Thursday, May 22, 2014

Desk Chair Before and After!

So I’ve been looking for a new desk chair, something with arms and upholstered so I could put a bright fabric on it since most of my office is white, and after at shopping one of my favorite flea markets in Atlanta, I stumbled on this little beauty:

I actually got to meet the former owner, well, the former owners granddaughter, who was sitting in the booth trying to play and hold a full size electric guitar.  She was probably all of 6 years old and very sassy.  I liked her and her chair immediately.  In it’s former years, this chair belonged in a dining room and witnessed many dinner parties and bridge games.  Its life is about to be turned around!  Yes, I am giving the chair feelings and a life – just roll with it.

I think I paid around $50 for the chair – I bought a bunch of other things that day and they start discounting with the number of items you buy so I’m not sure the exact amount, but either way, for a sturdy wood chair with a great shape, I thought that was a pretty good deal.

First step is to tear off CAREFULLY all the current upholstery.  I used some small-nose pliers and a flathead screwdriver.  It took some serious elbow grease to get some of those staples out.  Not to mention the last guy who upholstered this chair was seriously staple gun happy!  I probably had to pull out 500 staples.  And that made my fingers hurt – and then I drank a glass of wine.
Millions of staples in can barely see them, but they're there...

I saved all the pieces of fabric – the two arm pieces, the seat, and the two from the back of the chair – two because there is a pad and piece of cardboard type thing to give it a little more support so the fabric will end up sandwiching this part.
Put them in a very safe place – I did not do this at first and someone who shall remain nameless (but photographed here) easily grabbed them and started gnawing at the decades old fibers and fill that were left behind.  Gross.  You are a seriously gross dog.  But very cute, so I shall keep you.
Who me?  
Moving on.  I knew that I wanted the chair to have a completely new look and love the way paint can do that.  So I went out and bought 1 can of Rust-Oleum high gloss paint and primer spray paint in bright white.  It went on like a dream.  I didn’t really need to, but I kept painting layer and layer of paint til the can was empty.  I love shiny – and that is what I got.
Make sure when you decide to paint that you haven’t recently had any rain or are expecting any.  This might seem like a “well duh” tip, but I have done so many projects that never seem to really dry (even after months!) all because it looked sunny outside but was going to rain later that day or night.

Okay, so chair is all pretty and white and now here comes the tedious part – cutting the fabric.  You’ll want to use the fabric that was just taken off as a template, but add a nice size border – like 5-6 inches extra.  I kinda screwed this part up.  I thought giving myself a good 3 inches extra would be enough and it wasn’t.  It doesn’t seem that obvious with the finished product, but would have made a huge difference while upholstering the chair.   Save yourself the headaches and profanities and cut way more than you think you’ll need.

I use a regular hardware store staple gun, the hand powered kind.  I think for my next project I will definitely be looking into those compressed air powered ones.  The only issues I had with my gun was the awkward angle I had to staple.  The staples wouldn’t go in completely flat, so I would have to go back and finish them off with a hammer.  But eventually I got a better feel for it and didn’t have to do that quite as much.  This also would have been smoother with an extra pair of hands.  Pulling the fabric and trying to staple all by your lonesome is tricky.  To keep the fabric tight I always start with some foundation staples at the very front then staple the opposite side that way as you work your way around the chair, the fabric won’t be all wonky and off-center.

To finish off this project I ended up ordering some double-welt piping (since no one sells it in stores and in fact looked at me like I was crazy when I asked for some).  I had worked with the stuff once before and remembered just using my all purpose foot on my sewing machine, and it worked okay this time, but I think in the future I’ll just use this tutorial and make my own double welt cord.

Here is where I got a little bit lazy.  The original piping was held on with staples, but I decided to use hot glue.   Even though it doesn’t adhere to fabric particularly well and will eventually start falling apart, like I mentioned, I got lazy and wanted instant gratification.  I ended up needing about 5 yards of fabric covered piping for the entire chair and I think it really helped finishing it off.  
All in all a pretty good amount of time went into this project.  A day to take it apart, a weekend for painting, a few days to cover, and another afternoon for piping and finishing.  But I love my new chair and the way it turned out.  Especially since something similar would have cost me $450!!!!  That’s just crazy.  
Here’s what I spent: 
Chair – Flea Market in Atlanta - $50
Fabric – - $12
Paint – Lowes - $6.50
Piping – DIY Upholstery Supply - $3.50

Finishing this has gotten me more pumped for my next project – upholstering a wing chair….any advice or motivational words would be great!!


  1. Pneumatic staplers definitely do a better job and are much easier to use than an electric staple gun but remember you have to have a compressor, too. If you think you'll use the stapler a lot (a Porter-Cable is about $90 from Amazon), then go for it.

    If you think you'll be pulling more staples in the future, get a Berry Staple Remover tool. It's much easier and safer to use than a screwdriver---you will be much less likely to damage the furniture and your knuckles. I ease the staple out a bit with that and then pull it the rest of the way with a diagonal pliers (get the spring-loaded type to save even more effort--important when you have hundreds of staples to pull).

  2. I love your work! You inspired me to try it myself. And I love your cute dog!
    Wishes from Germany,