diy · Home Decor

french chair upholstery project

A few months back, I was offered an old french chair from my father-in-law. I was utterly delighted when he offered it to me…I love the look of an old chair upholstered with new fabric and the wood painted out white. I have a soft spot for painted wood, I prefer it in almost every instance where the options are wood vs. painted wood. It’s the shabby chic lover in me.


The chair has a great shape and despite its original  dirty “well-loved” appearance, it’s actually very comfortable to sit in. I saw past its ugly, overly button tufted exterior and knew it was a fantastic solution to our lack of seating problem. My husband was less than thrilled when I agreed to take this baby from his dad but once again I have surprised him;)

I knew this was going to be a big job, hence my hesitation to even start this project. I am an instant gratification type of person and because of the magnitude of this project I have split the tutorial into 2 posts.

I procrastinated with choosing a fabric initially, so it sat in our living room with a throw on it for a couple of months before I finally got the courage to buy a fabric. I chose a yellow and white floral Jacquard upholstery fabric. I originally envision a modern print, like this trellis pattern on my classic french chair but this was my first major upholstery project and I was weary of a linear pattern and my ability to keep it linear;) The floral Jacquard I chose is random so I wasn’t worried about keeping the pattern straight in any way, I just focused on stapling.

The first thing I did was take very detailed pictures on where the seams started and stopped. This is important later on when you are applying the new trim to hide the exposed edges of fabric in this style of chair.

Then I tackled the HUGE job of taking off the old trim and fabric panels. I underestimated the time it would take me to do this. There are a million (or what felt like a million) staples in a chair like this. I began by prying them off one by one with a flat head screw driver and pliers and after 2 panels I realized that was a crap technique and I started ripping the fabric panels off with the pliers. I made sure to keep all the panels in tact (very very important, you will need them for templates when cutting your new fabric). I then went back and removed the handful of staples that were left in the wood after ripping off the fabric.

This sounds like it would take a couple of hours but the first step of removing the trim and existing fabric took me 2 nights….like I mentioned before there were a lot of staples.

Next step was to prepare the chair for primer and paint. Stay tuned for the 2nd part to my french chair upholstery project.




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