Thrift Store Treasures: DIY Upholstered Dining Chair

I love chairs most of all. Random, perhaps?  Nevertheless—

A chair can be plain and unadorned in appearance or an ornate work of art, yet regardless of its design, its purpose is almost always the same: to invite company and encourage conversation, to make a statement or to encourage statements be made.

I’ve often thought it ironic that the phrase, ‘sit down!’ is often associated with asking one to stop making a point. In reality, some of the nation’s most groundbreaking ‘points’ have been made by simply by sitting down: Rosa Parks comes to mind, those who have occupied the nine chairs of the Supreme Court, another.

In classrooms across the world, it is usually a chair where children settle to learn. At home, often the most intimate conversations we have with our friends and loved ones occur while we’re seated- around a table or in a den/living room. And further, it is one of the most time-honored truths that all we need is a chair and a good book to uncover the secrets of our universe.

This is why I love chairs most of all.

So, whenever I hit up a thrift store, I always see what kinds of chairs they have because A) they’re usually incredibly inexpensive, B) a little bit of rehab love goes a long way and C) chairs can serve multiple purposes and can be easily moved about an apartment or house.

I have found that most chairs in thrift stores need just a bit of rubbing to uncover the sparkle. In most cases, all that’s needed is a good sand, a little paint and a new seat cover. The word, reupholster sounds quite intimidating, but I assure you that reupholstering a standard dining room type chair is one of the easiest DIY projects out there. That’s why this week, I’m going to demonstrate how to very easily reupholster a chair.

You Will Need:

  • 1/2 yard of upholstery fabric (or less depending on the seat size)
  • Paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Staple Gun
  • Flathead Screwdriver (If Necessary)
  • Hammer (If Necessary)

The Hunt: Thrift stores that sell furniture are often replete with old dining room chairs. Many times, the stores don’t have a problem breaking up the chair sets and selling them off individually. I had been looking for either a new kitchen chair or a desk chair when I stumbled across a set of chairs to an old, chipped up table set. I loved the ornate details and mostly the price tag: $10.00.

Remove The Seat Pad: Each seat is going to differ on how to remove the pad, though most will be a variation of what I have here. The older the seat, the easier it will likely be to remove because the glue or hardware is old. Some seat pads will actually just lift off. For this chair, I slide a flat blade screwdriver under where the pad met the wood of the chair and then hit the end with a hammer to create space. I continued doing this along the edges of the pad until it popped off.

Clean And Sand: Most thrift store chairs are likely to have a little bit of dust and potentially varnish on them. The easiest thing to do is run a wet rag or paper towel along the frame and follow with a light sanding. This will remove any debris and give you a better surface to paint or stain.

Prime/Paint: I decided to paint this chair, which is a bit easier than staining.  I threw a standard white paint plus primer around the frame and waited overnight for the piece to dry.

Upholster: You can do one of two things here based on the state of the chair pad:

1) If the padding you have is full of tears and/or you can tell the foam is old or hard, it might be worth it to remove the outer layer of fabric and the foam and save only the bottom piece. You will want to purchase new foam from a fabric store and cut it to size.  Then proceed to step three.

2) If the padding is still good, like it was on mine, you can reupholster over the old fabric.

3) Lay your fabric on the floor with the ‘bad’ side facing out. Place the chair pad upside down on to the fabric, leaving enough fabric to wrap around the edge of the chair pad. Hold the edge of the fabric down and staple along the edge.

4) Fold the top and bottom corners in and staple.

5) Continue stapling the top and bottom of the chair, pulling to make sure the fabric is taught.

6) Cut the fabric to size, leaving just enough to cover the edge.  Fold the corners and staple. Voila!

Apply Chair Pad: You can simply place the padding back on the chair and leave it, you can glue it to the chair frame, or you can hammer four nails through the frame and into the bottom of the pad.  I chose to simply place the pad back on the chair frame.

The Grand Reveal: I LOVED rehabbing this chair because it made such a transformation and it was so incredibly inexpensive. In total, I spent $10 for the chair, $7 for the fabric and used some leftover paint I had in the basement. Now, I can’t decide if I want to use this for my desk or in my kitchen? Of course, there are three more chairs left in the store….