Dude, I Re-upholstered a Chair.


IMG_1029  This is the chair. I got it for thirty bucks at the massive consignment sale in Charlotte, NC I went to with my older sister when I was pregnant with Cade (at the time “Potato” because I didn’t know the gender). It’s a kid size recliner and there were two of them. I LOVED the idea of a child sized “grown up” chair, but the fabric and obvious wear and tear was a huge turn off (which is probably why nobody was rushing to buy them). I don’t know if you can tell by the picture, but the fabric itself is like burlap which although durable is rough and scratchy and, well, boring.

Now, I have a “thing” for chairs. They are my all time favorite piece of furniture. Brian is going to build a small dining room table and I’m going to insist that each of us pick out a different chair to go with it. No matchy matchy for me, thank you, I want some furniture with personality! Or, basically, I would like funky bright dining room chairs and Brian will prefer neutral squishy ones. He’ll get a neutral squishy one that makes him happy, I’ll get a cheerful oddball one to make me happy, and Cade (when he get’s big enough) can help pick out his own, too. A win win all the way around.

I digress. Back to the chair. After much dithering back and forth I took a deep breath and finally decided to try my hand at re-upholstery-something I have wanted to attempt for several years now. So I bought one of the forlorn little chairs, and went to a fabric warehouse (deserving of far more attention than I can give it in this post-it was awesome!) and bought some fabric and a staple gun.

2013-02-26 18_50_44  I promptly took apart the chair, labeling the pieces and hardware as I went and saving all the screws. I have never re-upholstered anything before. I’ve never seen it done. I was totally making this up as I went, so I figured I’d just take everything apart, document all the pieces and use them as a pattern, and put it all back together.

Challenge 1: Staple removal

I had a flat head screw driver and a pair of pliers. It took a very, very long time to remove the staples…and staple pieces where the staples broke apart…ugh.

Challenge 2: Cushion replacement

I was planning on keeping some of the original foam until after several wash treatments I realized it was so stained, and so flat, and so worn out it just wasn’t worth it. So I ended up replacing everything.

Challenge 3: Sewing

This actually wasn’t really a challenge, just the next step. I used my mom’s new sewing machine (thanks mom!) and using the original pieces and chalk pencils I steadily made all the necessary fabric pieces out of the new fabric. It took awhile, but it was surprisingly problem free.

Challenge 4: Re-stapling

That staple gun I bought was a JOKE. Well, at least for trying to staple into seasoned hardwood. I ended up using my father-in-law’s electric staple gun (thanks Mr. Keefer!) which was a considerable step up, but still not great. I mangled more staples than I managed to get usable ones into the wood, and I still have a couple of staples to hammer flat before it’s Cade ready. Next re-upholstery product I am getting a pneumatic staple gun. One of those would have saved me over half of the time it took to reassemble the chair.

Challenge 5: Buttons

Holy cow, the buttons. First, I didn’t know how to make buttons out of my fancy new fabric. I took my problem to a re-upholstery guy and he kindly made me a handful of buttons with his handy dandy button press completely free of charge. He was laughing at my enthusiasm for the button press, but seriously, I want one. Screw jewelry, Brian needs to buy me a button press. SO much fun!

It was all downhill from there, however. I broke three needles (Upholstery needles!) trying to get the buttons on the chair. I had to thread the needle through the foam that made up the back cushion, and the foam kept making hard, immovable knots around the needles. It was awful. I can’t describe in words how I actually managed to get the buttons in, but it took Brian’s assistance and it wasn’t pretty. Stupid buttons.

Challenger 6: Foot rest

I broke a screw in the wood attempting to get the foot rest back on, so I had to unstaple the fabric, flip the foot rest around, restaple and rescrew. Grrr. I was ready to chuck the whole thing out a window at this point.

Challenge 7: Tack strips

The very last part of the chair is the backing which uses a thin piece of cardboard stripping and then two parallel tack strips on the back length of the chair to cover up all the stapled bits and make it look finished.tack stripI thought this was going to be a bear to get done and it was the very last step. The nice re-upholstery guy had given me two pieces of tack stripping (again, free of charge. They were too small for him to use on all his normal sized furniture) and I lined up the last piece of fabric with some trepidation…

Turns out this was the easy part of the whole darn thing. I took my time measuring and aligning and BAM it was done!



I am SO HAPPY with how it turned out! I love the fabric, it’s wild enough to appeal to my sense of fun (this is a child’s chair after all) but the colors are muted enough that Brian doesn’t wince when he sees it, haha. All of the dark brown is actually a raised velvet, so it’s got different texture’s for Cade to feel, and the rest of the fabric is tough but softer than the original burlap.   This project took a lot longer than I had hoped-I wanted to get it done before Cade was born, but I got to big to be manipulating the chair during my third trimester. Then just when Cade finally started sleeping through the night and I got caught up on sleep, I got pregnant again and first trimester pregnancy fatigue hit me hard. It’s taken me a little over a year all told from when I purchased the chair, but I feel like it was totally worth it! I’ll give it to Cade for his 1st birthday, I can’t wait to see him sitting on it 🙂


One response »

  1. I love that you have a designated “favorite piece of furniture” category. Not just one chair, or a particular chair specifically, but chairs as a general category of furniture. And this looks great! 🙂


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