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How to Reupholster a Chair

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My step by step guide will show you how to reupholster a chair without sewing and a list of materials and equipment I used to update and modernize two old wingback chairs.

I did not have the budget to pay a professional upholsterer to recover my chairs so I decided to try a no sew chair upholstery tutorial and wow, they came out great! My two wingback chairs were covered in an old primitive fabric that I wanted to update with a fresh modern print.  This was my first attempt at reupholstering a chair so needless to say, I am a beginner!

Top 2013 DIY Projects Four Generations One Roof

How to reupholster a chair – for beginners

Is it hard to reupholster a wingback chair?

Honestly, I found this no sew method simple and easy to follow. Our wingback chairs in the dining room were from an era way back when I loved the primitive design look. I have had these chairs for over 15 years and they were very expensive so parting with them was not an option. Over the years, my taste changed and I wanted to give these chairs a makeover using a pretty modern floral pattern. 

Wingback chairs are very comfortable and offer a supportive back as well. They are perfect for captains chairs at a dining room table. They are a traditional style so the new modern fabric I picked out will help give them a new look. 

I used my small air compressor and staple gun for this project.

I was not planning on sharing this upholstery video tutorial as the quality is horrible but so many of you have emailed over the course of the last few months asking for an upholstery tutorial so I decided I would try to edit the video as best as I could.

I decided to add clips of each section of the tutorial as we go.

This way, if you don’t understand my visual tutorial, simply click the clip beneath and you can see me in action.

FAQs about Reupholstering a Chair

Yes, you can 100% reupholster a chair over existing fabric. As long as the existing fabric is flat and will look bulky under the new fabric, you can go right over it like I did. You should remove the fabric if it’s soiled or smells.

To determine the required fabric yardage for reupholstering a chair, assess its size and style, noting dimensions and shapes. Disassemble if needed and measure each component separately. Create paper patterns for irregular shapes and use these measurements to estimate fabric quantity. Keep in mind, there are 36″ in a yard of fabric. A good rule of thumb is to always size up and order more yardage than you need.

A beginner can definitely reupholster a chair, especially the method of not removing existing fabric. The no sew method is a simple approach to reupholster an outdated chair using a power staple gun. Beginners should familiarize themselves with chair frame, chair cushions and seat along with the basic upholstery tools and techniques, including cutting and attaching fabric securely with a power staple gun to achieve a successful and professional-looking reupholstering job.

Here is the wingback chair before I tackled the reupholstery project.

Many of these pictures were taken with my phone because I was recording the video while working on this project. I barely could figure out how to run the video never mind switching over to camera mode to take pictures.

The quality of the pictures are not the best. Many are even screen shots of the video.

How to reupholster a chair without removing old fabric

The materials needed for this upholstery tutorial are as follows:

  • 8 yards of fabric
  • Staple gun
  • Construction staples (1/2 – 1″) or upholstery heavy duty staples
  • Air compressor

I didn’t want to remove the old fabric so I decided to upholster over it. You do not need to remove the old fabric unless of course it’s soiled, smells or you simply want to remove it. This tutorial is a great alternative to a wingback chair cover which often times can look sloppy after someone sits in the chair, moving the fabric. 

Step 1 – Drape Fabric Over Chair

Start by draping your fabric over your chair (leaving the old fabric on the chair) simply to get an idea of how your chair will look.

I am a visual person so I need to do this prior to starting any project. I started by cutting my fabric for the two inside pieces first. (see below)

This video is several years old and I’m warning you – it’s bad! I tried to update and clean it up but unfortunately, technology wasn’t advanced when this video was taken. Boy, I am dating myself! 

Step 2 – Staple New Fabric To Chair

Once you have cut your fabric (leaving 3″ on either side) and tucked the fabric inside the creases (if applicable) you need to use your staple gun to secure the fabric inside the crease area.

I used a staple gun, construction staples (1/2 – 1″) and our air compressor.

They sell actual upholstery staples but they didn’t fit in my staple gun so I just used what I had.

