How to Reupholster a Chair

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When I decided to try my hand at reupholstering a set of antique chairs, I feared that it would be way more trouble than it was worth, but I was willing to try, hoping that after I invested the initial time to learn the process, it would result in some fun, future projects.

I set to work watching YOUTUBE videos, googling step-by-step instructions and picking the brain of an expert friend who had done quite a few pieces. In the end, it wasn’t easy, but the tips saved me a ton of frustration and the end result was really rewarding. If you are thinking of reupholstering a piece, here are the steps and tips that helped make my experience relatively painless.

1. Buy cheap – Antique chairs are on trend and many resellers have adjusted their prices accordingly. In many cases, this means that it might not even be cost-effective to reupholster an old piece. I purchased these chairs for $40 each. They were in great condition despite their age and their shape was really unique. They were also really comfortable. Your costs can get a bit out of hand if you have to fix the chair frame, cannot reuse the foam/padding or have to refinish the wood.

Where to shop:

My two favorite Chicago spots are Brownstone and Mercantile M, where I purchased these chairs. Both places offer very fair prices and great delivery rates if you are buying bigger pieces.

Craigslist, Goodwill, Salvation Army and Estatesales.net are also gold mines, but you usually have to arrange your own delivery.

2. Get a quote from a professional reupholster or two – I was quoted $250 per chair plus the cost of the fabric, so I determined that it was worth it for me to try to do it myself.

3. Make sure you have the right tools – I borrowed a staple gun and a compressor from a contractor friend after I was told that a manual staple gun wouldn’t produce ideal results, not to mention the fact that it would be hard on my hands. You might be able to rent these items from Home Depot. I was told that you can buy a great staple gun for $100 and add a battery that gives you a power boost that is not as strong as a compressor, but is much better than a manual staple gun for another $100. Probably worth the investment if you like DIY projects.

Tool summary:

-       Staple gun with a compressor or battery pack and staples

-       Pliers (to remove old staples, or in my case about 200 nails), there are also other tools that will make this step even easier.

-       A butter knife – Key for prying the fabric and trim away from the chair without cutting yourself on a staple or nail in the process.

-       Face mask – Old chairs can be dusty during disassembly

-       Fabric glue – I didn’t end up using any, but it is often necessary (or an easier solution) for trim

-       Nails and a hammer – For use in the areas where the staples can’t achieve a secure enough hold. I only used one nail.

-       Fabric shears or really sharp scissors. No need to buy the $30 sheers, but an upgrade to a $5 new pair will make your life easier.

-       A rug, blanket or tarp to protect your floor

-       Fabric and trim– more on this later

4. Choose the right fabric, buy extra and use a coupon – I would highly recommend using upholstery fabric as it is rated to stand up to extra wear and tear. I purchased this blue velvet hexagon fabric from the Joanne Fabrics website (which has a better selection than the stores). It was originally very expensive, but here’s a tip that will save you tons of money – Joann Fabrics has great coupons and if you get a coupon for 50% off one item (which they always seem to have), it’s actually 50% off your entire order of that individual fabric even though it’s sold by the yard. Google Joann Fabric coupons, download their app or simply go to the website where they often post coupons. I was told that I would need 3 yards of fabric per chair, but I actually used quite a bit less (see tips on how to maximize your fabric below).

5. If your chair needs any repairs, do it now. Also, if you want to paint, polish or lacquer the wood, it is much easier to do it now as well so you don’t have to worry about protecting the fabric.

Now you are ready to reupholster your chair!

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Step 1, Disassembly: Take apart the chair, paying careful attention to how the chair was constructed so you can replicate the process. If the seat cushion is removable the process will be much easier (this wasn’t the case for the chairs I chose, of course). Remove all nails and staples that were used to secure the fabric carefully as you might want to reuse the trim (I wrapped the old trim chord in my new fabric to save lots of time). Set aside the foam, fabric and trim, keeping each section together and label them if you have a very complex chair. See a pic of my “naked” chair frame below. There is often a correct order for reupholstering. For example, for my chairs, I need to start with the seat cushion, followed by the front side of the chair back and then the backside of the chair back because the fabric had to be pulled through the back gap of the chair where the seat cushion met the chair back and stapled on top of one and other from the back. Make sure you are on the look out for this as you are disassembling a chair.

