Chic Chair Change


Chairs are oddly pricey. I didn’t realize this until I started searching for a single chair to add to the desk we just recently built (post about that coming soon). I went online, and these were some of chairs below that I thought would be perfect until I saw the prices:


Crazy expensive, right?

At least looking online gave me an opportunity to zero in on the style of chair I wanted. I kept gravitating towards the same french provincial style, wicker back chairs with upholstered seats. Despite loving so many of the options I saw, I could never bring myself to spend that much money on a single chair.

I went to Craigslist to see if I could find something similar that was significantly cheaper, even if it meant repainting and reupholstering. Luckily, after shuffling through several pages I found one!


The best part? It was only $35! It did need a little TLC though, and while I’ve never refurbished a chair before, I figured I would just learn as I go.

Deupholster (is that a word?)

I wanted to get rid of the old fabric as soon as possible. In retrospect, I probably should have kept it on during the painting process to protect the cushion (instead I pinned a garbage bag on top, and it worked fine).

I ripped off the trim, which was attached with a hot glue gun, first.

Once all trim was gone, I found that the actual seat fabric was secured to the chair by 1,000+ staples. I tried to pry them out so that I could remove the fabric in one piece, but I’m too impatient.

Strip the Wood

  • First I painted on Klean Strip Stripper and let it sit for about 30 minutes. The package claims it just needs 15 minutes, but in my past experience 15 minutes isn’t long enough.
  • Then I used steel wool to get in the ridges of the chair.
  • Finally, I used the sander to get off any last stubborn bits of paint.

Prime and Paint

I primed the piece using Kilz Primer and let it dry for about an hour. The surface was slightly rough so I lightly sanded the chair with 400 grit sandpaper before painting the entire piece with Glidden Premium Interior paint in Marshmallow White.

Picking Fabric

Picking fabric is hard. There are so many choices, and while it’s not permanent- you could always deupholster (if we say it enough, it can become a word) and reupholster again- it’s kind of a lot of work. For this reason, I wanted to be sure of my choice the first time.

I was stuck between two pretty different fabrics- so much so that it delayed the project for a couple of days. I had a very serious decision to make.

I ended up going with the yellow and gray print as it went with the guest room bedding (the room in which the chair would be) more than the blue. Also, Gatsby approved.



  • First I placed the fabric across the seat, taking into account where/how I wanted the pattern to lay.
  • Then I cut the fabric down so that it was more manageable, making sure to leave a decent amount of extra material on all four sides.
  • Next I used a staple gun to secure the fabric to the thin wood trim frame of the chair. My advice to anyone who tries this: Move slowly and constantly add tension to the fabric while working. There were a couple instances when I prematurely stapled when there was too much slack in the fabric. As a result, I had to pry the staple out and do it again.
  • Once all sides were secured, I snipped the excess fabric as close to the line of staples as possible.

Trim Time

After upholstering the seat, I was left with a pretty ugly, messy line of staples that needed some concealing. Many tutorials online suggested using the excess fabric to make some double welt cording for trimming. Unfortunately that required a sewing machine and the effort of learning how to use a sewing machine. It’s something I want to do eventually, but I didn’t want to overwhelm myself on this project. Besides, the fabric store had a variety of cording I could buy by the yard, so I went that route and bought a simple white twist style.


I used a hot glue gun to fasten the cord to the trim. Again, if you try this, work slowly- while dried hot glue is easy to pull off of hard surfaces, it is not as forgivable on fabrics. In other words, there’s little room for error.

I layered the cord on the front and back of the chair because I liked the look of a thicker trim.

And there you have it…

The chair itself was $35, and the additional materials (paint, fabric, trim, hot glue gun sticks) were about another $20 (the fabric has the potential to be very expensive so look for deals). Overall, refurbishing this chair was significantly cheaper than buying one online, and I got to choose colors that would work for the room it will be going in.






  1. Wow, you little Miss Suzy-Home-Maker, you. I feel something in the realm of quitting teaching is about to happen sooner rather than later, hmm 🙂

  2. Wow! Well done. Chair looks fabulous. For your next project, why not check out chaulk paint. Lots of blogs out there. Their selling point, no sanding! If you like what you see, Home Depot has introduced a line at almost half the price of Annie Sloane. You can also make your own.
    PS: Your site is so impressive that DIY’s would gain knowledge from your step by step. Maybe tag your next post to attract some readers? (Right side there’s a box on your New post site.)

    1. Thanks for the tip! I didn’t even realize I could do that 🙂 And that’s also good to know about the chalk paint! I was avoiding it because of the cost but I will check out Home Depot for that cheaper option! 🙂

  3. the chair is amazing! I just bought a desk off of craigslist so I am now on the hunt for a chair to go with it and don’t want the typical office chair (with wheels) so this is good to keep in mind! Love the yellow print by the way xxoo

    1. It really wasn’t too difficult to do at all! If you don’t find a chair by the time August roles around, we’ll make one when I come visit 🙂

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