Refinish Retro Vinyl Kitchen Chairs





Introduction: Refinish Retro Vinyl Kitchen Chairs

We found this great old retro table on a local classified website. It had 6 chairs and a removable leaf in the table, and was in really good shape other than the vinyl seat covers. We decided to get it and refinish the chairs, and now it's as good as new and ready for another 50 years of use!

Step 1: Getting the Chairs Ready

The vinyl was old, and 3 chairs were all maroon, 2 chairs were maroon and silver, and 1 chair was blue. Other than that though the table and chairs were in great shape. The first thing we did was take off all of the old seat covers. As we took them apart, it became apparent we were going to have to replace the wood base for the seats too (one had mold on it and they were all beat up and kind of gross). We programmed new seat shapes into the computer to cut on our CNC machine, and they turned out great. If you don't have access to a CNC machine, these would be very easy to cut with a jig saw. Just trace the shape onto your wood (we used MDF, plywood would be stronger though), cut out the shapes, and don't forget to drill a few holes in the base to allow air to escape when the cusion is flattened while someone sits on it.

Step 2: Cutting the Foam

We looked all over for some good foam. When we did our bar stools, we got the foam from Joann’s (sewing craft store), it is so expensive there, and when we checked how much it would be for the seats, it was around $150 in foam from them. We weren’t willing to spend that much on the foam.

We ended up finding some nice foam from a local super center department store (in their camping section). We got some sheets of 2″ really dense foam, and some sheets of 1″ fluffy foam. Then we got some spray adhesive and glued the fluffy foam on top of the dense foam. We traced the seat shape onto the foam, and then we cut them out using an turkey carver electric knife (we found the best way to do this was to have one person hold the knife sticking up on the edge of a card table or counter, and have another run the foam into it like a table saw). There was still a little wiggle in the blade so some of the cuts were a little wavy, but it worked really well and you can’t tell once it’s covered in the vinyl

Step 3: Sewing the Seat Covers

After that, I traced the seat shape onto the vinyl and then measured a 1/4″ allowance all around it, and cut it out. Then cut out a long 5″ strip for the sides (the 5" strip will depend on how thick the foam you use is, you want it taller than the foam). Then I sewed the long strip onto the top piece making sure the seam would be in the back of the cushion. Just remember to go slow with the thicker vinyl in your machine. We used just a simple straight stitch with some good sturdy red thread. It went very quick once all of the pieces were cut out.

Step 4: Assembled Refinished Chairs

After we put the foam and wood base in the vinyl covers, we stapled them all together with a heavy duty staple gun, and then we screwed them to the chairs. This will depend on how the chair is assembled, but with ours, the wood bases just screwed right into the metal chair base, so we drilled a pilot hole and screwed them in.

Step 5: All Done

This was an easy project, and it was a lot of fun to work on. The table came out great. When looking for tables like this to refinish, as long as the metal parts and table are in good shape, the vinyl is easy and cheap to replace. As you can see in the picture, we ended up refinishing our barstools in the same fabric using the same steps, and they look great next to each other. A new "retro inspired" table like this with 6 chairs and a removable leaf would cost ALOT more than refinishing this old beauty!



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    9 Discussions

    Did you have access to a table saw? You suggested that the best way to cut the foam was with a turkey carver, but that 2-person operation doesn't sound particularly safe. I'd expect the ideal way would be a band-saw, after rough cutting with a table saw, or perhaps a jig saw if your foam isn't too thick for the blade. I really like your end result. (Sorry, as a dad I'm always thinking about safety)

    1 reply

    I didn't have access to any of those tools, but yes, I aggree, I bet a bandsaw would be ideal. That being said, a single person could use the turkey carver if you don't have someone to hold it against the edge, you can just go from the top yourself, but I thought having the other person hold the nice was easier and made for straighter cuts (you wouldn't know it from looking at those wavy lines in the foam though ;)

    I appreciate the suggestions for sure, I would hate for anyone to get hurt copying my method here, I would love to see how a bandsaw works on foam like this (I would also love to get a band saw :)

    We got it at our local fabric/craft store (Joann Fabric and Craft). I think places like Hobby Lobby and Michaels may also carry it. As mentioned in the tutorial, we didn't get the foam there (way too expensive, we just used cheap camping foam mattresses). We ended up getting the whole roll of this vinyl when they had a 50% off coupon. We've redone our bar stools with the same material and plan to make a few bench pillows for a bay window in our new house and a few other items. It's way fun.

    Thanks for this!!! I have some old tube amps that could use new rolled vinyl covering. My grandma had a diner like booth in her kitchen years back.

    Very nice looking update. Of course, my bad self would be looking for a reed to put in that bottom air hole. Maybe a different "toot" for each seat. ;)

    1 reply

    Ha, that would be funny. We could mix it up each night and see who get's the lucky seat :)