Work in sections, completing the right and left side (wings) pieces.

Steps 3 and 4 – Cover Seat and Back

Once the wings of the chairs are covered, move on to the back and seat of the chair repeating the same process.

Step 5 – Cover the Front Facing Arms

The next step requires you cut your front facing arm pieces but cutting the front pieces and stapling to the chair.

Once you cut your front facing pieces (be sure to leave 3″ or so on either side, try to strategically staple where the staple will not show.

The staples will be hidden by the arm fabric but you still want to try and staple in the least conspicuous place.

Once you have your front facing piece cut and stapled, you need to cover the inside of the arm chair.

You will see that I covered the inside (tucked down far into the seat and out to the “outside end”).

I hid the staples up underneath the outside of the arm.

If you are not going to make piping (to cover the edges around the arm) you really need to make sure your seams (edge of fabric) are as close to perfect and tight as possible as shown above.

Piping would cover any gaps and definitely give the chair a more “finished” look.

How to Reupholster a Wingback Chair Video 

The video above is a no sew method and will help you reupholster a chair without spending a lot of money and you will not need to hire a professional. Reupholstering the chair arms can be a little tricky but folding the fabric to create a seam and then stapling in place worked great for my upholstery project. 

See video clip below:

How To Reupholster A Couch Without Sewing

You can see I stopped (stapled) at the outside end.

Step 6 – Cover the backside of chair

I decided to upholster the “outside” arm piece separately (see below). I suppose you could just do one long continuous piece of fabric but it didn’t look good to me and I wanted a clean seam line.

See below how I cut a long piece (rectangular shape) leaving enough fabric to fold inward so you get a clean edge showing on the outside.

Pull as tight as you can and staple each corner.

You do the same thing for the top side pieces. Be sure to pull tight and staple.

How to reupholster a chair with arms

Step 7 – Piping (or seams in my case)

The seams are where you will put your piping if you choose. The piping will also hide any staples that may be showing.

You can see below, I pulled the fabric around to the back of the chair leaving about 2 inches overlapping.

I trimmed off the excess fabric once it was pulled tight and stapled.

I originally intended on making piping but once I finished the chair, I kind of liked it with the “seamed” look. Because I used a powered staple gun, the staples barely show.

I won’t lie though, some do show but for sake of saving thousands of dollars, I’ll deal with a few staples. ha.

Next, cut your piece of fabric for the back side of the chair. You will see below the entire backside was done in one piece of fabric.

Leave about 1″ extra on each side when cutting because you will need to fold each side inward about an inch in order to get the clean seam line.

The final version photos below are compliments of Woman’s Day Magazine.

The wingback chair made it into the July issue of Woman’s Day Magazine along with the entire dining room makeover. I was pretty excited!

Here is a fun shot of the entire dining room shot by the Woman’s Day photographer.

I love how our chairs add so much bright and vivid color to the room. Reupholstering a chair with arms can be a little tricky but if you have the option of making the fold in a crease and then stapling, that is your best option for hiding the seam.

Woman's Day Dining chair How to Reupholster a Chair
Reupholstered wingback chair

How much does it cost to reupholster a chair

Learning how to reupholster a chair can be tedious and a bit frustrating but I had the labor cost savings in mind so that motivated me to figure out how to make this re-upholstery project work. The average cost to reupholster both of these chairs reupholstered by a professional was upwards of $850 a chair!

The new dining room wingback chair is modern, sleek and adds a punch of color to the room. For my diy project, I used about 8 yards of fabric per chair. I think I really only needed about 7 yards though but ordered a bit extra just in case. The amount of upholstery fabric necessary will vary based on your chair size.

More Reupholstered Projects You Will Love

Never in a million years while I was reupholstering these wingback chairs did I think they would end up in a magazine.

It was well worth the pain of learning how to reupholster a chair to see our entire dining room and these wingback dining chairs in this past January’s issue of Woman’s Day Magazine.

Meet Jessica

What started as a hobby, Jessica’s blog now has millions of people visit yearly and while many of the projects and posts look and sound perfect, life hasn’t always been easy. Read Jessica’s story and how overcoming death, divorce and dementia was one of her biggest life lessons to date.

