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.)
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 sheet of 120 grit sandpaper (or something around 120 grit)
- Sock or rag
- Paint Brush or Sponge Brush
- Wood stain (Sunbleached)
- Plastic covering/Plastic bag/Anything to cover the seat
- Optional: Brush cleaner
- Flat head screwdriver
- Staple gun (Manual Staple Gun or Pneumatic Staple Gun)
- Fabric (grey/white stripes and grey/white dandelions)
- Scissors or Rotary Cutter and Rotary Cutting Mat
- Ruler (preferably long)
- Glue Gun and Glue Gun Sticks
- Pre-made cording/trim or ~20 yards of 6/32 welt cording
- Optional: Sewing machine and double cording foot
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I did the same thing for the back rest and seat back and I was FINALLY DONE.
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.