Tips for Easy DIY Chair Makeovers

Is your home littered with chairs that have been in the family for decades, or thrift store seats that look worn out but were too good a deal to pass up? Luckily, chairs that are an eyesore are a relatively easy problem to remedy. You can either apply a few easy hacks to spruce up your home’s seating, or if you’re looking for a good project, you can completely reupholster your chairs. Check out the following tips, listed by level of difficulty, to bring new life to old furniture.

Super Easy: Incorporate New Elements

If you’re dealing with a wooden or metal chair with peeling paint, the answer might be as easy as giving the chair a new paint job. Don’t feel constrained to the chair’s previous color: choose whatever color you think will look best in the room, or embrace your artistic side and paint on a multi-colored pattern (you can use painter’s tape or cut-out shapes if you don’t want to do this freehand).

For another fun, slightly eccentric look, you can try covering an old chair in a type of paper (think something like vintage maps, origami, or stationary). If you do this, make sure you use a strong glue and get the paper to lie completely flat so that the chair doesn’t get a lumpy look.


Relatively Easy: Use Tea Towels as Upholstery

You can easily make your own seat covers with nothing but tea towels and a sewing kit.

  1. Take two tea towels with a pattern you like and drape the first one wrong side up crosswise over the seat, with the long side lined up against the back and each short side hanging evenly over the chair.
  2. Pull the towel out at each corner to form a mitered corner and pin each side so that the towel is snug against the chair.
  3. Remove the towel and stitch it at each corner.  Trim the edge so that it’s only about half an inch wide.
  4. Turn under the raw edge and topstitch to secure the hem. You’ve now completed the bottom part of the seat cover.
  5. Take the second towel and drape it over the back of the chair, wrong side up. Repeat the same process of pinning and stitching the mitered corners.
  6. Pin the short edge of the seat cover towel to the bottom of the towel that will go over the back of the chair. Sew together and press the seam towards the second towel; you now have a slipcover. If you want, you can add ribbons to the corners to add an elegant touch.

Slightly More Challenging: Overhaul your Upholstery

As long as the basic structure of your chair is still holding up, you can completely remove old upholstery and add a new fabric.

  1. Loosen any tacks or staples with pliers to remove the old upholstery. Gently remove fabric from the chair without tearing (you may need to use scissors).
  2. Remove old batting from the chair. You may need to cut out new batting to cover the back of the chair and seat. Staple the corners to hold this batting in place.
  3. Place the original upholstery wrong side up over your new fabric. Cut out your new fabric, leaving a few extra inches around the old fabric so that you’ll have room to staple this new material.
  4. You may need to use a fabric pen to make markings on the new fabric to help you figure out placement and make sure that any patterns will line up correctly.
  5. Put your new fabric pieces over the chair, pull tight, and staple to the chair apron and chair back. Trim any extra fabric.
  6. Now you need to make welting to cover up the bare staples on your chair. This can get a little complicated, but refer to this blog for easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions.
  7. Use a strong furniture glue to attach your welting to the chair, completely covering the staples.
  8. Attach a piece of breathable black fabric to the underside of your chair, pulling tight and stapling along the edge. This will cover any springs and act as a dust cover.

Keep in mind that this is just a basic overview of potential chair makeovers. If you do decide to completely reupholster a chair, make sure that you feel comfortable sewing before you tear off any old upholstery, and consider talking to someone who has experience with upholstery like Seats and Stools to get additional tips (and maybe some assistance, if you’re a complete beginner).

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