Monday, February 3, 2014

French Chair Reupholstery Makeover and Tutorial

I love a good upholstery project... They may be messy, time-consuming, and can be slightly frustrating, but in the end, I guess I like the extra challenge reupholstering provides compared to just painting furniture.  I'm not an expert at it, but have done a few chairs and have learned a few things along the way that I thought I'd share.

As you can see above, this chair was in desperate need of a makeover, but beyond the old fabric was a cute little French chair frame in good condition.   If you're considering tackling an upholstery project, check the frame, springs, etc to make sure it's a project you can tackle.  Luckily the springs and major parts of the upholstery were in good condition on this chair, but it definitely provided some other challenges for me.
The first step of reupholstering is "deconstruction", but before you start tearing into removing the old welting and fabric, stop and take a look at how the current upholstery is attached to the frame.  If it's a complicated chair/couch, you might even want to take a  few pictures to help you remember how all the pieces fit together again. 
After analyzing how the chair is put together, gently start taking apart the fabric components of the chair (starting with the welting).  Usually the welting is just glued on so it's fairly easy to pull up an end and peel it off the frame.  Set aside the old welting after removing it so that you can use it as a reference for how much new welting to sew.  After removing the welting, slowly pull up the fabric that is stapled to the frame.  You do not want to just slice into the fabric and tear it off in pieces because you'll need the shape of the existing fabric to act as a template for cutting the new fabric.
The most important piece of advice for reupholstering is to pay close attention to how a piece was originally manufactured/upholstered.  It's like a puzzle that you are taking apart and putting back together again!  I mentioned above that this little chair had some hidden challenges... After taking off the top layer of fabric and foam, I noticed that instead of having a small ledge where the fabric is stapled to the frame, there was a deep and narrow crevice where the old fabric was stapled and glued to the frame.  This made it incredibly difficult to remove staples and old glue because none of my tools would fit down in there easily.  It took hours and lots of patience to get everything removed...  
I also mentioned above that reupholstering can get messy. Sometimes those old chairs have old foam that just crumbles after removing the fabric and this was one of those... Yuck!  Just have a drop cloth down and a shop vac handy.  Give the chair frame a good wash down and prep it for paint.  Since I was using a light-colored fabric, I wanted a nice contrast on the frame to coordinate with the charcoal birds so I painted it out in two coats of Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint in Graphite...
Since this French chair has so much detailing, it would be a shame if I didn't highlight it!  I mixed up a small batch of white wax using clear wax and Pure White Chalk Paint to tint it.  Using a small painters brush to get into the grooves, I applied the white wax and wiped the excess away and buffed when dry...
After the frame is painted, it's time to upholster... As you can see above, the old batting on the chair frame was just not cutting it...  Unless you're using very thick material to recover, your reupholstering job will only be as good as the layer underneath the fabric.
You want a nice, smooth surface for that final layer of fabric.  I simply cut some thick batting in the shape of the seat and stapled it around the frame to hold it in place.  Go easy on the corners as you don't want lumps of extra batting.  Trim it as you go...
After the batting is in place, it's time for the fun part... adding fabric!  Using the pieces of original fabric you removed from the chair, cut similar sized pieces of the new fabric.  Don't cut them out to the exact size of the old fabric, but add a few inches on each side so that you have some extra to work with.  You'll be trimming any excess off later.
After ironing the new fabric panels, start applying them to the chair frame in the proper order.  You can use a standard staple gun, but I recommend getting a pneumatic staple gun or air nailer with staple gun attachment if you are going to be doing much upholstery work (or DIY work).  I simply can't imagine not having one, but we do quite a bit of DIY.
When you're stapling the fabric onto the frame, place a single staple in the center of one side, then move to the opposite side to do the same.  Get all four sides tacked down before securing the rest of the fabric, leaving the corners for last...
The hardest part of reupholstering (at least for me) are the corners.  I can recover dining chair seats in my sleep, but I still have to play around with the fabric on the corners of chairs like this for a while... trimming, pulling, tucking, re-tucking, etc.  Just have patience... lots of it!
After the seat was done, I decided to add an accent fabric on the back of this chair with some French script fabric remnant I had on hand.  Center the fabric where you want it on the back of the chair and staple it in place just like the seat fabric.  You'll most likely have excess fabric after adding back the foam and front fabric panel, but just carefully trim the excess away.  The cut edges will be covered with the welting...
Welting is just cording (found at local fabric store) covered with fabric that provides a nice clean edge to an upholstered piece.  To make it, just cut small strips of your fabric and sew around the cording.  If you want to simplify this step, simply add some gimp trim in a coordinating color.  Both gimp and welting are attached between the frame and the fabric edge with hot glue.
In my opinion, welting really finishes off an upholstered piece, but I've used the gimp trim plenty of times as well.  
As I mentioned, reupholstering is a pretty time-consuming project and it requires some patience, but if you've shopped around for furniture lately, you'll know that upholstered pieces don't come cheap!  You'll save yourself a bundle and have a completely custom piece of furniture if you decide to tackle the work yourself.
I'm pretty happy how this little chair turned out and I think I'll hang on to it for a little while, especially since it has my current favorite fabric on it (Richloom's Birdwatcher).  
Next time you see a cute little chair at the flea market or yard sale, I hope you'll give reupholstering a shot!  

