Friday, October 19, 2012

DIY: Reupholster a Wingback Chair

I'm always aching for a craft project (besides the craft project that is my full-time job).  While at the thrift store the other day, I found this wingback chair in a hideous floral print for $19.99.

I did two things:

1. Thought about whether taking this home would make Shay agitated at me because I am amazingly notorious for starting craft projects and never finishing them.

2. Googled "how to reupholster a wingback chair" on my phone.  (This is what I found.)

Then I did two more things:

3. Purchased the chair.

4. Tipped the employee for stuffing it in my car (it was actually pretty light weight, but if I can pawn off manual labor on someone else, I will.  Oh, the irony.)

Subtotal: $23 (including tip)
I knew that if I left the chair in its current state in the garage, Shay would surely give me a short lecture about buying junk with the intention of restoring it and not finishing it, yadda yadda.  So I knew that I needed to strip the chair down to its naked state (at least) in order to receive a positive reaction from my husband.

Here's what I did:

5.  With a flat head screw driver and pliers in hand, removed all of the staples from the bottom.  This took forever.  Whoever originally upholstered this chair went staple gun happy.  I was not a happy camper by the end of this.  Anyway, I labeled the piece "#1 Bottom".  I knew labeling the pieces would help me later if I abandoned this project for a few months-to-years.  :)

6.  Removed the backing.  It was held in place by metal teeth called ply grip.  I kept this in tact and straightened it out so I could reuse it.  Reducing the amount of things I needed to buy would keep this project short and sweet (and reduce waste).

7 (through 100). Removed more and more and more staples. Labeled all pieces with where they came from and what step I did it so I could go in reverse after its all done.
Choosing a color was easy.  Shay and I decided on a minty blue color (unfortunately it looks like a grayish blue in the photo, but its much more minty green than it shows).  I had some leather in this color on hand, but the thought of using gorgeous leather for myself and not for my business didn't feel right.  (I never reserve pretty leathers for myself.  I wear mess-ups.  See how selfless she is?)

Once I got to the fabric store, I was instantly confused as to what I wanted.  I texted Shay with pictures of all these colors and prints I wanted to use and told him to choose for me.

He said, "I'll let my beautifully amazing and talented wife decide that. You're the expert." or something really similar.

I ended up buying a minty blue upholstery corduroy-like fabric (really similar to the type of fabric I've used on bags in the past).  It was $21.99/yard but I had a coupon for 50% off, so I got 5 yards for $55.

I decided to add cream piping to give it a French country look. While it added more sewing to the project (I like to avoid sewing as much as possible besides what I have to do for work), it was totally worth it.  The cream piping was made with brushed cotton canvas, which I already had on hand.

Fabric was chosen, now back to work.

8 (or 101). Work in reverse (I started with the bottom of the chair, which was the last piece I removed).  I used the old pieces as a template for cutting and sewing the new fabric and stapled and assembled everything back into place.

I managed to recycle all the pieces used in the original chair including the piping cording and upholstery nails, so I didn't have to buy any additional materials except staples for my staple gun.  Which was a MANUAL staple gun.  I highly recommend using an electric staple gun because by the end of the project, the muscle between my index and thumb was bruised, purple and swollen.

I finally decided to wear Shay's workout gloves on the last few steps as he kept reminding me to take care of my hands as they are my "money maker".  I'm stubborn.  (And kind of badass, right? With my battle wounds and all?)

Finally, after sewing and assembling everything, we have our finished chair.  Shay is happy.  I am happy.  Hubert is neutral.  I will probably never ever do this again as it was such a painful experience (for my hand).  But really, I will likely do this all the time because I will be buying a electric staple gun, and to justify the purchase, I must use it ALL THE TIME!

Total cost: $78
Total hours: 16 (includes 1.5 hours at the fabric store texting pictures)

I had almost a yard of the fabric leftover, which I'll use to make a matching cushion for Hubert or maybe some pillow cushions for the couch to tie in the living room decor.  We'll see.  :)

This was my first upholstery project and the results have motivated me to take on more projects like this for the house.  I hope it has inspired you to take on some DIY projects as well!

Happy Friday!



  1. LOL...Hubert was neutral... awww.... This looks fabulous--totally jealous!

  2. I will sit on this chair. A job well done my dear.

  3. awesome job and it looks so classy. I have a question with the pillow that you sit on... how did you do that one?

  4. Looks great!
    Question: How long do you think this would have taken you without the extra piping? Also - how much sewing is involved versus stapling?

    1. If I didn't have to rip apart the old piping and use brand new pre-made piping, it would have saved at least an hour or two. The only sewing involved is the cushion and piping, so if you're using pre-made piping, you'll only need to sew the cushion. Most of the time is taking the old chair apart, cutting the new fabric, and stapling new fabric. Otherwise, very minimal sewing involved!