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99 Comments

  1. I love you tutorial! The chair is beautiful. But I have to ask.. Im looking for that perfect color of grey for my 1952 cape cod I just purchased. And I just love your walls. I have installed the bead board just like you. And that color is so perfect. Do you know what it is? Please reply if you remember it. Thanks so much!

      1. Hi there! Love this tutorial but I have a question. I have 2 wing back chairs very similar to yours and I need to know how much material I will need. Can you instruct me on how to measure to get an accurate amount?

        1. Hi, I used about 7 yards per chair. I actually took the measurements of the chair (and a picture) to my local Fabric shop and the sales associate helped me determine what I needed. My fabric that I bought was 54″ wide and a yard is 36″ long so I basically split the chair in sections and determined the amount I needed. I would suggest ordering 2 extra yards for screw ups. ha πŸ˜‰

    1. I think the old material should of been removed. It defeats the purpose to put new nice clean fabric on top of old smelly dirty fabric

      1. I think if the chair was yours and not smelly…..why bother. Saves a ton of time and the chair is yours and not for sale. The purpose is not defeated because she has a beautiful chair. If it was old and musty I feel you.

  2. Hi, your job is really amazing, but I really wanted to see where you stapled the fabric. It looks very pretty but I cant figure how to do the staples. I have 4 wing chairs to do and have seen several tutorials and yours is the simpliest one, the only thing is that your videos are sooooo short and you didnt show how to do the staples.

    Thank you!

    1. There is a cardboard strip (with staples already in it) that you can purchase (not much cost at all) that you can wrap the material around then tap with a hammer to secure into the chair before securing the material around the corner to the back of the chair (prior to putting the back material on) to give it a definite professional secured look.

    2. Hello, I have the same question. I don’t understand where the staples go…? Do you have the full video or clips of you stapling? This is so, so awesome and I can’t wait to try it on my 3 chairs! I just don’t fully grasp…

    3. Hi, I also just stumbled onto this tutorial and love it, but I also was hoping for more video. I there anyway to view the entire video to see how to properly staple?

      Kind Regards

  3. Great tutorial–they came out so nice! Would love to tackle this one at some point but I’m a total DIY beginner so not quite ready!

  4. They look great, Jessica! I may be using your tutorial if I can find some thrift store or Craigslist chairs to re-cover. I’d love to have some for our master bedroom sitting area. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Thank you Melissa! This is a great tutorial and you have given me the courage to try and do our leather wingback chair that our cat has totally ruined. Your dining room looks amazing with your “new” chairs.

  6. I’m sorry. But I think it would have been easier to tear the chair apart and use the existing fabric as a template. Then you just staple it on, under tucking as you go. Gives it a more polished look. Your chair fabric is beautiful, though.

  7. You do fabulous work!! I just came back from signing on at Pinterest and everything looks so wonderful! I love the fabric you chose for your chairs, such a change and they didn’t look worn in the before shots, just not as bright and beautiful. You mentioned the staples showing, I’ve seen wingchairs in high-end stores with upholstery tacks at the seams where you have staples, I think I’ve seen some that don’t even have to be individually hammered in (strips if memory serves) for those who don’t have pneumatic staple guns, like me, lol. Got a new fan for sure!!
    Janet

  8. This is a great tutorial. I have wanted to try upholstering for some time now & have been chicken. I have viewed many tutorials and yours is the most indepth and step by step I ahve seen. I just love your blog.

  9. Brilliant!! I absolutely LOVE this!! We have been toying with reupholstering our couch recently, and I think I may have to try your method! Do you have any recommendations for covering the loose seat pillows on my sofa? Maybe I can use iron-on hem tape for that part, or do you think staples will work there, too?