ImageStep 2, Cutting the fabric: Once you have taken the chair apart completely, lay the old fabric on top of your new fabric, using it as a pattern. In order to save on fabric, arrange the pieces in a way that allows you to waste as little fabric as possible. Cut your new fabric an inch or so wider than the old fabric so you have a bit more to work with (this is true for all areas EXCEPT the corners, you don’t want to have too much excess fabric here. Everywhere else you can easily trim off the excess fabric once the staples are in place and it will be easier to staple the fabric (and safer for your fingers!) if you have a little excess fabric to grasp.)

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Step 3, Stapling: Start stapling in the middle of each section and pull the fabric taunt, but not too taunt. If you pull it too tight, your chair could look lumpy or the fabric could look misaligned, conversely, if you don’t put it tight enough you will see fabric bunches and it won’t look professional. Do a couple of staples at a time and then check your alignment to make sure the fabric remains straight. This is what the chair looked like before the trim.

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Step 4, Adding the trim: You can often buy trim at a fabric store, which is definitely the easier way to go. If you can’t find a trim that matches or provides the look you want, the next best solution is to use the same fabric to make the trim. In this case, I wrapped the old double-cord trim in my new fabric, stapling it in the middle so you can’t see the staples. The hard part was making sure that the middle staples went through the ends of both sides of the fabric in the back as well.
Step 5, add embellishments: The final optional step is to add some extra embellishments to jazz things up. I chose removable Peacock feathers (purchased at Michael’s) for a touch of playful opulence and color. They are just taped to the back of the chair in this case. You could also add fringe to the bottom of the chair or a cute pillow (stay tuned for my post on DIY no sewing required pillows).

ImageIt took me about 4 hours to do my first chair from start to finish, mainly due to the learning curve and the fact that the previous upholster used a ton of nails, which proved to be very difficult to remove. I also took lots of stretching breaks as it was quite hard on the back. I figure I will be able to do the second chair in less than three hours. The total cost, including the purchase price for the chair, came in at $100/chair. Not bad for a unique, comfortable chair and bragging rights :)

High/Low: Pharmacy Cabinets

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Well, the home remodel continues and so does my battle to not procrastinate by day dreaming about decorating (it should be obvious from this post that I’m currently losing that battle.) Some battles just weren’t meant to be fought, so I indulged myself with a trip to Ikea over the weekend. Truth be told, I was there to buy the curtain rods and curtains that I had meant to purchase and install five years ago (an article that claims that your sleep quality is reduced by up to 40% when light filters into your room finally roused me to action….so please excuse my past fives years of whatever due to poor sleep :)).

Ikea’s curtains and shades are a steal and the quality is good, so be sure to make a trip there before shelling out a ridiculous sum somewhere else. We were also really impressed with the new items from their fall catalog and my jaw dropped when I saw this Fabrikor pharmacy cabinet for $179. This is surely the same cabinet I was drooling over on the Restoration Hardware site for $895 (it’s currently on sale for $535 for a limited time – they must subscribe to the Ikea catalog as well.)

The color sections are a bit different (White and Black for Restoration Hardware and green, dark gray and off white for Ikea), but you could always paint it anyway. My only complaint about the Ikea version is having the key in place of a handle closure. I would probably add a handle as well. I prefer the straight legs of the Ikea model though. Watch out RH; Ikea has your number!

 

Ali’s Collection on Fab.com

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Ali’s Collection is having a sale on some of our best-selling items this week only on Fab.com. Check out designs from our Galaxy, Out of Africa and Classics collections and save up to 30%. Due to the sale price, items are going fast so shop early for the best selection. Check out the sale here.

