Old Chair Transformation




Introduction: Old Chair Transformation

Twenty years ago I had this dining room chairs custom made. I wanted them to be sturdy enough they could last for many years, so I chose the best wood I could afford and waited 8 weeks for the carpenter to make this dinning set just the way I liked it.

We've had so many experiences in these chairs. It's been in this dining room where we've shared food with special people in special days: birthday parties, weddings, baby showers, Christmas, welcome home parties and so much more.

I the last few years a lot has happened, we moved from a 70-year-old house to a brand new modern style house. And although we've been replacing our furniture to match the style of our new house, these chairs are in great shape and hold so many memories that I decided to keep them and change their style.

I loved the results! I know they will last forever, they look amazing and I saved a lot of money.

If you already have some chairs that need an upgrade, or you can find some at a thrift store or garage sale, you'll find this instructable useful. Although I've been making a lot of stuff around the house for years, this is my first upholstery project and also my first time documenting a project and sharing it. I hope you find it useful.

Step 1: Materials

  • Old chair
  • Fabric
  • 1 inch foam
  • 1/2 inch foam
  • Edge foam
  • Wadding
  • 3mm (1/8in) wood panel or plywood
  • Tread
  • Buttons to cover
  • Zip ties
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Hammer or mallet
  • Heavy duty stapler
  • Drill
  • Upholstery glue
  • Tacking strips
  • Sewing machine
  • Bias tape
  • Piping cord

Step 2: Attach the Panel to the Backrest

I cut a piece of wood the size and shape of the backrest. Then I made some marks with the pencil to drill and attach zip ties.

I also marked where I want the buttons and drilled those too.

Step 3: Attach the Panel to the Armrests

I also cut two pieces of wood to cover the armrests and also secured them in place with zip ties.

Step 4: Glue the Foam

To cover the backrest with foam, I had to cut several pieces of 1 in foam to fill the spaces between the original wood. I used upholstery glue to glue the foam to the backrest.

Step 5: Staple the Foam

To give it a more professional finish, I stapled the edge foam at the top of the backrest.

Then I used a thinner foam to cover the backrest at the side that will have contact with the body, and stapled it at the back.
Then I cut all the extra foam.

Step 6:

The foam for the armrests was easier. I glued one or two pieces

I put the fabric on
top of the armrests and marked where to sew it. I chose a fabric that is not too thick so that I could use my regular sewing machine.

of 1in foam and then cover everything with the thinner foam. This second layer of foam is stapled to make it tight.

Step 7: Cover the Backrest

Then I started covering the backrest with the fabric. First I placed it making sure the pattern of the fabric was centered. I stapled it tightly at the back, first one side, then the other side, finally the top.

Because it has round corners I made three folds in the fabric and stapled each fold.

Step 8: Add the Buttons

Then I added the buttons. First I used a thin drill bit to manually make a hole in the fabric and foam.

To make them tight you'll have to use a strong thread and staple it at least three times in different angles. As shown in the picture.

At this point, use the upholstery glue to stick some wadding to the back rest. As you´ll see in the last picture, I made this before drilling the holes of the butons and before covering the backrest with fabric, it was a big mistake. But that´s why you are reading this Instructable, so you don´t make the same mistakes.

Step 9: Cover the Armrests

I put the fabric wrong side up, on top of the armrests and made a seam by hand at the curve and the front. Then I used my sewing machine to sew it.

I chose a fabric that is not too thick so that I could use my regular sewing machine.

Make sure you have enough extra fabric at the back because it will have to be stapled at the backrest. As shown in the last picture.

Step 10: Finish the Armrests

I cut the extra fabric at the front, cut some triangles to reduce the bulk, folded the edge and tuked in the corner.

Step 11: Cover the Seat

Before covering the seat with fabric, I cut the old fabric.

Then I covered the seat with a layer of wadding.

I had to make a seam at the front corners so that it will have a nice finish.

And stapled the new upholstery. I made sure I had extra fabric and wadding at the front side for next step.

Step 12: Assemble the Seat

Then I assembled the chair.

I stapled the wadding and fabric from the front side at the bottom of the chair.

I had to make some cuts to fold the fabric at the top of the legs. Then continue stapling the fabric from the armrests at the bottom of the chair.

Step 13: Make and Staple the Piping

I used my sewing machine to make some piping. Although this step is not necessary, it will make the chair look more professional.

I started making it with the same fabric, but as it is thick it wasn´t looking good. So I decided to make it with bias tape. It looks perfect.

I stapled the piping all around the border. Except at the bottom.

To make sure the piping is tight and symmetrical, first put one staple at the bottom, then three staples at the corner, to make it round, some at the top, three more at the other corner, and one last at the bottom.

Step 14: Cover the Back of the Backrest

To cover the last part of the back, I stapled the top part. Then at each side I used a tack strip. I've never used this tool before, but it is easy and it looks great.

Just fold the fabric, put the tack strip in place and pierce the fabric thought the back side with the tacks. Then flip the strip so that the tacks face the wood and use a mallet to hit the tack strip. As I don´t have a mallet, I covered the tip or a hammer with scraps of fabric and used thread to make them stay in place. Here is a really good video showing how to use it.

When using the second tack strip, make sure you make the fabric nice and tight.

Finally I trimmed the excess of tack strip and piping, and stapled the fabric at the bottom of the chair.

Step 15: Lessons Learned

Overall, I am really happy with how my chair looks now. For being my first upholstery project it's actually great.

I'm specially happy with how cheap it was to make, I used only simple tools that I already had, and the tack strip was really helpful.

So as a conclusion my two recomendations are: attention to detail is very important for a professional finish, and please don't forget to drill the holes for the buttons since the begining.

If you like this project please vote. Thank you and have a great day!

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    9 Discussions


    2 years ago

    I love they way you made where you can go back to the way it was without damage to the chair.


    2 years ago

    And 20 years from now someone will find these at a garage sale and strip them back down so the carpenter's skill in wood working can once again be seen. But nice cover up into a new chair.


    Reply 2 years ago

    I was thinking something along the same lines :-)


    2 years ago

    Well Crafted, neatly done


    2 years ago

    I vote .. excellence! Wish I had the confidence.


    2 years ago

    really impressive overall but i am blown away with the zip ties . my mother loved to sew and had a really large chair shaped similar to this one, she re finished it and reupholstered it three times i know of and each time it looked better than the original.... creative re use raised to an art always reminds me of her, thank you for such a comprehensive look at how to sculpt a beauty.


    2 years ago

    Beautifully done Edyson!!!! I have an antique wing back chair that needs recovering and seeing your tutorial has helped me with some of my concerns. Thank you for sharing.


    2 years ago

    awesome transformation!

    DIY Hacks and How Tos

    Excellent restoration job. You have definitely got my vote.