  10. Thank you so much for this tutorial.I have been trying to have my wing chair recovered and I have called different places and they want to charge up to $1,000 and that is not in my price range so I will attempt to do it your way. Thank you so very much.
    Genevieve Lerner

    1. Thank you! I know, to have a chair professionally done is way out of my budget so that is why I tried this. I am so happy with how it came out and am thinking about doing my mom’s chairs now. Good luck and I’m sure it will come out great.

    1. You can see a couple of the staples but had I decided to do piping, they would be hidden. I only stapled the four corners. The key is to pull the fabric as tight as you can so that there isn’t a gap along the sides. However, if you are going to add piping later on, you could always staple more if needed, they would be hidden by the piping.

  11. Hi! So glad I stumbled upon your website. I have a question about the chair: How much fabric do you think you used to cover just one? Thanks in advance.

  12. Those chairs are beautiful and I LOVE the fabric…pulls the eye in nicely! Can I ask if you took an upholstery class or learned online? I have 4 chairs I would love to redo and the prices to have it done are astronomical and I “think” I may try one myself LOL…oy vey…scary thought. Thanks for your tutorial..I’m gathering bits and pieces of tuts to figure it all out.

    hugz,
    Suzanne

    1. Thank you πŸ™‚ Nope, no classes. Just get yourself a heavy duty staple gun (preferably one that is power with an air compressor) cut your fabric and staple it on πŸ™‚ Good luck! Send me some pics when you finish πŸ™‚

  13. Great tutorial. I have 2 dining wing backs that I want to do this technique. I’ve measured and conservatively think I will need 4 yards of 60″ wide fabric per chair. What amount of fabric did you need for your chair?

    Thanks for posting this.

  14. Awesome tutorial! I was just wondering how much material you used for this chair? It would have been nice to see all of the supplies needed.

  15. LOVE this! And love that you stapled right over the existing fabric! Looks gorgeous! I’m tackling one this weekend, so I’ve been reading lots of tutorials and yours by far is my favorite. My only question is, how did you put the cording on? I didn’t see that part. Did you glue it on after the chair was finished? Thank you! πŸ˜€

    1. Thank you! There is no cording….it just looks like there is πŸ™‚ I folded the fabric to create a “seam” and then pulled extra tight and stapled the bottom where the staple would be hidden. You could definitely glue the piping/cording though πŸ™‚ Good luck, I’m sure it would come out great!

  16. OHMIGOD This is fabulous! You did a wonderful job.
    I have two very oversized Laura Ashley wingbacks I got off Craig’s list and was quoted $1100 for both chairs and the ottoman. I may have to do this until I can one day afford the pro job. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. If you had an upholster tell you they would do two huge wingback chairs and an ottoman for $1100. that is a bargain! I have upholstered before, and it takes an extreme amount of time, patience and talent to “turn out” professional jobs that look great close up. A good upholster will take the old fabric off, repair any springs (if your chair has them) replace the webbing and “stuffing” and cushions if need be. When they get done, it will or should pass inspection and look brand new. Staples that show are not acceptable to “most” people. I would rather see and follow a demonstration that does it right.

  17. Amazing tutorial! Thank you x 3! Really appreciate you sharing such a wonderful upholstery secret! Your work is professional!

    1. You can only staple to the wooden part of the chair (the frame). My chair was a full wood frame so for me, I had something to staple to. Does your chair have a wooden frame?

      1. Hi Jessica,

        Thank You For Your Wonderful Tutorial! You Do Amazingly Beautiful Work. It Looks Like You Did Not Use Any Additional Fabric For A Liner And Used Your Choice Of Off White Floral Print Next To The Original Fabric.
        My Question To You Is:

        What Did You Do To Keep The Original Fabric From Bleeding Through?

        1. Thank you! The fabric I used from Calico Corners was extremely high quality and thick (if that makes any sense). It’s upholstery fabric. Thankfully, it didn’t show through (the old fabric) so I was good to go but yes, you would need to line your new fabric or purchase upholstery fabric at a decent quality and check to see if the underneath with show. πŸ™‚

  18. Thank you so much for this tutorial! I am working on covering a wing back chair I rescued from the curb. Your instructions have helped so much. I think when it’s done it will be one of my favorite pieces.

