Posts Tagged ‘chairs’

Restained and Reupholstered French Settee

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I got the reupholstery itch again and began searching Craigslist again for a bench to add more seating to my living room when I discovered something called a settee. While its supposed to seat two or more people and isn’t really defined by overall size, these seemed smaller than a traditional loveseat. Honestly, I don’t even know what the difference is and I’m no expert on furniture names. I liked the size options that came up in my search and ran with it.

I found a few pieces online posted by a local antiques dealer, but I have a hard time paying for some old beat up furniture at prices that are sometimes more expensive than new furniture. I kept searching for a few days and came across this beautiful ugly settee and got it delivered for $50 after a bit of haggling. The guy said it was an antique. It was definitely reupholstered more than once. The green seems like the second upholstery, and the pink stuff the third. Someone consciously picked this heinousness pink fabric. WHY!? (Excuse the photobombing dog. He thinks its ugly too.)

French Settee_02 French Settee_01

So I set out to refinish the wood and reupholster the fabric. Here’s what you’ll need in addition your thrifted/Craigslisted/found piece of furniture:


  1. 1 sheet of 120 grit sandpaper (or something around 120 grit)
  2. Sock or rag
  3. Paint Brush or Sponge Brush
  4. Wood stain (Sunbleached)
  5. Plastic covering/Plastic bag/Anything to cover the seat
  6. Optional: Brush cleaner


  1. Flat head screwdriver
  2. Pliers
  3. Staple gun (Manual Staple Gun or Pneumatic Staple Gun)
  4. Staples
  5. Fabric (grey/white stripes and grey/white dandelions)
  6. Scissors or Rotary Cutter and Rotary Cutting Mat
  7. Ruler (preferably long)
  8. Glue Gun and Glue Gun Sticks
  9. Pre-made cording/trim or ~20 yards of 6/32 welt cording
  10. Optional: Sewing machine and double cording foot
  11. Optional: Thread

To get started, I began by tearing the chair apart. Basically, removing all the ugly bits: the fabric. This process requires some muscle. I started on the back and used my pliers to start tearing away at the trim that was hot glued onto the chair. I made my way around all the upholstered parts of the chair. What I uncovered was horrible: nails. I’ve never come across this before, but

French Settee_03  French Settee_04

I found an unattached piece of fabric and started tearing it off the chair (also crossing my fingers that the nails would come off in the process). This is great if you’ve got some aggression to take out. Keep tearing at it until you get all the fabric off. I found that once the fabric was gone, it gave me some space to wedge a flat head screwdriver to pry the nails out. It was tedious…but I did it. Only to uncover another layer of fabric and…staples. This is the gamble you take when you decide to take apart an antique.

French Settee_05

So I kept tearing away and wedging my flat head screwdriver underneath the staples and wiggling them out until i finally unveiled the stuffing. FINALLY. I also did this for the back rest and the back side of the settee. For the back rest and back side, I set the stuffing to the side since it was just sliding off the back and I wanted it out of the way for the next step. There was nothing wrong with the stuffing/padding in the settee I didn’t buy any replacement stuffing/padding.

French Settee_06   French Settee_07   French Settee_08

Next up: STAIN! I took my newly stripped settee out to the garage and got to work. First, I started by taking a plastic bag and covering the seat. It probably isn’t all that important, but I wanted to keep the seat area dust/ paint stain free. I took my sand paper and did a rough sand on the whole thing to scratch up the surface, similar to spray painting in my Repainted Dining Chairs post. Next, I took my husband’s old sock to clean up the sanding dust. I dampen the sock, flip it inside out and use the padded side to grab all the sanded residue so it doesn’t fly off the chair and settle back onto the chair.

French Settee_09  French Settee_10

Now its time for some stain. I used some free stain I got from my contractor. Who doesn’t love free? I popped open the can and stirred (lesson learned from another project), dipped my brush in and started slathering it on. I used a regular bristled brush for this and in hindsight I wish I had used a sponge brush to show less brush strokes. Use whatever you’re comfortable with or what you have on hand. It probably doesn’t matter that much. A sponge brush for stain is just my personal preference. Voila. Stain all done. Yay for one coat stain! I let this sit in the garage for a few hours before moving it into the house to dry. It probably sat in the house a few more days while I waited for my fabric to arrive in the mail.

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Selecting fabric took me longer than usual. I thought about going with a geometric print, a solid, and damask. I didn’t like any of them so I went with a simple wide stripe that I thought would be a good contrast for the more intricate wood work. I was pretty happy with my choice.

