Revamping a Chair: Painting and Upholstering

Revamping a Chair: Painting and Upholstering

Displayed here is a 1920s armchair made of oak and cane, complete with its original castors. Although it required extensive repairs when I acquired it, the chair's simple design made the refurbishment process relatively straightforward. If you're new to upholstery, selecting furniture with reusable padding and springs that are suitable for reupholstering is recommended. Recovering the chair with new fabric alone is a much simpler undertaking than a complete reupholstery project. Prior to applying the new fabric, consider painting the chair if desired.

Let's get started! 



1. Before upholstering the chair with new fabric, it's essential to remove the old fabric and assess the condition of the chair's frame. To do this, start by stripping off the old fabric carefully, taking care not to damage the frame or any padding underneath. As you remove the fabric, set aside any pieces that can be used as a pattern for cutting the new fabric.

Once the old fabric is removed, inspect the chair frame for any significant holes or damage. If there are any holes, cracks, or other damage, fill them in with wood filler and allow it to dry completely before proceeding. This will help to ensure that the frame is sturdy and secure before adding new padding and fabric.

Another important step in the inspection process is to check for signs of woodworm or borer infestation. These insects can cause significant damage to the wood frame and compromise the structural integrity of the chair. If you find any signs of woodworm or borer, such as tiny holes or sawdust-like debris, it's crucial to take action immediately to prevent further damage.

To treat woodworm or borer infestation, you can use a borer bomb, which releases a pesticide that kills the insects. Before using a borer bomb, make sure to cover any nearby surfaces with plastic or drop cloths to protect them from the spray. Once the bomb has been activated, leave the room and allow it to work for the recommended amount of time before returning to the area.

After treating the infestation, fill up any holes left by the insects with wood filler and allow it to dry completely before continuing with the upholstery process.

2. Voodoo Molly Vintage Paint is a popular choice for giving furniture pieces a charming, antique-inspired finish. To achieve a delicate off-white appearance, the Antique White shade is an excellent option. To apply the paint to the chair frame, you'll need a 38mm synthetic brush, which is ideal for reaching into tight corners and covering large areas of the frame.

When applying the paint, it's important to start with a clean and dry surface. Remove any dirt or debris from the frame, and make sure it is completely dry before beginning the painting process. Then, using the brush, apply the first coat of Voodoo Molly Vintage Paint to the frame, making sure to cover all surfaces evenly. Allow the first coat to dry completely before applying a second coat. Depending on the coverage, you may need to apply a third coat to achieve the desired opacity.

While applying the paint, keep in mind that Voodoo Molly Vintage Paint is self-levelling, which means that it will level out as it dries. However, you can also use a light hand to create brushstrokes or texture for a more authentic vintage appearance. Once the final coat is applied, allow the paint to dry completely before moving on to any distressing or sealing techniques.

3. Distressing the paint finish is a technique that can create a vintage and charming appearance to the furniture piece. This process involves sanding the paint layer using sandpaper or a sanding block, which can effectively remove the topmost layer of paint and expose the underlying layers in a gradual manner. By selectively removing paint in areas that receive the most wear and tear, such as edges, corners, and curves, you can achieve an aged, soft-worn look that enhances the character of the piece.

For instance, if you're placing the furniture piece in a room that has a rustic or shabby chic theme, distressing the paint finish can help it blend in better with the overall ambiance. The goal is to create a finish that looks like it has been naturally worn over time, without appearing too forced or artificial. It's important to note that distressing should be done strategically, with a light touch and in moderation, to avoid damaging the furniture's structural integrity or making it look too weathered.

4. If the existing springs, foam, and/or padding on the chair are still in good condition, you may only need to add a fresh layer of polyester padding to the chair before upholstering it with new fabric. This can be a simple and cost-effective way to refresh the chair's appearance and add a bit of extra cushioning.

To add the polyester padding, start by measuring the length and width of the seat and backrest areas of the chair. Then, cut the polyester padding to the appropriate size using scissors. Make sure to cut the padding slightly larger than the measurements to ensure that it covers the entire area of the chair.

Next, position the padding on the chair and use a staple gun to secure it in place. Start by stapling the center of the padding to the center of the chair, and then the opposite side, keeping the wadding snug but not too tight. Staple the last 2 sides. 

5. Attaching the new fabric to the chair is a crucial step in the reupholstery process. To ensure that the fabric is straight and centered, it's essential to take your time and work carefully.

Start by laying the fabric out on a flat surface, with the right side facing down. Measure out the fabric dimensions carefully, adding a little extra for stapling. Cut with scissors and use chalk to mark the top and bottom.

Next, start attaching the fabric to the chair using an airgun stapler, if possible. An airgun stapler is a powerful tool that can quickly and easily secure the fabric to the chair frame. If you don't have access to an airgun stapler, a hand stapler or a tack-hammer and tacks can also work, but will require more effort and may not be as effective.

When attaching the fabric, start at the front center of the chair and work your way outwards. Pull the fabric taut as you staple it to the frame, but be careful not to pull it too tight, as this can cause wrinkles or distortion in the fabric.

As you work, make sure to check that the fabric is still centered and straight. If you notice any issues with the alignment of the fabric, stop and adjust it before continuing. Next, staple the back using the same method, then the two sides.

Once the fabric is fully attached to the chair, trim any excess fabric using scissors or a utility knife. Take care to leave a small margin of fabric around the edges of the chair to ensure that it covers the staples and looks neat and professional.

6. Piping is a great way to add a decorative element to your upholstered furniture, and it's easy to make your own piping at home. For this project I used 4mm piping cord and cut my fabric strips 4.5cm wide. If possible, cut strips of fabric on the bias (diagonally across the grain) so that the fabric will be able to stretch and bend around corners.  Fold the fabric strips in half lengthwise, with the right sides facing outwards. Then, sew the strips together using a straight stitch, as close to the piping cord as you can. Using a zipper foot or piping foot
To attach the piping to your furniture, position the piping along the edge of the fabric where you want it to go, with the cord facing inward. Use an airgun stapler or hand stapler to staple the piping in place, making sure to keep the piping taut as you go.

7. Sewing the back cushion is the final step in reupholstering this chair. If you are comfortable sewing a zipper, this is ideal. If not, follow these steps to completely sew a cushion closed. Firstly, measure and cut the fabric, including 1.5cm extra fabric for seam allowance. With the right sides facing each other and sew around the edges, leaving a small opening for turning. Turn the fabric right side out. Stuff the cushion with a cushion inner or loose fill. Fold the edges of the opening inside and use dressmakers pins to hold it close. Use a needle and thread to sew it together.

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