glue gun that takes mini glue sticks. Why? The smaller glue sticks let out less hot glue at a time so it’s easier to not make a mess.
Work on 5 inches of trim at a time. Put a little bit of got glue over the staples and then smooth the cording over the glue. Don’t use too much glue or it’ll seep out and get glue on the fabric and look sloppy.
For the seat, I started the trim in the crack by the back legs so you couldn’t tell where it started and stopped. If you’re using a thinner trim you can fold over the edge of the trim to hide the end.
On the back of the chair, there was no where to hide where the trim started and stopped. When starting the trim, I left a tail that I didn’t glue to the frame. At the end, I tried to weave the cording from the two ends together. It was somewhat successful.
And here’s the finished chair! Isn’t it cute?! Especially with that tiger pillow!
The back turned out really nicely as well. I like that it has a secret strip. Business in the front, party in the back.
The chair isn’t perfect. If you look up close, there’s a few spots where you can see hot glue or a tiny bit of a staple. But I’m so proud of it! I learned a new skill and know that I’d get better if I tried it again.
Oh and if I were to try it again, I’d use a trim that’d be easier to work with. Maybe something flat and thick.
Do you like how the chair turned out? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
If you love it, pin it!