Kristen


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51 comments:

Kim @ Savvy Southern Style said...

I love it! Love the different fabric on the back and good tutorial.

Urban Farmhouse Chic said...

Very nice job and great tutorial!

Allison @ The Golden Sycamore said...

Absolutely gorgeous, Kristen! I love your makeover. Beautiful and professional job!

Claire Rose said...

This chair looks divine- great instructions too! The fabric is adorable:)

Shirley@Housepitality Designs said...

Thanks Kristen!…The chair is magnificent and of course you did a fabulous job!...

Cassie @ Primitive & Proper said...

wow, kristen! stunning! perfect choices. :)

marty (A Stroll Thru Life) said...

Great job and super tutorial. Hugs, Marty

Lisa Northum said...

She's beautiful! Thanks for sharing! ~Lisa @ Practically Perfect Home

Vicki Daugherty said...

Wow! My hat is off to your patience and skill. I wish I was as brave and could jump in and do this, but I'm not. Your chair is lovely, from beginning to end and you should be very proud. Thanks for sharing this amazing tutorial. Vicki in Louisville Ky

Victoria's Vintage Designs said...

Gorgeous & beautiful fabric... such nice work!! V

Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions said...

Beautiful chair, Kristen! I love the fabrics you used on it.

Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. said...

Oh what a beautiful chair! And that bird fabric is swoon worthy!

All About Vignettes said...

Thanks so much. I love the fabric choices but most of all I love the idea to use single cording. I'm totally intimidated by double welting and always avoid it. I'm giving the single cord a shot. Great tutorial and chair.

Traci Hutton said...

Such an amazing piece!!

Dear Emmeline said...

gorgeous!!! LOVE that fabric!!!

Pretty Purple Treaures said...

I love that fabric, I love the whole chair! Visiting from Coastal Charm!

Trisha Flaherty said...

You did a beautiful job! I did one myself and I agree it is tough but rewarding! Love the fabric and color choice. Trisha

T Holcomb said...

I am so impressed. You are one talented girl! Just perfection!

Kirby Carespodi said...

Love it! A great tutorial. I'm starting one of these chairs next month...do you want to help?

Kathy said...

What is the name of the two fabrics you used ? This chair is beutiful.

Laurel Stephens said...

Gorgeous!

Kaaren said...

Love, love, love this chair. What a great look. That fabric is to die for. You'll have to share where you get it with me sometime. Great job.

Debbie said...

Can you tell me what that notched tool is that you pictured? I've done lots of dining room chair recovers and that would have surely saved some time! :-)

revivedbydelia said...

What a fabulous transformation! I love the fabric choices too!

Gloria Mathews said...

I absolutely LOVE this chair redeux! Thanks for the inspiration!

Mitchypoo said...

What a great job! I love the new chair, the color, the fabric, so chic! Someday I'm going to attempt this.

