New Chair vs. New Upholstery

We needed new counter chairs.  I went to furniture stores, I got pricing online and read through dozens of reviews on popular (and some not-so-popular websites).  Honestly, I tried.

New counter chairs are not outrageously expensive.  Decent ones range from $80-200 each.

After much discussion and deliberation, I realized that none of them were as sturdy or as absolutely perfect for our bottoms as the chairs we already owned. Even worse, I would fall in love with a new style, read the reviews and find out in some obscure review that the chair was an inch shorter than described.  To some, that may be of little significance. To someone of my stature, it’s a deal-breaker. Without that extra inch, I am Lily Tomlin in the rocking chair. (Kids, you can google it.)

As you can see from the image, our old green fabric is worn, stained (I think my son may have spilled something on it 12 years ago), and finally, it is just plain disintegrating.

I know absolutely nothing about attempting even mild re-upholstering, which never stops me from actually doing it.  Folks, it looks easy enough, it really does.  Examine how the chair is put together, take it apart and then put everything back in reverse order.  You can do this!

Until, of course, you begin to take out the old upholstery staples.  And then you are in for a surprise.  Hope you are someone with upper body strength because that’s what it takes. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

–The first step, is, of course, the most fun.  Get yourself over to a JoAnn’s or a Hobby Lobby and find some choices of fabric.  I know I have said that I am not inclined to purchase garment or quilt fabric at these places (still believe this).  The same is not true for their Home Dec fabric.  They have a really nice selection, unless you are insistent on designer stuff.  Even so, I believe I have seen Waverly and other reputable fabrics there.

— I chose two fabrics, and this one was quickly dismissed as my teenage son said             it looked like vomit.  (My deep apologies to the designer. Perhaps you’ve never had a teenager in the house.)

–After that comment from someone who normally has no strong feelings about anything decorative, I went with the red paisley . I also purchased a couple of 2-inch cushions made of foam.  They seemed likely enough to do the job.

–The next step is to take apart the chair from the bottom and begin removing the old backing, cushion, and fabric by removing the staples. I did not have the special tool for removing upholstery staples and ended up using a hammer, screwdriver and pliers for the task.  I don’t recommend this.  Spend $12 and get the tool.  For my next project, I will have one.

Everything on these particular chairs was attached to a piece of 3/4 inch plywood, which was perfectly fine for re-use.

The old cushion was so smashed and unuseable I could not possibly refer to it as a template.

So I took the plywood up to the sewing studio, set it out on my cutting table, and put the cushion underneath.  I cut the cushion with about 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch extra on each side. This was important, as the cushion cut to the exact size of the plywood would actually be too small once the fabric is pulled down around it.

I gave myself plenty of “pulling” room when I cut the fabric.  That could always be cut down once the stapling was done.

–The biggest step required two people and an electric staple gun.  One person to pull the fabric, the other to staple. I’m sure it’s possible to do this alone, but it was a lot easier and a lot faster to have four hands…as long as both are careful with the stapler.

The end product honestly feels like two brand new chairs.  I’ve long been drawn to re-upholstery.  But there’s a definite learning curve and I needed to start small. You can also get hurt.  Staples don’t always come out whole, and there might be a fragment left in the wood, waiting to shred your arm or hand.  Or worse, the hammer or screwdriver can slip causing all manner of cuts and bruises.  Take your time.

In the end, I am thrilled that we did this instead of settling for new chairs we really didn’t like all that much.  This way, we have the perfect color and fit.

Small triumphs are worth it. And no one in the house thinks they look like vomit.







2 thoughts on “New Chair vs. New Upholstery

  1. Just found your blog. I really like your writing style and find you have good information. Your post on reupholstering your chairs was filled with good info and humor. I have a soon-to-be no longer a teenager, but I know what you mean.

    • Thank you Jaye. The teenager has since forbidden me from writing a word about him in the future. Too bad. Raising a teen is hilarious when it’s not terrifying.

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