Furniture re-dos Makeovers Projects Tips and tutorials

How to Reupholster a Chair

Not too long ago we needed more seating (this feels like a never ending problem). I couldn’t find anything I liked. The only way to get it was to reupholster a chair on my own. Here is how I did it:

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I found this chair at a thrift store. I sat in it a few times and it was actually pretty comfy. Not incredibly attractive… but that was about to change. I am a bit of a novice at upholstery but not afraid to give it a go. After all, I made a tufted headboard with no experience, this seemed much more simple.

front view of dated bergere arm chair needing to be reupholstered. in front of a corrugated metal wall, pallet christmas tree and fence board bookshelf. On wood floor and rug in teal and green tones.
dated bergere arm chair needing to be reupholstered. in front of pallet christmas tree and fence board bookshelf. On wood floor and rug in teal and green tones.


  • needle nose pliers
  • fabric
  • upholstery skewers
  • twist pins
  • staple gun and staples
  • tack strip roll
  • muslin or dust cloth fabric
  • cut tacks
  • tack hammer
  • twisted trim
  • hot glue gun and hot glue sticks
  • tack remover (optional)

The first thing to do is start stripping the chair. Pull off the trim around the edges. Just grab it at any edge you can get a hold of and yank. If you’re having trouble, needle nose pliers might help. This chair had a layer of muslin under the fabric. This made the whole reupholstery project much faster. The original foam was in good shape so I didn’t have to replace that either.

back of dated arm chair with trim ripped off. Old glue and tacks exposed.

I went to a local craft store and found this striped chenille fabric. It is soft and has great vivid colors.

roll of thin striped chenille upholstery fabric with yellow, blue, teal, purple, orange, and brown colors

Holding the fabric in place by yourself can be tricky. Upholstery skewers and twist pins make it much easier.

striped chenille upholstery fabric with upholstery skewer and twist tack laying on top.

I find it easiest to cut a piece of fabric in a rough outline of what you need and then pin it in place to hold it and keep it flush against the profile of the chair back. I used a hand stapler to attach the fabric around the edges just inside the wood frame.

striped fabric draped over chair back and attached with both skewers around the outside edes and twist pins in the center to keep it in place while stapling or tacking in place. Staple gun and box of skewers on seat of chair.

Once you get the entire section stapled in, use a utility knife to trim the fabric just inside the frame. It’s important that you pull the fabric tight as you move around the chair. If you don’t, you may end up with wrinkled or sagging fabric. Keep moving through each section of the chair until you get them all.

reupholstered chair with only one arm left to go. Fabric draped over the arm of the chair and staple gun on the seat.

Then flip the chair over to do the bottom. I left the old muslin dust cover in place because it was just easier. I used muslin to create a new dust cover- you could use black dust cloth as well. Using upholstery tack strip gives a professional finished look to the project. First you staple it down with the fabric thrown over the opposite way you want it to fall.

bottom of chair with new dust cover attached at top and flipped over chair front. exposed cardboard tack strip showing how to attach to underside of chair.

Then pull the fabric back in the “proper” direction to create a cover to hide the chair bottom. Staple it around the other edges all around folding and tucking as you go. I find cut tacks and a tack hammer are easiest in tight spots around legs. The head of a stapler can be a bit too bulky to get in there tightly.

base of chair with new dust cover attached neatly with staples and tacks.
Striped fabric wood framed armchair upholstered in soft chenille fabric waiting for trim to be added over exposed staples.

Once you’re done with the main body fabric. You will need to add trim to cover the staples. (I forgot pictures). Use a glue gun to add a thin bead of glue around the edge just next to the wood frame. Immediately place the trim into the hot glue to hold it in place. Go all the way around the entire chair on all the edges of each panel.

finished reupholster a chair from post. Striped fabric wood framed armchair sitting in front of a window on wood floor with baseboard heaters at base of wall.

When I was done, We had a comfortable and far more attractive chair for people to sit in. Taking the time to reupholster a chair instead of buying new got exactly the look we were going for. Total bonus that it cost less too!

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pinnable image of how to reupholster a chair leading back to this post.

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  • Reply
    February 17, 2020 at 8:05 PM

    Thanks, Scottie! I have an old chair I have wanted to reupholster for a very long time. Your instructions have me considering going for it.

    • Reply
      February 18, 2020 at 3:09 PM

      I’m so glad it helped you! I would love to see a photo of your piece when you’re done- Good Luck!

  • Reply
    Beth Bartlett
    February 29, 2020 at 8:49 AM

    In the 1960’s, my mother, who by day taught high school algebra, taught herself how to reupholster furniture. She refinished as well with those nasty caustic chemical strippers. I learned from the best! At a total of 5’ tall and 109 pounds, that woman took no crap off a kid, a stapler, or her 6’3” 280 pound husband (my dad, who was also a beat cop for a while). She would give you an A+ and ask, okay now what’s next?

    • Reply
      February 29, 2020 at 10:55 AM

      Well Beth, I consider that quite a compliment- thank you! I’m currently looking for a compatible mate for this chair but I’ll be starting our master closet soon…

  • Reply
    September 22, 2023 at 1:26 PM

    Fabulous upholstery job…but the fabric itself? Hmmm….not my cup o’ tea. Still I’d give you an A+ on execution!

    • Reply
      October 10, 2023 at 1:19 PM

      Thanks for dropping by! That’s the best part about DIY- you can use whatever fabric YOU like best! Now that you know how to do it yourself, you can change it up anytime you like. Have fun!

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