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Recover A Chair with My Upholstery Tips

My  French, slightly eclectic with a sprinkling of boho dining room is coming together nicely. I’ll soon be ready for the big reveal (I promise). In the final part of this little ‘How To’ series I’m going to show you an easy way to recover a chair. Well 2 actually but as they’re a matching pair I suppose they just counts as one. I didn't have to do this as we have some wonderful French Armchairs to choose from but I do love a little bit of DIY!

Recover A Chair with Newtons Furniture

I think I’ve told you previously that I have outhouses at home full of French style furniture. Nicnacs that I’ve collected over the 20 years we have lived in our home. Items that have gone out of fashion or out of favour but for one reason or another that I just couldn’t bear to throw away. I have owned this pair of tub chairs for nearly 27 years. In fact they were one of our first finds when Hubby and I moved in together. Hubby found them in a store room at work all that time ago and felt they deserved a home that loved them. They came home with him that day looking very forlorn and in need of a little TLC.

I’ve reupholstered them several times over the years but around five years ago I decided that they didn’t quite fit with our current interior theme. They were ceremoniously carried to the outhouses where they have sat ever since waiting for a new lease of life. I have now found the perfect spot for them once again in the dining room. It’s now time to give them a makeover. Which is how I came to create this post to recover a chair.

But what to cover them in? Now I know that the theory here is that you have a colour in mind or a pattern or a theme. But for me? A gal always on the lookout for a bargain it can only mean one thing! A trip to Totnes. For those of you that have never heard of Totnes think hippy meets London banker; the towns welcome sign perfectly sums it up ‘Totnes twinned with Narnia’.

I love so many of the shops here but my top three have to be visited every time without fail. Revival is an Aladin’s Cave of period clothing, each time you think you have reached the end of a room another one opens up in front of you.

Next up and a must for Lunch is Jano – A Taste Of Sunshine,. A restaurant and deli serving the best home style Italian food I have eaten outside of Italy.

Finally and my absolute fav is The Cloth Co. A fabric shop selling end of roll and discontinued luxury fabrics for a fraction of the normal retail price. I always get excited walking into this magical tiny shop. From floor to ceiling all you can see are the most gorgeous fabrics. It gives me the same inner glow I used to get as a child standing in my grandparent’s sweet shop looking up at shelf after shelf filled with huge glass jars containing the most delightful sugary delights. If you want to recover a chair this is the place to visit.

Anyway, slightly off on a tangent there but my point is you can’t go to The Cloth Co with a plan, the process of choosing your fabric has to be more organic; a case of working your way through acres of sumptuous fabrics hoping to find that perfect bolt that you know will work with your scheme. On this trip I fell head over heels for a grey and green spot chenille that not only worked with my overall scheme but also has the most wonderful texture that I know Autistic son number 2 and son number 3 will find soothing. Sadly The Cloth Co doesn’t have a website because I guarantee you’d crash their server when you find out that just under four metres of fabric cost hubby (well you didn’t expect me to pay did you?) a paltry amount of £28!

I’m sure you can imagine I simply had to start on my chairs as soon as I walked through my front door and not only am I ecstatic with the results of my labour but I had both chairs finished in around 6 hours making this a perfect weekend project.

What You Will Need to Recover a Chair

A Chair

Upholstery fabric

Staple Gun & Staples

Staple Remover


Upholstery Tacks



Chair Before Recovering

Simple Steps To Follow

  • Start by removing all the old nails and staples that are holding the current fabric in place. Try not to rip the old fabric as we are going to use this as a template.


Remove The Old Fabric


  • Lay out your new fabric (face up) on a flat surface and place your fabric template (again face up) on top of it. Make sure that your template is placed squarely so that the grain of the fabric runs straight front to back. Side to side. Carefully cut around your pattern with scissors but be sure to allow an extra inch all the way around. This will give you a little wiggle room if something should go wrong when you start upholstering.


Lay Out Your Fabric


  • If like my chair yours is made up of more than one piece of fabric cut out all your other pieces in the same direction. Remember to keep patterns the same way up. Or in the case of a chenille or velvet keep the nap smoothing in the same direction.


Cut Out your fabric


  • You are now ready to start upholstering. I have chosen to work on the seat base first. Start by laying your fabric onto your chair. Ensure that it’s square and then staple through the fabric  in the centre front about a centimetre or so away from the under edge. Now move to the back and whilst pulling the fabric taught and ensuring your fabric is straight hold in place with a second staple. Repeat this process with the left side and then the right; this will guarantee that that your fabric stays put and doesn’t shift around whilst you work your way around it. A handy tip here is to a. Always use a fabric specifically recommended for upholstery and b. If you are new to upholstering choose a fabric with little to no give. Basically give the fabric a pull a la ‘Stretch Armstrong’ and if it stretches it will be more difficult to work with and keep under even tension.


  • Returning to the front of your chair start to staple first to the left and then to the right of the initial one in the centre. Carry on with this process until you are approximately 3-4cms away from the corner. Pull the fabric taught before you staple it. Try to keep an even tension with each staple that you add. The best way to get your head around this is to make sure that when you pull the fabric you feel the same amount of tension each time. Once you have worked along the front move to the back. Then repeat the process and for both sides. Don’t worry if a staple ends up out of place, just remove it and re position it.


  • Now to deal with the corners which are basically the same as the hospital corners we use on a bed. Tackle the front ones first. Hold the point of the corner and pull it tightly around the front of the chair tucking it underneath the front fabric so it creates a diagonal line. Now pull down on the from fabric and manipulate the folded edge into line with the edge of you chair. At the same time turn the raw bottom edge under to give a neat finish.  Hold in place with an upholstery tack.


  • If your chair like mine has a back follow the same steps to cover this too.


Completed tub Chair


So? What do you think? I really, really, love my chairs; they have been transformed from ugly ducklings into swans. It’s not difficult to find an attractive chair in need of a little attention so give it a go. Pop into your local reclamation centre or give the Car Boot a go this weekend. You never know what gems you might find. Whatever you find you will be safe in the knowledge that it’s one of a kind and once upholstered? Truly unique.

Just to leave you with a carrot dangle. I did have some fabric left over and made the small button cushions to match the chairs with the leftovers. I do so hate waste and it’s such a gorgeous fabric that I couldn’t bin it. The cushions only took 20 minutes to make and I promise to share how I made them with you very soon. After all, who doesn’t love a cushion??


Recovered Chairs



Recover A Chair with Newtons Furniture

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