  19. Thank you for your tutorial! I sooo needed this since I am in the middle of an re-upholstery project right now. You explain it simply and make it look fun and easy. Your chairs turned out beautiful!

  20. I’ve always wanted to learn how to upholstery a simple chair like this, but I can’t imagine “no sewing involved.” Thanks for sharing your tuitorial and experience with us. Love the fabric..

  21. you are a lifesaver! I have 2 wing chairs that need updating – you just did it!

    Now, PLEASE tell me what/where/who the fabric that you used – it is PERFECT for my decor!!!! Its exactly what I’ve been looking for regarding colors and type of pattern.

    Please tell me the name of the pattern, who makes it. Thanks, and you website is wonderful! Wish I had 4 generations to live with. God bless you all!

  22. Hi Jessica, your tutorial is great and just what I needed to get motivated! I want to do a two tone chair… using one fabric at the back and one at the front.
    However I am finding it really difficult to work out how much fabric I’ll need in both areas.
    Would it be at all possible for you to provide an estimate of materials for each part. Thanks so much!!

  23. Great!! I have been looking for a tutorial like this and even tried to find a class. I have reupholstered many cushions, but never a full chair like this. I am going to go for it. Wish me luck!!

  24. I love your chair and I’m going to give it a try. Question however — did you, for instance, staple all the way down the side of the back or just the corners and did you hide staples or just staple on top of fabric? What kind of stapler did you use, electric? Thanks so much. Susie

    1. Hi, some of the staples are under the fabric so they are hidden. The seam hides them. I used a heavy duty stapler by Stanley. (not electric). Good luck and I bet it will look fabulous πŸ™‚

  25. I have been so chicken to try this but after seeing this I am going to go for it!!! One question, my seat cushion is seperate how can I get it to stay in place and not flop up when poeople get up from sitting in the chair? Should I staple it to the chair first?

    1. Hi, you might want to just recover the cushion in the same fabric and still leave it as a removable cushion. Not sure how that would turn out if you stapled the cushion…but I suppose you could cover the cushion and then staple the actual fabric from the cushion (once it’s recovered) to the bottom seat part? OUr chair bottom was part of our chair (not removable) so I am skeptical about stapling it but try it, you can always remove the staples if it doesn’t work. Just try maybe two staples and see if you like it before you continue. I found that using a screw driver (to remove staples) worked best. Just wedge the flat part of the screw driver under the staple and gently lift out. Good luck!

  26. I love this! I recently bought some chairs from a third party, and the pattern wasn’t exactly what I expected. This is the perfect solution to the problem! Did you buy Home DΓ©cor Fabric? Or Cotton Fabric? I’m trying to figure it out so that when I cover mine, I don’t get the wrong kind. Thanks for the great tutorial!

    1. I bought more of a home decor fabric as it’s a bit heavier. If you google Iman Print Fabric-Samoan Plantation/Gem, it will show you the fabric I bought and the exact fabric blend πŸ™‚

  27. Just to be clear, you did not remove the old fabric first? I never thought of doing it this way, but I have two old wing backs that need a major update and you make it look do-able!

  28. Your tutorial is easy to follow and I adore the fabric you chose for the chairs! They turned out beautifully! Couldn’t help but notice your lovely Blue Willow collection…very nice!

  29. Hi, what kind of material did you use for this? Did you use a special type or just regular cotton material? Thanks.

  30. Your first video cut off. Would of been good to see the stapling and also cutting out the chair seat. Anyway to explain?

    Cathy

  31. It always blows my mind how someone takes the time to do a tutorial and the people reading ask the same questions over and over without even bothering to read the comments and find that their question has already been answered (many times). You are very patient. πŸ™‚

  32. Wow lovely job and easiest video and instructions ever but I’m so sad had been given two Queen Anne chairs had slipcovers on. I never did anything with them so I donated, of course, before I found you. Now longing for them instead of two bulky ones recliners given to me that replaced. Now that’s m on the hunt for chair replacement to tackle covering it following you. Thank you

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