Jan 5

Chair makeover – recovering a seat


Do you have an old chair lying around that can use a serious update? This is really a simple DIY project. You can take an old desk or kitchen chair from decades ago and make it as funky/fresh/classy/modern/retro as you’re willing to go.




Seville Black / White

Seville Black / White

Foam (ours was 2" thick)

Foam (ours was 2″ thick)

Staple gun (heavy duty)

Staple gun (heavy duty)

Spray paint

Spray paint














The process


When my friend Beth brought over this rather sad chair (sorry, Beth’s dad!) I already knew we’d be covering it with a black and white floral. But when I saw the wood, I knew it was going to be a very blah makeover if we didn’t do something to the finish. Beth has really fun taste, and boring is definitely not very Bethy. Thankfully, she was game for painting it. And not just painting it black or white, but very bright blue!

The seat was held on by four simple screws. Getting it off was quite easy.



The first step was to remove the cover. There was also a piece of black fabric over this, so we had to remove a zillion staples for that, and then also another 250,000 for the fabric underneath. Removing these staples is really hard — we did the same thing for this ottoman project. And when I say “we,” I mean Beth. I think I managed to remove 2 staples for every 20 she did. Incidentally, we later came across this tool online and thought, “Oh, snap. We could have used that two projects ago.”


What we used were flathead screwdrivers and small pliers to pull them out once they were loose.


Underneath it all was this board and some rotting foam. We decided we needed to replace the foam, for sure. So off we went to the store for spray paint, sand paper and foam.


Since we decided to paint this at the last minute and didn’t have days and days to do this project, we got right to work sanding. We just did a very quick sanding by hand.


Then we took it outside and spray painted it this really fun blue. We let it dry while we worked on the seat, and later we flipped it and painted some of the parts we missed. Luckily, everything dries in about 30 seconds here in New Mexico, plus it was windy, which was rather unpleasant during the spraying but helped speed up the drying time to just 15 seconds.

OK, I lie. We eventually flipped it back on its legs and let it sit overnight to dry thoroughly.


Our foam was pretty much the perfect size. We placed it in the order shown above.


We started by pulling over one edge and stapling it with a heavy duty staple gun. It takes a bit of force.

Also, here’s a little tip if you’re not particularly familiar with staple guns: There is a tension dial on the top that you can adjust if you’re trying to staple into hard wood. So if you’re finding your staples are not going into the wood very far, check that out.


Do this on all sides, but don’t staple too close to the corners. Try to pull the fabric evenly and periodically check the front to make sure it’s looking smooth.


Here’s how the corner looks. How you do the corners is up to you. You can do a bunch of small pleats and tucks or you can create a sort of V-pleat. We folded this corner in and stapled.


Then we folded over each side and stapled. You can fold and adjust as necessary before starting to staple, so that you get it how you want it. And, again, there’s no one right way to do corners. Different people fold them different ways, so find what you like the best.


Here is our corner. Repeat on the other corners.


I guess I sliced my thumb on a staple somehow. I didn’t feel it when it happened, but let me tell you, that little cut has been killing me for days. Ridiculous!

Beth got a few little injuries of her own with this project. Who knew chairs could be so dangerous?


This is the final result. You can stop here, but I think it looks much nicer and more professional if you cover the uglies with a piece of black cloth. The real stuff is sometimes called “dust cover” cloth. We couldn’t find that in our last-minute shopping, so we used some black “speaker cloth.” It was a bit too sheer, so we doubled it up. Really, you could use just about any black cloth.


Cover the raw edges of your fabric and staple it on. Put a lot of staples so that the next person who recovers the chair in 30 years will curse the day you were born. Unless they were smart enough to buy a little tool first.


And here is our finished cushion! The we just replaced the seat with the four screws and were done.

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