When Marylisa sent me a picture of her chairs, I knew I had just the posts, tutorials, and examples to share with her! If you’ve followed me for a few years, you probably know how much I enjoy buying and reupholstering French-style chairs. Well, I don’t really enjoy upholstery, but I enjoy the results and this style of chair is much easier to upholster because of the wood frame. If you’re considering diving into the world of upholstery, this kind of chair is a good place to start.
So, here is what Marylisa’s chairs look like now…
The last photo shows an antique linen sheet draped over one of the chairs. She purchased a few at an antique store to use on these chairs. I won’t ever argue with antique linen!
These chairs are almost identical in style to the buffalo checked chairs in my kitchen eating area…
But I didn’t make a tutorial showing how I did those chairs, so I’ll have to piece together some other tutorials. The French chair upholstery tutorial series is going to be most relevant and I even upholstered them in antique linen…
What you’ll need for this project…
- Staple remover
- upholstery staple gun & compressor
- staples (I would suggest 3/8″ for this)
- fabric for upholstery (about 3 yards per chair)
- upholstery webbing
- batting (if needed)
- Dust cover fabric (if needed)
- trim (or cording to make double-welting)
- heavy duty sewing machine
- Upholstery glue or a hot glue gun
- scissors (I like THESE for cutting fabric and THESE for trimming excess fabric around the staples, because the blades are short)
Here are the steps to reupholster the chairs…
step one | strip the existing upholstery
HERE is a video tutorial showing how to strip the chairs. In the case of a chair like this, you need to completely remove the back down to the wood frame. Keep the padding and any support pieces, like cardboard. Those can be reused. THIS is my favorite tool for removing staples. The padding can be left on the seat and arms, but make sure you get the frame clean along the edges where the new staples will be inserted. It’s okay if there are a few staples here and there, but clumps of fabric and batting will prevent the new layer of fabric from laying nice and flat and may interfere with the new staples, too.
Once the chair has been stripped, this is a good time to take a look at the guts of the chair. Is the padding in good shape? Does the underside need some additional webbing?
step two | address the chair frame
This is the point where you want to do whatever it is you want to do to the chair frame (if anything.) Maybe you just want to leave it alone! In the case of Marylisa’s chairs, I think that would be fine.
But, if you want to paint it, revive a wood finish with Hemp Oil, or add a decorative wax, this would be the time. HERE is a video tutorial on painting a chair frame and HERE is a tutorial on distressing and waxing the frames.
step three | select & cut the fabric
I have learned that it’s easier to cut all of the fabric at one time, not only so it’s done and at the ready, but so you make sure you have enough and can plan which piece goes where. This is especially important when you’re working with vintage fabric and you can’t easily order more. HERE is a tutorial on cutting the fabric.
For this style of chair, I love using a patterned fabric on the back or perhaps and antique grain sack with a graphic stencil or stripes. It just adds a little “wow” when you see the back. It’s sort of like a simple dress or a pretty blouse with an eye-catching detail on the back.
step four | upholstering the back
Since the chair was stripped to the frame, the webbing will need to be replaced. This webbing reinforces the chair back, so it’s supportive. HERE is a tutorial showing how to upholster the back of the chair. Make sure you staple on the fabric that will be showing through the back of the chair before adding the webbing! (The style of the chair below is a little different, but it’s a good example of using burlap and crisscrossing webbing for support.)
step five | upholstering the seat
THIS tutorial shows how to upholster the seat of the chair. This will be covered up by the cushion, but it’s still worth doing with nice fabric. I’ve seen the seats of chairs done in panels, so the nice fabric shows and a less expensive fabric is hidden under the cushion, but that’s a lot more sewing for what ends up being a pretty small piece of fabric!
step six | making a new seat cushion cover
HERE is a tutorial showing how to make a cover for the cushion. I use a pin-fitting method just like I do when I’m making slipcovers. It ensures a great fit and you don’t have to make templates. HERE is a tutorial showing how to sew a zipper on a cushion cover, but you can make an envelope closure as I did in the cushion cover tutorial. I do that most of the time, just because it’s quick and easy!
(Man, I loved those chairs!)
step seven | replacing the dust cover (if needed)
In THIS TUTORIAL, I show how to repair the bottom of a chair and replace the dust cover.
step eight | making & attaching the trim
If Marylisa wants to make her own double-welting trim, HERE is a tutorial showing how to do that. She can also use a gimp trim or something else depending on the desired look. My only concern about double welting would be the amount of fabric she has. She may not have enough for that option and finding a perfect match in new linen might prove difficult.
If she wants to use a store-bought trim, I think a matte, cream gimp would be a nice option.
Whew! Those are a lot of tutorials I had to track down, but I know this post will be helpful for people working on a similar chair. I hope so, anyway!