Debra Oliver said...

oh Kristen, I love this amazing fabric! so much fun!

Mary said...

Kristen, Your chair is wonderful! I adore the painting you did to accent the details and your fabric on the front and back!

Lorraine Mclaughlin said...

Very good details, except for the back of the chair. That seems like an awfully wide area with no support other than the foam. Did you use any support--maybe a board?

Patty Hibble said...

Love the transformation! I'm on the hunt!

Patty Rumaker said...

That is one gorgeous chair. I love how you changed up the fabric on the back with the scripted fabric. Love the birds. Great Job!
Patty at Home and Lifestyle Design

Julie R said...

You did a beautiful job on this chair. Love the fabric!!

Dee said...

Such a pretty chair. Love the fabic, you did a beautiful job. Thanks for sharing, Dee from My Painted Stuff

Liz@ Infuse With Liz said...

Wow that turned out beautiful! Love the detail on the chair and how you brought it out. I could never tackle reupholstering..I admire you for doing it!

LostRoses said...

It looks like it was originally a cane-back chair which would account for the deep crevice. Even though it was not meant to have an upholstered back I think there is enough framework around the edges to hold it sturdily in place. Lovely fabrics!

Barbara Ristway said...

You did a lovely transformation on the chair! Birdwatcher is currently my favorite fabric as well. What a beautiful piece!!!

Holly McCall said...

Beautiful transformation! Love your choice of fabric!

Anne Boykin said...

Hi Kristen, The fabric is so lovely and you did a fabulous job!

The Prudent Homemaker said...

Thank you so much for the detailed tutorial!

Can you tell us where you found this fabric?

Laura said...

Hi Kristen; Love the chair!!! Just wanted to ask you though what would you recommend using wax and paint for the highlight here like you did on the chair. Or the glaze with white paint like in some of your other tutorial. Not sure which one to use for my first attempt. Any advice will be happily received.

Pat Cantwell said...

Kristen,
Love, LOVE, L O V E this transformation!!!
The painting technique truly sets off the detailing of the chair...EXQUISITE!!!
I appreciate your tutorial and instructions on the welting. I've made my own before, also, but wasn't sure how to apply the welting to the chair for the finished look achieved here! (Think I stapeled the last welting first, then applied the seat cushion.)
"Mr.Ed" & I will be upholstering a chair cushion next week. Perfect timing for this post, dear one!!!
Fondly,
Pat

20 North Ora said...

What a beautiful job you did on this chair! Love that fabric.

I am your newest follower.

Judy

Lisa Tutman-Oglesby said...

Hi Sophia, this is a really beautiful project. You did a great job with the makeover and the contrasting fabric on the back of the chair is a wonderful touch.

I'd love to know where you found the bird fabric if you have time to let me know (at lmtut@aol.com).

Thanks and it's been a pleasure browsing your blog.

Have a nice weekend,

Lisa

Deb Hrabik said...

I keep thinking I have already left a comment because everytime I see this sweet chair, I love it! I thought I should finally put it in writing - because I have said it to myself several times! ha
Beautiful,
Deb@LakeGirlPaints

Denise at PinkPostcard. said...

beautiful job Kristin! I'm getting ready to do a similar style chair, so I pinned this just in case I need some help on the seat :) I don't think mine has the wrap around the back frame like yours…but I'll have to check. Love the graphite and white wax treatment.

Just Judy said...

This is so beautiful...you did an amazing job...thanks for the tutorial!
Judy

Sunny said...

I love this chair!! You're very talented! I just moved to the Triangle 6 mos ago and love it here!
I've just started a blog and added your site as a "fave."
http://www.mommyhoodandtheeverafter.com/

Carol DeMonbreun said...

where do you buy this beautiful fabric?

Lori Young said...

Love Love the transformation. The fabric is absolutely stunning... I have to find it for my dining room!! Thank you for such inspiration!!

MomHomeGuide.com said...

I love your chair! What fabric did you use? I would love to find that fabric! So cute.

Debbie - Painted Therapy said...

This is just amazing. Amazing!

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