Once my fabric arrived, I realized I was faced with another choice. Which way do I make the stripes go!? I was reading Young House Love and saw that they used some rendering program to see what a design idea might look like. I have no such fancy tools. I have Paint (not the paint kind of paint, but that program that comes free with Windows). So…here’s my version. Don’t laugh. I make do with what’s free. Also, if I stand far enough away from my computer screen and squint a little (I promise I did this), it doesn’t look so bad.

French Settee_14  French Settee_13

I decided on vertical stripes for the back rest and horizontal for the seat. Now it was time to cut the fabric to fit the seat. Normally (and logically), you’d save the original seat fabric and use it as a template by tracing it with an extra 3-4″ around the edges. However, I was an idiot and threw it out. Don’t do that. Be smart. Save yours. I had to measure the seat and cut a rectangle to fit with an extra 4-5″ just in case. I’d deal with the corners later. I did the same thing for the back rest and seat back. Those were much easier because they’re just rectangles. Lesson: don’t throw out the old fabric!

Next up is the fun part. AIR TOOLS! You can use a regular staple gun for this, but I can’t even put in words how much fun a pneumatic staple gun is. SUPER fun. So, I set up my pneumatic air gun (follow instructions for the one you have or use a manual staple gun), and got to work.

I stapled one staple in the middle of each of the four sides of the seat, making sure the pattern is locked down and straight before I make way way around the edges. I made sure to pull the fabric tight as I stapled around. To make sure it didn’t turn out wonky and crooked, I used the lines in the pattern lined up to the seat edge as a guide. However, I did not make sure to leave 4-5″ from every corner, but you should. I ended up pulling those out to do the corners later. Learn from my mistakes.

French Settee_15  French Settee_16

Once I did all the sides, it was time to work on the corners. Because you left the right amount of space and didn’t staple right up to the edge like I did, you can pull back the corner and start cutting in a diagonal line. I had to remove a few staples to get enough space to work with. Womp, womp. It doesn’t matter a whole lot how straight you cut here, but it is important to make sure that where you stop cutting is the actual corner of the chair. If you don’t, your corner is going to be crooked and ugly. So don’t mess up! Adjust your cutting line as you go and aim for the corner.

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Next, I folded/tucked the excess fabric underneath until i got a straight edge against the side of the chair and the corner laid flat and neatly matched up to the corner of the wood leg. I also made sure that the fabric folded under was laying flat so there were no bumps or wrinkles. Then, I secured the corner down with staples. I did the same for the other side of the corner. Repeat on the other 3 corners.

Tip: For some of them, I had to cut deeper into the corner to make sure it laid flush against the corner of the wood. Better to cut too little to start than to cut too much!

French Settee_18  French Settee_18a

Repeat the process (minus the corners) for the back rest and seat back. Start by doing one staple on each of the four sides, then make your way around the edges.

Tip: I tipped my chair over to make it easier to work with. The fabric kept sliding down when I was trying to staple and then I thought: DUH. Stop working against gravity.

French Settee_19

After I finished this, I trimmed all the excess fabric beyond the staples. I trimmed close to the staples, but left as much fabric that would hide underneath the trim I’d glue on later. Its a balance between having hanging fabric shreds poking out the trim and not compromising the fabric near the staples.

French Settee_20

Next up, the trim to finish off the chair. You can either buy your own trim/cording from a fabric store or you can make it yourself. I decided to make it myself to ensure that it matched the fabric on the chairs. What YOU should do is save the original trim and measure how much you need. I threw mine out because I wasn’t thinking. Instead, I measured out how much I needed. and added an extra foot just in case.

I decided to do double welt cording to cover the staples and because I think it looks extra classy. I started with 2″ strips of fabric cut on the bias (cut on a 45 degree angle) with my rotary cutter, rotary cutting mat, and ruler. Once I got my first cut, I just measured 2″ out and followed the angle of the first cut. My ruler has grids on it so it was quick work to cut these strips.

French Settee_21  French Settee_22

Next, I sewed all the strips together on an angle. This is how everyone did it on YouTube, so I did it too. First, lay the strips together with the right sides facing together and at a 90 degree angle: one sideways, one vertical. Then sew at an angle, from one corner to the next, then trim the excess fabric, leaving 1/4 – 1/2″ and spread the fabric so it lays flat. I did  this for all the strips until I had one continuous strip as long as the trim for the seat. I did this again for the back rest and seat back as well.

French Settee_23  French Settee_24  French Settee_25

Next, I sewed the welt cording into the fabric. First. I folded one edge of the fabric over the welt cording until it was completely covered by the fabric, then placed the second cord next to it and rolled the whole thing over. Welt cording in a blanket.

