Refinished Vintage Dining Chairs: Tutorial

January 26, 2016

About three years ago I purchased a used solid oak dining table and six upholstered oak chairs in excellent condition from a yard sale for $100.  Score!  I completely refinished the set myself for my own kitchen after nothing in the (affordable) furniture stores was catching my eye.  It was only my second or third refinishing project at the time, but it turned out beautifully.  I received some great instruction from my Dad and I really took my time with this project which is not always easy for me as the anticipation of the end result is often the driving force in any project of mine.  But after hours and hours and hours of sanding and staining and varnishing it was finally time to reupholster the seats of the chairs and get this beast in our new home.

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When I originally purchased the dining set there was an outdated faded blue fabric on the chairs that had to go.  I love white decor but let’s be realistic; I have a carefree toddler and hopefully more to come, but after spending hours looking at material in several fabric stores I took a chance and went with a high end ivory Jacquard fabric with a raised woven geometric pattern.  I loved it.  I had to have it.  Even though I knew it was going to be covered in food and hand prints and that I would be cleaning it constantly I just couldn’t leave it behind.  Although I never regretted it, (or complained about it) I was right, I was cleaning these chairs constantly until it became impossible to keep up with.  It was time to reupholster these chairs again.

So as before, I spent hours searching through fabric stores for the right pattern to compliment the vintage style of the table but fit with the rest of the kitchen as well.  I even considered purchasing the Jacquard fabric I had previously used, but I knew that I would be foolish to live through that again.  Long story short, as soon as I saw it I knew this pattern was the new and improved look of the table and chairs.  The biggest selling point of this material…the pattern has the colors of food stains!  It almost made me laugh.  So off I went, home to get to work on the chairs…again.

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Materials Used:

Upholstery fabric measured and cut to fit each chair
Staple gun
Staples (I used 1/4 inch)
Additional seat cushion padding (optional, only needed if existing cushion is non-reusable or if it needs extra padding)
Thin batting cotton (optional)

Step 1: Disassemble  the seats from the chair by removing the screws on the underside of the chair.  Be sure to keep these to reattach your seat when finished reupholstering.

Step 2: Remove all staples holding the fabrics in place with staple remover or needle nose pliers.  Discard of the staples.

Step 3: Keep the old fabric as pattern to cut new fabric to size to fit the chair, unless adding additional cushioning then you will need to adjust your measurements accordingly before cutting.

Step 4: Lay out your new fabric on the floor or table and cut around the old fabric you saved as pattern.  If readjusting the size, draw out your new measurements and cut accordingly.

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Step 5: Lay fabric right side down and place cushion right side down on top of it centered in the middle.  Make sure each side has enough fabric  to reach before stapling.

Step 6: Beginning on the back part of the seat, fold the fabric up in the middle pulling taught and staple.

Step 7: On the opposite side do the same to the front of the seat, fold the fabric up, pulling taught and staple.  Continue with the side and staple.  Then opposite of that until all four sides have been stapled once in the middle.

Step 8: Continue stapling about 1-2 inches apart on each side, always moving opposite sides every 2 or 3 staples.  This prevents wrinkles and pulling of the fabric.  Make small folds to remove the bulk of fabric as needed.  Remember to mark the screw holes and take care not to staple over them.

Step 9: Cut unnecessary fabric on the corners.  Pull tight and fold the corners in making sure that no folds appear in the right side of the cushion and staple.  You will likely want to put a few extra staples to hold in place.

Step 10: Once the fabric is fully attached, cut off any excess fabric that is covering the screw holes or you risk pulling the fabric when replacing the screw.

Step 11: If using a thin batting, cut to the size of the bottom of the chair and staple over the folds of fabric also about 2 inches apart.  This just keeps any frayed fabric from showing hanging down under the chair and keeps things nice and tidy.

Step 12: Reassemble the chair by screwing the seat back into the chair.  Have a seat!


By Three Happy Folk


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