A few months ago, I started buying vintage chairs to turn into a mis-matched dining chair set. This was one of those chairs I had collected, and when I decided to convert the downstairs bedroom into my studio, I knew I wanted to use this chair as my desk chair. And so, there it sat, begging me to get up the nerve to change it. It waited... waited... and waited...until I finally bit the bullet and bought everything I needed and didn't look back. And I am soooo happy with the end result. Lesson learned- don't waste the time worrying...just do it.
This is what the chair looked like originally. The hardest and grossest part of the job, is stripping the chair down to it's bare bones. The older the chair, the more surprised I am by what I uncover. This chair was no exception.
Sometimes, you won't even know what materials you need until you uncover the materials they used previously. This metal stripping is called flexible curve ease and it is the reason I worried for so long about attempting this project. I'll get back to that later.
The chair looked like this after it had been stripped clean.
I sanded all the parts that were not going to be covered by material and painted them with an eggshell finish grey paint named "Cool Concrete".
The next thing to be done was to replace the cushion. The original chair had only batting and what looked to be horse hair as it's only cushion. I was not planning on re-tufting the chair, so I built up the foam in the middle of the chair and covered it with batting, fitting it around where the arms and back of the chair joined the seat.
Then I wrapped batting around the back of the seat and stapled it on the back side.
I wrapped more batting around the seat cushion and stapled it underneath. Wrapping the batting gives you an opportunity to see what folds you will need to make and how you will need to cut the material you are using, to form a smooth finished look. Make sure to iron out all of these challenges on the cheaper batting, so you will not waste the material you have chosen.
This is what the chair looks like when it is ready to be upholstered.
Lay out the material over the section you are starting with and make sure that your favorite part of the material is featured on the most prominent part of the chair.
When the material is positioned the way you want it, start stapling, first on the top and then the bottom, pulling the material taut the whole time. The curves can be tricky, so don't be afraid of stapling small sections st a time and overlapping the staples so that you show no folds or wrinkles on the edges of the upholstered area.
On to the back of the chair, and the most challenging part. I have re-upholstered many chairs before, but none have had this tight seam of material where the front and back upholstery meet. I was at a loss as to how to begin and quite intimidated because I did not want to ruin the chair taking it apart and I did not want to ruin the material because I was absolutely in love with it.
This is the flexible curve ease- I purchased mine from Beacon Fabrics where you can order it by the foot. The side that has the holes, is hammered into the wood with upholstery tacks or 3/4" nails, following the curves.
You will need to use needle nose pliers to hold the tack until you lightly tap it in a little and then you can hammer it in the rest of the way.
When the curve ease lines the entire perimeter, you are ready to take the material, which should be cut about 1/2" to 1" bigger than the area you are re-upholstering, and fold it over the teeth all the way around. As you go, tap the teeth lightly down with a rubber mallet. You will be able to gage at this point whether the material is going to be pulled too tightly. If it is, let out the material a little bit and then hammer it down completely.
The seam should look like this.
Now, lay the material over the seat cushion and trim it down, when you have the design positioned the way you want it.
Staple it, pulling the material as you go, removing all folds and wrinkles as you go.
This is what the completed chair looks like...
...with a couple of the more difficult areas to maneuver around.
Good luck with your next DIY project : )