Friday, November 11, 2011

My Throne - How to Reupholster an Antique Chair

I know some of you are wondering why anyone would want to "ruin" an antique piece of furniture.  And let me just say, unless you are planning to restore and resell or display it in a museum, if it's yours - do whatever pleases you!  I do love items that have a story to tell.  I always wonder how many people owned this before me? How did they use it?  In this case, I wonder if it was a dining chair or in a library in someone's massive mansion or was it just for looks?  I'm always intrigued by what I can find out with a little research.  So regardless of what I decide to change it to look like, the history doesn't change.  I just like it even more.  Really, that's what's most important to me.

I had been eyeing this chair for quite awhile on KSL (Utah's much better version of Craigslist).  It was sitting in an antique shop named Second Chances in Brigham City, UT - a good forty five minute drive North from where I live.  It was one of those items that you keep thinking about buying, then talk yourself out of it over and over again.  Well, I am so happy that my "I just HAVE to HAVE it" side won this battle.  So I made the trek North on a lunch break during my work day.  I'm surprised I didn't see one cop car on either way of the trip... because I would have gotten pulled over for driving like a speed demon.  So yes, I bought it, had it wrapped, stuck it in the back of the Rav and couldn't wipe the goofy smile I had on even if I wanted to.  

I absolutely enjoy reupholstering a chair, but I tell you what, it's mostly prep work.  So be prepared before you take on a project like this.  But like any other piece I work on, the outcome is always worth all the effort.  You appreciate it a lot more too!

I took a trip to Joanne (fabric/craft store) and picked up a few items: Waverly Fabric ON CLEARANCE -Hooray!!, trim to cover the thousands of staples I'll be applying, burlap, chair foam, black dust fabric and a bottle of Fray Check to make sure the trim doesn't fray at the ends.  Also, make sure you have a pair of needle nose pliers, a hot glue gun and a staple gun.  Staple guns are pretty inexpensive and you can purchase a hand stapler (not the ones for the office), but that kind makes my palms hurt.

Mr. S bought this Porter Cable compressed air staple gun for me at Lowes and boy, do I LOVE LOVE LOVE this tool!  It saves a lot of time, my hands a lot of pain and saves a lot of ears from my potty mouth. We call this tool our "Investment Tool."  

The first thing you need to do is gut the chair by first taking off the existing trim and fabric - and to do that you have to remove ALL the staples or tacks (or both) with your pliers.  This chair was made in the late 1800s to early 1900s.  I had grilled the owner of the shop for info and did my own research on the history of furniture.  This chair was reupholstered at least once before I got my hands on it, so there were both staples and tacks.  I haven't decided which I hate pulling out more.  This process is a b*@t#%, but do not give up!  

Here's a look at the bottom of the chair.  It was pretty filthy inside, so I made sure to wear a dust mask and goggles while I vacuumed all the nastiness away.  Believe me, you do not want to be breathing in 100 year old dust.  Not good for you!

After the gutting was complete, I found that the beautiful wood had been stained after someone had upholstered it (What laziness!).  Do you see the difference in color between the arms and the rest of the chair?  

I used spackle to fill in all the holes from the tacks and staples.  You can use wood filler, but I prefer spackle because it's easier and was planning to paint over it anyway.  I also found that the springs were mangled.  This turned out to be a trickier task than I first anticipated.

Many YouTube spring tying tutorials later, I repaired the mess and decided to paint the chair white.  It looked clean and fresh, but I have a thing about details and I wanted them to show.  So I decided to antique this antique with some brown glaze.  See my Executive Desk Makeover post for instructions on how to apply glaze.

Much bettah!

I used the burlap to cover the springs.

Stapled the foam to cover the burlap.  

I really think that this last leg of the reupholstering adventure is the easiest part.  I always buy a bit extra on fabric.  It's always better to have too much than too little.  After stapling the fabric taut, trim off all excess with a pair of fabric scissors (I got mine for a steal at Ikea).

Time to heat up the hot glue gun and start gluing the trim over the staples.

The staples and ugly edges have disappeared!

View of the back

And here's the finished product!  I love it!  My own throne chair!

My advice to anyone who wants to reupholster anything is: take it apart.  That way you know how to put it back together again.  This was an extremely long post, but reupholstering has so many more crucial steps than any painting project I've ever taken on.

Once I'm completely finished with the art room, I'll reveal a picture of this chair with the desk.  Until then, be patient!  I will, however, leave you with another sneak peek of my next post: 

See what I did with this fug sofa with the super tacky circa 1980's sateen fabric!



  1. nice job Abby! I like that sofa, can't wait to see it finished!

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