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Behind the Scenes with Diane Peacock of Blue Lollipop Road

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Diane Peacock is a seize the day type of girl. Her positive energy and enthusiasm is contagious and her follow- your-dreams-and-make-it-happen mantra has led her to all 50 states and countless countries, connecting her to thousands of people. It’s impossible to label Diane with just one title. She’s a blogger, a road trip maven, a community activist and a small business champion. With a book collaboration and 50 state speaking engagement tour in the works, we are sure that list is about to get much, much longer. Read on to get to know Diane, hear about how she pays (and PLAYS) it forward and see what else 2013 has in store for her.

What inspired you to start bluelollipoproad.com?
After years of traveling, I started itching for a way to share my stories and adventures with more than just friends and family. I also wanted to  inspire other people to just get up and go, to explore beyond everyday surroundings. I thought a blog would be perfect- so I just started writing. Thus, Blue Lollipop Road was born!

Tell us about your upcoming, second-annual BLR Play It Forward event. How can we get involved?
During my Honda sponsored road trip in the fall of 2011, I saw an old soccer teammate I hadn’t seen in years and she sprung on me: “We should have an alumni game Di! You have to plan it. It’d be great!” I was at the point where I’d traveled so much I was ready to “give back” and had thought about establishing a travel scholarship fund. That conversation led to a full-scale weekend long alumni event that Blue Lollipop Road hosts where my fellow soccer alumni and community members gather to reconnect, play soccer, honor lost friends, and have fun! The weekend kicks off with a Welcome Back Party on Friday night. Saturday includes the Strong Mojo Summit (where current female athletes meet alumni to discuss life experiences), a gifting of the Blue Lollipop Road Memorial scholarship, and an Alumni Soccer Game. On Saturday evening “Celebration Cocktails” wrap up the event. The event is a blast. The focus is on giving back to the community and encouraging everyone to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. We give a local teen the opportunity to travel by awarding a scholarship in honor of my two friends that BLR is dedicated to. It’s pretty much my dream come true. Alumni  can register to play in the game, or anyone can donate to BLR Play It Forward and the Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Fund by visiting: http://bluelollipoproad.com

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What is a typical day like for you?
I wake up around 6:30am and check my phone responding to any quick important emails, then read the news. I’m out the door at 7am for a run (3-5 miles on weekdays, more on weekends.) I french press coffee as soon as I’m back from running. After that it’s straight to my laptop for emails, writing, editing, uploading photos, and social media. This time of year I spend a lot of time on BLR Play It Forward: recruiting alumni, meeting with press/media, and planning logistics from jerseys and posters to sponsors and food. If I’m not already at a coffee shop working, I usually come up for air in the afternoons when I get an itch- and go camp out at one.

What is your favorite travel destination thus far?
Ooh! This questions always gets me- so many places! In the US, all around favorite:
City: Chicago
Beach: Outer Banks, NC
Secret spot of pure heaven: Finger Lakes, Upstate NY
Summer utopia: Anywhere in New England
Food, wine, and serenity: The Napa Valley
Country: Argentina. The people, landscape, food, wine, ahhh….

What sites and resources do you use to plan your trips?
None! I am a less planning, more doing kind of girl. I make sure my AAA card is current, oil is changed and my tank is full and I take off. That’s how the best experiences happen. I say, Always be prepared but don’t “plan.”

What entrepreneur resources have you found to be the most useful?
I’m not sure these would be considered “resources”, but I always like to check out what’s going on with the following organizations to stay inspired to follow my own road- like they do:
http://www.oneweekjob.com
http://roadtripnation.com
http://www.americangap.org

What is the best advice you have ever received?
1.) You’re not picky- you just know what you want.
2.) You promote what you tolerate

What do you do in your free time (or would you do if you had any :))?
I run, play soccer, and take classes like hip hop and yoga. I like to play outside as much as possible, and stay super active because I love scoping out delicious local eats and drinks wherever I am, so I’ve got to keep moving to stay healthy! I also just get in the car and drive a lot.  On rainy days you can find me at a bookstore researching things such as small businesses, company culture, food and wine.

What else does 2013 have in store for you?
A home base set up in Charlotte in July! I’m very excited as this is the first time I will establish a home base in about 6 years.  Also, working on a 50 state tour that will launch in spring 2014. Exciting times ahead!

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