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So you’ve found a nice wooden chair with a sturdy frame at a thrift store or a garage sale, but the cushion is ripped, stained or just plain ugly. How are you going to fit it into your home décor? Why, you’ll reupholster it, of course!

Sure, that sounds easy enough, but is it really that easy to do? Yes, it is. Here’s how:

Spruce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Upholstery and Design First, gather your supplies

  • Pliers (bottle-nose pliers work best)
  • Wood putty
  • A loaded staple gun
  • A piece of 1/2-inch plywood larger than the seat of the chair
  • A rotary tool or handsaw
  • Scissors or precision knife
  • A foam cushion
  • Batting
  • Beautiful upholstery fabric that works well with your room design
  • A small or hand vacuum (especially if the chair is old)

1. Strip the chair down to its bare frame.

Depending on how the chair was originally made, this can get messy, and you might find that you need a few more tools to get everything off. Wearing latex gloves might not be a bad idea.

You might be surprised by the number of staples used to hold the chair together. Use pliers to get them all out.

2. Make any repairs to the frame that you need to.

Fill any large holes or gashes with wood putty and sand it down until it looks good. You might discover other problems that can be easily fixed with some wood glue and a well-placed staple. Put the frame in the best condition you can.

Tip: If you want to paint or stain the frame, now’s the time to do it. Instead of stripping, sanding, priming and painting the wood, you could try going straight to chalk paint. Not only is it easy to use and safer for the environment, but chalk paint also lends itself to some great painting techniques to give your new chair more texture and character.

3. Cut the foam cushion so that it fits snugly into the chair.

Keep in mind that after you assemble the seat cushion, the foam will be compressed. When you cut the foam during this step, it ought to look a little too big.

4. Create a paper stencil of the chair seat.

You can use an old newspaper to do this — nothing fancy. The finished stencil should cover every part of the seat that will be covered in the finished project.

5. Use the stencil to cut the plywood to shape.

Some sanding around the edges of the cut piece can get the plywood bottom to fit perfectly into the chair. Now you’re ready to dive into upholstering.

6. On a flat surface, lay out all the pieces of the seat cushion.

Lay out your upholstery fabric first, right-side down. Then put down the batting, the foam cushion and then the piece of plywood.

7. Pull the fabric over the plywood and staple it into place.

To keep the seat cushion looking nice and even, pull the fabric tight as you go. Don’t staple one side at a time, but jump from side to side, keeping even tension on the fabric.

8. Cut away the extra fabric.


9. Flip the cushion right-side-up and drop it into place on the chair.

You can stop there and take a nice rest on your newly upholstered chair, or you can take steps to secure the seat to the chair, especially if you discover a little leftover wiggle room. Some wood glue and/or a few angled staples should hold the pieces together enough for everyday use.

Now you just need to clean up any scraps, vacuum away any sawdust (or regular dust) and put away your tools, and you can enjoy your newest bit of do-it-yourself handiwork.

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