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How to Reupholster Dining Chairs – A Super Easy Beginner DIY Makeover Project!

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by Robin

I’ve now got a beautiful set of six bentwood dining chairs – for less than the price of ONE single chair new! After you learn the keys to reupholster dining chairs yourself – you can have expensive-looking beautiful chairs for oh-so-cheap, too!

My first crack at figuring out how to reupholster dining chairs was when I was nineteen. Like any normal teenager, I loved going to antique markets to find beautiful things for my future home. (Yeah, I was not a normal teenager at all.)

Back then I found a set of six antique dining chairs with the most beautiful lines but they needed new seats and paint.

With some love, and help from my dad, I fixed them up and I’ve used them right up until we got these new (to us) ones! Just shy of three decades.

When I fall for something I fall hard and long term (Ed Note: Wohooo!). I recovered these chair seats at least six times for a fresh new look every few years.

Recovering dining chairs is my favourite DIY – and the first one I ever did on my own – so I KNOW it’s a great project for any beginner. With very simple tools and NO MEASURING, any DIY newbie can learn how to reupholster dining room chairs.

The best part: choosing the gorgeous dining chair upholstery fabric that dreams are made of.

Let me tell you about my latest chairs! I adore them and you won’t believe how little I paid.

How to recover dining room chairs
I had been hunting for vintage bentwood chairs for a few months.

I knew they had the classic, graceful lines I was looking for for our Dining Room Makeover.

With diligent FB Marketplace hunting, I found a set of 6 – and the price?!?!

First, similar bentwood chairs NEW are currently over $200 each here. And these were the cheapest I could find!

how to recover dining room chairs 19
The price? $80 for 6 authentic Romanian bentwood chairs! $13.33 each.

Notice something about this listing? The text says Four but the photo shows Six! You can bet I pounced on this one. Other people probably passed them by without noticing the error.

So, are dining chairs worth recovering?

You betcha! I now have a set of 6 gorgeous dining room chairs, with custom fabric, for less than the cost of ONE new chair. And the project is easy and fun.

What is the best fabric to recover dining room chair seats?

There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing dining chair upholstery fabric:

  • Washability
  • Durability
  • Pattern (to disguise spills)

The best fabric to recover dining room chairs is Outdoor Fabric. This fabric is made to be durable and easy to clean. Important for dining room chairs that are going to get food spilled on them – especially if you have kids.

There are GORGEOUS Outdoor Fabrics now! Check out a great selection here.

A Laminated Fabric is another great choice. You can also find great Oilcloth fabrics. These are very smooth and wipeable. Generally, the designs are very specific – they lean toward kitschy, which is great if you’re going for a retro look. (I picked up this pretty oilcloth tablecloth to use for the seats on another set of chairs.)

Next best is an upholstery weight synthetic fabric. Natural materials, like cotton or linen are virtually impossible to clean. I learned the hard way when I had a cotton dining room seat fabric and my kids were small – it did not stay looking new long – spaghetti sauce stains were not a great look.

If you fall hard for a natural fabric you can try using a spray-on fabric protectant like this one. It will buy you time.

So what fabric did I choose?

It took me AGES to find it!

I knew I wanted a geometric patterned fabric to go with these bold, floral William Morris curtains that I fell in love with. Another big pattern or floral would be too much. But I knew I didn’t want a bold geometric to compete – and geometrics can be loud.

best fabric to cover dining chairs

Enter this subtle modern geometric fabric of my dreams!

I audibly gasped when I saw it in the store. Because I’m normal, I started petting it and cooing at it like it was a kitten.

As usual, Ed was somewhere else in the store – wait – does he do this on purpose? (Ed note: Yes)

Sadly for you, I bought the fabric locally and I can’t find this fabric to purchase anywhere online. This is a travesty. It’s way too good to not be available.

Since I know readers will ask, I’ve gone looking for fabrics with a similarly quiet, tone-on-tone feel:

Subtle Modern Geometric Upholstery Fabric Ideas

Subtle Modern Geometric Upholstery Fabric
1. This one is just the right mix of stripes and dots in a subtle way.