French Settee_26  French Settee_27 French Settee_28  French Settee_29

Now, I was ready to sew. I got my double welt cording foot and attached it to my sewing machine. I have a Brother I bought a few years ago and I bought this AMAZING set of feet to go with it from Amazon. Best. Deal. Ever.

French Settee_30  French Settee_31

The foot attaches as a snap on foot and the two cords fit nicely into the grooves underneath the cording foot. All I did was adjust the needle so it sewed through the hole in the center of the foot and it was like sewing a straight line with a regular sewing foot! Actually, it was easier because the cord under the grooves automatically fed it through straight. AMAZING. As I sewed, I readjusted the fabric over the welt cording, making sure it was wrapped correctly. Minutes later (seriously…minutes), I had my own double welt cording! It was SO easy. If you have any excess fabric that wraps around, just trim it off. I didn’t have any for mine so I skipped this step.

French Settee_32

Time to glue this stuff on to finish up the chair. I plugged in my glue gun and let it heat up and had about 10-15 sticks of glue off to the side. You’ll need A LOT of glue to do this. That stuff runs through a glue gun like water out of a faucet!

I started at a less obvious corner and applied some glue and began applying the cording. I went all the way around the chair in 12-16″ sections applying glue, then placing the cording until I got all around the chair. I used the point of my scissors to hold down the cording in some places to make turns around the arms of the chair. Other than that, this was pretty straight forward.

When I got to the end, I detached 1-2″ of cording from the fabric and pulled back the fabric to expose the cording. I cut the exposed cording to match exactly to the edge of the start of my welt cording. I then took the excess fabric, folded the raw edge under, then wrapped it around the start of my cording to create a clean attachment. I secured this all with some glue.

French Settee_33  French Settee_34

I did the same thing for the back rest and seat back and I was FINALLY DONE.

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Oh. Surprise! I did the back in a dandelion fabric from my Reupholstered Thrifted Chairs post. The settee is in another room so it ties the fabrics together from one room to the next without being super obvious.

Reupholstered Thrifted Chairs

Reupholstered Thrifted Chairs_Cover

Since I completed my newly painted Mah Jong table, I needed some chairs to go with it. I was sick of moving all my dining chairs over, so I’ve been on a mission to find some new chairs. Naturally, on the cheap. After a successful dining chair makeover, I was ready to tackle my next set of chairs.

I began my search by stalking Craigslist listings for what seemed like forever and didn’t find anything I liked within a reasonable driving distance. Next up: Yelp. I searched for a few nearby thrift shops and the Salvation Army and Goodwill came up as stores with the best prices and selection. No dice at Goodwill, but I hit the jackpot at the Salvation Army. 4 matching chairs sitting outside, mine for the taking AND marked down to $15 a piece. I walked inside and discovered a sign that said “50% off all furniture today only.” Super win. Four thrifted (and matching chairs) for $30! Shoved these into my car (one in the front seat, two in the back seat, and one in the trunk). And here’s what they looked like (with my photobombing dog, Sammy):

Reupholstered Thrifted Chairs_01

Here’s what you’ll need to reupholster your chairs:

  1. Fabric: about 1/2 yard for every 2 chairs (yellow and grey-sold out)
  2. Scissors or Rotary Cutter and Rotary Cutting Mat
  3. Measuring tape or Ruler
  4. Manual Staple Gun or Pneumatic Staple Gun and Air Compressor
  5. Staples for staple gun
  6. Flathead screwdriver
  7. Pliers
  8. As needed: 1″ Upholstery foam, amount depends on size of chair seat
  9. As needed: thin tip Sharpie
  10. As needed: hammer
  11. Optional: Gloves

Instead of picking up fabric from Joann’s this time, I ordered online from to get a better selection. I knew I wanted to stick with they grey/yellow/white theme and wanted a bigger home decor fabric selection. Make sure you get home decor fabric, and not flimsy cotton-y stuff you’d use for a sun dress. Unfortunately, the shipping takes FOREVER. So I picked out my fabrics and got to work on sanding and painting the chairs. See my previous post Repainted Dining Chairs for how I do this.

I also prepped all the chair seats for new fabric by removing the old fabric from the chair seats. To do this, I wedged a flat head screwdriver underneath the staple and lifted as much of the staple as I could. Then, I took the pliers and twisted the pliers to remove the staple. I found this to be the most effective method. I’d recommend gloves for this. I didn’t wear any and ended up with a big fat blister. This is a tedious process. If the person who upholstered before you was evil, he/she probably used  gazillion staples. You can curse them with every one you remove. I also, forgot to take pictures of this part, but I did mess up a staple during the upholstery process and had to remove it, so here’s some pictures on how I did it.

