How to reupholster an occasional chair

How to reupholster an occasional chair tutorial
Old chair reupholstery and paint before and after pictures

I found this chair sitting beside the dumpster at my old apartment probably seven or eight years ago. The upholstery was a sun-faded mauve and the frame had chipped cream paint. But I loved the shape, so I took it home to sand, paint, and recover it. I chose black for the frame and a black and white damask pattern for the cushion.

The old chair didn’t have a proper home in our new house, and I was considering pitching it. (The seat is saggy and my upholstery job was no longer holding up, thanks to my cat.) But my mom suggested putting it in the master bathroom. It was a good idea. The chair is the perfect size and the shape works with the glam feel I’m going for. But I’m working on lightening up the bathroom, so black isn’t exactly working in my favor. And I’m not crazy about the damask pattern any more. So an update is in order.

Now that you have more information than you wanted to know about this second-hand chair, here’s how I updated it:

 Tools needed

  • needle nose pliers
  • semigloss paint (can or spray paint)
  • brush (if not using spray paint)
  • scissors
  • fabric (I used a little over a yard for this chair)
  • staple gun
  • fabric glue or glue gun
  • rope trim (I used 3 yards)


  1. Take off old upholstery. Use needle nose pliers to remove staples. Or you may want to just upholster over existing fabric.
  2. You may choose to lightly sand the chair’s frame. I did not because I severely hate sanding.
  3. Paint it, making sure to touch up any drips. It will probably take a couple coats.
  4. If the seat is removable, you can upholster it while the paint dries. Before you staple, practice pleating the fabric under the seat to see how it will lay best to avoid wrinkles on top.
  5. Once you have pleating figured out, it’s time to staple. Press the top front of the gun with one palm for pressure while you pull the trigger so the staple goes all the way through.
  6. After paint is dry and has an even coat, put the seat cushion back and staple the top of the chair.
  7. Cover your staple work by gluing rope trip on top. I used Unique Stitch on this chair because I had it close by.
diy step by step old chair upholstery and paint makeover
Gray and white striped chair
Gray and white striped chair back

I ordered the fabric online because I couldn’t find any gray and white striped locally, so I couldn’t see it in person first. It has a slight purple hue in certain light, which I don’t care for, but eh. For a chair I was going to pitch, it works fine.

Oh, and I attempted to fix the saggy seat with a wooden wine box lid I found laying around in the garage. I broke it in half and it fit almost perfectly inside the frame. (We’ll see how that holds up!) The only problem with my not-so-professional work was that it turns out the lid was sentimental to my husband. It was gift from the only wine producer in Marcello’s hometown in Italy. Yikes!

1 thought on “How to reupholster an occasional chair

  1. Thank you for your fantastic tutorials and your great critique. You go to a great deal of effort to share your skills. Thank you

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