2. This fabric is quiet, but it has a lot to say when you look at the design more closely.

3. I love the art deco feel of this one.

4. This one has a sort of batik feel.

5. This one quietly suggests a greek key motif, but with a PacMan maze look that’s fun.

6. This one just looks happy to me.

7. I like how this one has a suggestion of leaves, but in a graphic way.

8. This one reminds me of a subtle version of a mudcloth design.

9. This one reminds me of peacock feathers if the peacock wasn’t a giant cocky showoff.

Should I remove old fabric before recovering dining chairs?

That depends.

Does it have any stains or odours? If so – yes!

Does it have a coarse weave fabric that would show texture through your new one? If so – yes!

Does it need new foam for the seat? Then yes, of course.

If you’re recovering a number of chairs – I would suggest removing the fabric from at least one chair and looking at what’s underneath. You can always put it back on if you want.

the easy way to recover dining room chairs
I love the way they look with our new curtains.

How to Recover Dining Room Chairs – A Super Easy Beginner DIY Makeover Project!

Tools:

Supplies:

  • Staples
  • New Seat Fabric
  • As needed:
    • new foam
    • muslin

Steps to Reupholster Dining Chairs:

recovering dining chairs
Detach the chair seats – it’s usually just a few screws.

reupholster dining chairs
Next, remove the outer layers of fabric. I usually just use a flat head screwdriver and pliers for this.
cutting fabric to reupholster kitchen chairs
Use the old chair seat fabric as a pattern for your new one. No measuring!

I like to pin the fabrics together.

Then cut your new fabric with pinking shears. (Pinking shears help to reduce the amount of fraying of your new fabric. Worth it!)
how to recover dining room chair seats
Sometimes the batting between the foam and the new fabric needs replacing. I got lucky here and could reuse it.
best way to reupholster dining chairs
Lay your materials together on your worktop.

(Notice I didn’t take off the bottom-most layer of fabric. You don’t always have to if it’s in good shape with no stains or smells.)
reupholster dining chair seat pad
Then start stapling. The first one is easy,

Just make sure your seat is centred on the fabrics, pull the edge over and staple.
how to recover dining room chairs
There’s an important order to how you staple the sides! Think: If your seat is a clock – do 12, then 6, then 3, then 9.

1) After your first staple, put another directly across from it. Pull your fabric taught and smooth first.

2) Next do halfway between them – and then across from that.
how to recover dining room chairs
Next staple halfway between each of your first four staples.

Pull the fabric tight and smooth before each staple.
reupholstering dining room chair seats
Keep working – adding a staple halfway between the ones you did last time around.
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You’ll use lots of staples – they’re cheap as dirt so don’t worry about using too many. The more staples you use the smoother your seat edges will look.
reupholster dining chairs
TA-DA! The finished reupholstered dining chair seat!

The next step we didn’t show: Reattaching the seat. Basically, you place the seat back where it was and screw it back on in the old holes on the chair.

BE SURE TO LINE UP YOUR DESIGN BEFORE YOU REATTACH! It’s easy to miss this and then you turn your chair over and feel sad.

How to Cover a Chair with an Open Bottom

recover a dining room chair
A couple of my chairs had an open bottom and the rest had solid bottoms.

Part of me wanted to just call it done and leave the underside weird looking.

But the grown-up part of me knew that it would bug me that it looks so janky. So I devised an easy way to cover all those staples and fabric edges…
how to recover dining room chairs 15
I love denim, so I had some remnants from other projects. First I cut a circle of denim the same size as my chair seat. No Measuring!
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Next, I traced the seat onto some cardboard. I cut a circle about an inch smaller. This makes my template for the seat bottom cover.
how to recover dining room chairs 17
Then I ironed my denim over the edges of the cardboard template.

This made it easy to attach the piece without having to fiddle with frayed cut edges.
how to reupholster a chair - for beginners
And then I just stapled it in place! Pretty easy.
how to reupholster dining chairs DIY
Such an easy DIY project! And the results are beautiful.

My Total Cost to Reupholster Dining Chairs…

So all in, my chairs cost me $150 for 6! That’s just $25 a chair! Less than it would have cost me for just ONE of these new bentwood chairs – without the personality of a custom fabric.

Other projects in our Dining Room Makeover:

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