Reupholstered Thrifted Chairs_02 Reupholstered Thrifted Chairs_03

After I removed all the staples, I discovered that the previous upholsterer was extra evil. He/she sewed the ugly fabric to the foam. Normally, you can just remove the old fabric and reuse the foam. Not this time. I drove myself down to Joann’s to buy some new foam. Since nobody is ever going to see this foam, I picked out the ugliest one I could find (without any squishy dents), and asked for a defect discount. 30% + it was on sale. Win.

Tip: Bring the wooden part of the seat with you to measure exactly how much foam you need.

Repuholstered Thrifted Chairs_01a

You can skip this part if your foam is in tact. If you need/want to replace your foam, keep following along here. I took the wooden part of the seat and traced it onto the foam with a thin sharpie. I used my rotary cutter and rotary mat to cut out the shape of the chair seat along the line I made with my sharpie. I find this is easier than scissors, but scissors will work fine for this too.

Reupholstered Thrifted Chairs_04

After what seemed like forever, my fabrics arrived. I used the foam and wood seat as a guide for the amount of fabric I’d need for each seat. Using the seat as a base, you need approximately 4″-5″ extra all around. Using my rotary cutter and rotary mat, I cut the fabric to size. This is when you should iron the fabric if you choose to. I skipped this because I hate ironing. The creases don’t really bother me, especially after the fabric is pulled taut over the foam.

Reupholstered Thrifted Chairs 05

Next, I opened up the fabric, placed it wrong side up, placed the foam on top, then the wooden seat. (Order: Fabric, Foam, Wood) Check to make sure the fabric is running in the direction you want! I wanted the dandelion stems to run away from the back of the seat, so I had to check to make sure my fabric was facing the right direction. If your pattern doesn’t have a direction (i.e. polka dots), you can ignore this.

The staple gun. For my first set of dining chairs and a few other projects, I used a manual staple gun. It worked perfectly, but for this project and future ones, I was willing to invest in an air compressor and pneumatic staple gun for more power and ease of use. So, I loaded my staple gun, connected the gun to the air compressor, and flipped on the compressor. AMAZING. Love this thing. For a manual staple gun, just load the staples and you’re good to go.

Time for some stapling. To start, I stapled the center of each side of the seat, making sure to pull the fabric tight, but not so tight it makes huge dimples in the foam. If you mess up, you can always pull it out and try again. You’ve probably had plenty of practice with staple removal by now. To place a staple, push the staple gun down against the fabric (I lean my body weight into it) and pull the trigger. Make sure to keep pressing down while stapling so staple lays flat against the wood. If you don’t press hard enough or hold it down against the wood, the staple won’t go all the way in/sit flush against the wood. You can fix any loose staples with hammer, but its best to get them in with the staple gun if you can. Everything is fixable here so don’t worry about mistakes.

Reupholstered Thrifted Chairs_05

Next, start start pulling the fabric taut and staple the remaining fabric down around the entire seat. To keep from getting the fabric too tight where I’m stapling, I hold the fabric down with two fingers and staple in between. Do this around the entire seat, about 1.5″ 2.5″ apart, skipping the corners about 1″- 2″ from each corner.

Reupholstered Thrifted Chairs_06

For the corners, I fold the fabric into a fan-like pattern to make sure its neat and lays flat. I start on one edge, making sure to pull the fabric taught and keep making folds until the entire corner is pulled taut. Then I use 3-4 staples to secure the fabric in place.

Reupholstered Thrifted Chairs_07 Reupholstered Thrifted Chairs_08

Now, flip the seat over and check your work!

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Now its time to reattach the seat to the chair. Since I changed the padding, the previous holes for the seats didn’t match up anymore. When I did try to align the holes, it left an ugly gap between the seat back and the cushion. So instead, I placed the cushion where I wanted it and created a new hole with the screw. My chairs have always had pressed wood seat backings, so its not hard to create new holes by screwing in the original screws.

Here’s the finished chairs with my table.

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Repainted Dining Chairs

Painted Dining Chairs_Cover

Trying to furnish my house on a budget this past year has been a difficult task and I turned to Craigslist, The Salvation Army, and Goodwill to source a lot of my furniture. Most of the stuff I’ve been able to find has been for a great price in really good condition.

