How To Re-Upholster A Chair

Tonight we’ve got the third and final installment of the $5 thrift chair refinishing saga.  I know, exciting stuff.  We revealed the chair refinish, then posted about how we fixed the broken spring, and tonight it’s all about how we got the upholstery done.

Thrift Store Chair Makeover Before And After

The supplies we used for upholstering the chair included a yard and a half of outdoor fabric (it’s just as good as upholstery fabric at only a fraction of the cost), a piece of 2″ foam, black upholstery fabric (for underneath the chair), a stapler and some staples.

Chair Upholstering Supplies

First task…cut the cushion down to size.  To help us figure out where to cut the foam without royally messing up the cushion (you know…measure twice, cut once) we put together a little paper template and notched it out in all the appropriate places.

Paper Chair Cushion Template

This made it a cinch to trace the template onto the foam.

Tracing Cushion Template Onto Foam

And then cut the foam using a sharp utility knife.  Helpful hint, put a new (very sharp) blade in your knife.  This helps you to cut the foam instead of shredding the foam.

Cutting Foam Cushion With Utility Knife

With the foam cut, we wedged it into place and made any minor alterations we needed to make.  Not gonna lie…we’re pretty much amazing and got it right the first time.  Fist bump anyone?!  Or maybe a ” ‘sup head nod” is more your speed?

Custom Fit Foam Cushion

I thought about gluing the foam cushion in place so it wouldn’t budge when I started to add the fabric, but it was such a perfect, tight fit, so I didn’t bother.  Next up…adding the fabric.  I started by centering up the fabric on the cushion, inching it left and right until I was happy with the fabric position.  The extra fabric was pulled through the back/sides of the chair.

Centering The Cushion Fabric

I wanted to make sure the fabric stayed in place and didn’t budge, so I started by stapling the fabric to the bottom of the chair starting with the back.  Three staples was all it took to properly secure the fabric.

Start Stapling Fabric From The Back

So at this point, with the chair flipped upside down, we realized we had alot of extra fabric that was getting in the way.

Stapling Material Underneath Chair

We gave the fabric a little trim, sliced it in areas where it needed to get tucked around the chair legs, and started a long (and somewhat painful) process of folding the fabric around the legs (kind of like wrapping a present).

Fold Tuck And Staple Fabric Around Each Leg

And any excess fabric was tucked in between the foam cushion and the springs, leaving tight folds around the legs that we stapled to the chair.

Tucking Fabric Under Springs

We kept folding, tucking, and stapling the fabric to the chair starting at the back of the chair, moving around to the sides, and finishing up on the front.  Like I mentioned earlier, this was no easy task.  I expected the process to last one Sunday beer (about 30 minutes long) but lasted more like five Sunday beers with a bathroom break intermission (closer to four hours).  My problem…I was trying to be TOO perfect with the folds.  I wanted it to look professional, not like it was my first time upholstering a chair.  Once I loosened up a little and accepted the imperfections, it went so much easier.  But maybe it was the five beers?!

The last step of the process, before moving the chair into place, was attaching the black, breathable upholstery fabric to the bottom of the chair.  This fabric helps close up the hot mess that is the bottom of an upholstered chair.  Most fabric stores, including Jo-Ann’s, carries it and it’s a cinch to attach.  I just cut a square of the fabric, stapled it on, then trimmed the excess.

Stapling Black Breathable Fabric To Bottom Of Chair

Leaving a cleaned up and concealed chair bottom.  C’est finis.

Trim Up Black Fabric

And into the craft room the chair went.

Reupholstered Craft Room Chair

Did you notice that I cushioned up the chair a little more with a throw pillow?  It was a Christmas gift from my mom.  We came across this “Reindeer Feed” grain sack pillow at Country Collectibles, one of the neatest country stores up home in Presque Isle, and she paid attention and purchased it for me as a gift.

Grain Sack Reindeer Feed Pillow

I love the pillow and especially how it ties into Colby’s deer heads in this room.

Re-Upholstered Craft Room Chair

And by tucking the pillow in the chair, I don’t think it will get destroyed by the Goose.  He’s a pillow smoosher extraordinaire.  If he doesn’t choke it to death during one of his Goose naps (he takes after his Dad), he smothers it to death with his massive amounts of shedding.  For a short haired dog he certainly can shed!

And with that, our chair trilogy is complete.  And I’ll leave you with the budget breakdown for this chair just one more time:

  • Chair – $5
  • Spray Primer – $3
  • Spray Paint – $3
  • Outdoor Fabric – $6
  • Foam Cushion – $10
  • Black Breathable Fabric (for bottom of chair) – $4 (and I have enough left over for about 18 more of these chairs since it came in a GINORMOUS package)
  • Whopping Total – $31

You just can’t buy a chair like that for $31!

Pssst…Have any of you tried your hand at upholstering furniture?  How did it go?  Any successes?  Funny failures you care to share?  Please someone else tell me they struggled with it too!


  1. Super cute! I love that you used outdoor fabric too. I am in the midst of trying to decide what to do with my oversized ottoman in my living room and have been considering using outdoor fabric as I thought it might be more stain resistant than regular fabric. Are you happy with the quality and feel of it? By the way…love the beer comment..I do some of my best work with an ice cold one in tow (after the little guy is down of course) 🙂 The chair is SUPER cute by the way and regardless of its super affordable price’ve got yourself a one-and-only which is even more fun!

    1. HIGHLY recommend the outdoor fabric! It’s a little stiff at first, no stiffer than upholstery fabric, but a good washing softens it up. Haha…do you happen to also price out your savings in beer too?! Like “Oh my gosh…that’s five beers cheaper than normal!”.

  2. I found your DVD organizing on Pinterest….that led me to this. I have a 100+ year old family heirloom rocking chair that is in dire need of re-upholstering. Now, I feel like I might be able to tackle it once and for all and have it look like it belongs in the nursery. Thank you!!

    1. Ooooh…do it! I love that it’s a family heirloom! That will be so sweet in your nursery! I hope it turns out well!

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