Home Decor

french chair upholstery project part 2

Once the fabric panels were off the chair and I removed any straggling staples, I cleaned the exposed wood with vinegar and paper towels. This magical step will bring out the “old” smell of a chair this age and I gagged a couple of times, but it’s really effective in cleaning the wood in preparation for primer and paint.

I used Zinsser Bin Primer. All the tutorials I have come across that involve painting wood all recommend Zinsser Primer. I am going to tell you that prior to this project, I have never ever used a primer to prep wood and this stuff has changed my mind about primers. Its amazing. It covers really well, dried quickly and left a really nice matte finish (which I considered leaving but decided to press on). I then used my bright white Martha Stewart outdoor/indoor latex paint. Now that the wood was painted (and very bright white) I moved onto the upholstering.

Since I only had my crappy staple gun (I couldn’t at the time find our good industrial one) I decided to purchase an upholstery hammer. This is an invaluable tool when upholstering. It allowed me to hammer in the staples nice and tight through the fabric and into the wood and I felt the fabric was really secure. Plus it was cheap…so thats a bonus.

I used the old fabric panels as templates for cutting the new fabric, and I left 3/4 of an inch allowance around the edge of the new panels. When I took off the old panels I took note of what panels needed to be put back on in what order. This is pretty much common sense but I would suggest writing it down, if you mess up the order it makes it difficult to upholster the different sections. Here is the order of the fabric panels for my style of chair:


-bottom front and bottom of seat

-sides (which needed to be basted to the back panel so I had to leave the back edge open and unstapled)

-back (I did not recreate the button tufts, for a cleaner more modern look)

-back of chair (I had to baste the sides to the side edges of the side panels)

When upholstering a chair you want to staple your panel in the middle of the fabric and work out, pulling it slightly to get a nice taut finish without any creases. I would then trim the excess allowance as close to the staples as I could get.

Once all the panels were on the chair it was time for the trim. I had purchased  E-6000 adhesive for its super strong hold and figured this was what I needed to adhere my trim, to cover the seams of the fabric panels, to the chair. This DID NOT WORK. The directions on the tube say you need to apply the glue and let it cure for 2 minutes before adhering the trim. After the 2 minute curing time I found that I had to hold the trim in place for about 5 minutes before I felt it was adhered properly. I quickly grew tired of this and decided my handy hot glue gun was a better option for adhering the trim to the chair. Quick and easy, I got the trim on the whole chair in 5 minutes.

I then took the fabric off the cushion, took it apart and cut the templates for the cushion cover and sewed the new cushion cover together. I skipped adding the piping because I was lazy and I just wanted the chair to be finished at this point. Plus I didn’t feel like making piping, which would have meant I would have to go out and purchase more fabric because I didn’t have had enough at home. Bah….looks ok to me without the piping.

All in all this project was exhausting. It took a lot longer then I thought (and I knew it was going to take a while). I love the end result, and I will upholster it in a more modern pattern, like my beloved trellis pattern, in the future (distant) but for now the chair suits our living room and serves a great purpose… much-needed extra seating.

My advice for anyone looking to upholster a chair. 1. Take lots of pics while you are taking your chair apart, this was a great reference as I was working. 2. Use a primer if you plan on painting wood. 3. Choose a safe random pattern or solid fabric if you are new to upholstery. Upholstering a chair is a lot of work and its a lot easier when you aren’t concerned with which way the pattern is going or if its lining up properly.

If I can upholster a chair, anyone can. Just make sure you have the right tools for the job and you do lots of research on how to upholster your specific style of chair.


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