So after securing an awesome deal on a West Elm dining table (Angled Leg Expandable Table), I needed to find some chairs to go around it. After stalking Craigslist for weeks, I was able to find a set of 6 chairs that looked less than awesome, but were structurally in good condition for $125. Not bad considering similar chairs are $49 a piece at Ikea.

Painted Dining Chairs_01

I got a quick lesson on how to do this from the painting contractor who was painting the interior of my house.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Chair(s) to paint
  2. Screwdriver (or Cordless Drill if you have one)
  3. Cardboard/Drop cloth/Something to cover the floor
  4. Fine grit sanding sponge (Home Depot)
  5. Sock or Rag
  6. Paint and Primer in 1 spray paint, about 1.5 cans per chair (Rustoleum gloss finish in white and yellow)

This is definitely an outside project, so laid some cardboard out I found and turned the chair upside down on it. There were 4 screws that attached the seat to the chair and I used my drill to unscrew them. You can use a screwdriver for this, but honestly, get yourself a cordless drill. They are SO useful for so much stuff. I did this for all the chairs at once and keep all the screws in a zip top bag for safe keeping. I don’t know about you, but I tend to lose everything important. As for the seat, I put it inside the house. I recommend you stash it somewhere clean especially if you’re not planning to reupholster it.

Next, I took my sanding sponge (permanently borrowed from my contractor), ran it under some water and wrung it all out super dry. I prefer the one with the angled edge to get in all the nooks and crannies. Notice all the grids in the back of my chairs. That was SO MUCH WORK. Think about that as you pick out your chairs. Sanding is terrible, but it must be done. Here I used wet sanding, recommended by my contractor and painter to get a smoother finish. The purpose of sanding here is to slightly rough up the surface and take off the layer of glossy finish. This helps the paint adhere better (said my painter). So I went at it. For days. And more days. This is the least rewarding part of the process. Power through.

Next, time to clean up the sanding. Time to wipe down the entire chair. Every bit of it. You’ll start to see chipping wherever you miss. Don’t miss. I like to take my husbands old socks (after I’ve washed them), slip it over my hand inside out and start wiping down. The terry part of the sock picks up all the bits of sanded off stuff and holds it in the sock. Pretty nifty trick I discovered.

Painted Dining Chairs_02

Now its finally time for paint. Spray paint is easy to use and looks awesome if you follow instructions. First, flip the chair upside down. This is what all instructions and contractors have told me. Made sense to me. Next, pick up the can, flip it upside down, and shake it for AT LEAST 60 seconds. I got lazy and didn’t do this for ONE can and it sprayed all this crazy white sandy stuff out all over my newly sanded chair. No good. Next, I popped off the top and did a test spray on the cardboard, checking for that evil sandy stuff. If everything’s all good, then get to painting.

Spray in semi-slow even strokes about 10-16″ away from the chair. Don’t expect to cover it all on the first first pass. Its not worth the runny drips all over the place. Cover all the surfaces once, then go back if you need to touch up any spots. Remember, you’ll have to do a second coat anyway, so we’re looking for coverage, not perfection on this first pass.

Painted Dining Chairs_03

You can either let it dry or be impatient like me and try to flip it over to do the rest of the chair right away. I press my hands against the inside seat of the chair (notice no paint there) to pick up and flip the chair over. Requires some maneuvering but worth it for impatient people like me. Repeat painting the process with the chair right side up.

Painted Dining Chairs_04

I didn’t flip the chair back over for a second coat because I figured that nobody’s going to see the chair upside down anyway. So I left the chair standing up and applied a second coat with the chair right side up. Here are some tips I picked up along the way:

  1. Always test spray. Its not worth re-sanding the whole chair again if you get crazy stuff coming out of the can. Did this twice. I should have learned the first time.
  2. There is tons of over spray. My patio has white cardboard box shaped outlines. I moved to the grass later on and let the gardener mow off all the over spray. Self cleaning!
  3. If you see shadows in the corners, especially if you have a grid back chair like mine, hit the corner with a quick spray. The shadow is because there wasn’t enough paint there.
  4. If you aim and spray along the corner edges of the chair, you’ll hit 2 surfaces at the same time. I was amazed. And conserves paint!

Painted Dining Chairs_02a

Let the paint dry a few hours before moving the chair/touching the paint. Spray paint dries pretty quick, but wait about 24 hours to make sure the paint has dried all the way through before reattaching the seat cushions or using the chairs.

I went on to reupholster the chairs with some fabric from Joann’s I got on clearance. Look out for a post on chair cushion reupholstery coming soon!

Painted Dining Chairs_05

Here are some other chair colors I liked:

Painted Dining Chairs_06

  1. Grey
  2. Light Blue
  3. Teal