The Simple Guide to Recovering Chairs

Found beautiful chairs at your local charity shop/flea market/car boot sale?

Inherit gorgeous antique chairs that are out of date?

Need to update your current chairs?

Want to recycle and give a new life to some chairs you have hiding in storage?

Well folks, The Row House Nest crew recovered 5 lovely but out-of-date chairs 2 years ago. Although there is no before picture – let me paint an image for you: discoloured beige fabric covered in deteriorating plastic. Oh ya. A sight. Not a nice one though. The good news was, the wood was in pretty good condition and stained a beautiful dark colour. This is the Simple Guide to Recovering Chairs!

So how did we do it?

Materials needed:

  1. Multi-bit screwdriver
  2. Strong fabric scissors
  3. Furniture polish
  4. A staple gun (ask around if you don’t have one, you will be surprised who owns them!)
  5. A measuring tape

Here are some Step by Step Instructions for how YOU can recover your own chairs.

  • Take a picture of the chair – when you are out hunting for fabric, you will wish you could remember the ‘exact’ shade of the wood.
  • After that, grab a handy dandy multi-bit screwdriver (don’t freak out, it’s a screwdriver. Not a machine gun). Our advice? Buy one good quality multi-bit screwdriver… Don’t bother buying several different individual screwdrivers, it’s a waste of money that you could be spending on decorating.
  • Flip your chair over and see what type of screw bit it needs. Insert the proper bit in and unscrew the chair ‘pad’ from the chair base.
  • Once the pad and fabric is free – separate the two. Notice how the fabric is cut to the chair? Yup well here at RHN, we hate measuring. Properly measuring anyways. So take your old piece of fabric and multiple that by how many chairs you have (we had 5). It might even be helpful for you to bring this piece of fabric with you to the fabric store (sometimes the employees are VERY helpful, others may look at you like you are mentally deranged if you say you aren’t sure exactly how much you need).
  • Now here is the fun part – go out to one or two fancy fabric design shops. Usually these types of stores have the best quality fabric and the newest designs. Get ideas, take small samples if they provide them and remember to consider that you have to SIT on this fabric so it needs to be durable. Also, if you see a salesperson, tell them your colour scheme and what you are doing – and usually they will point out a few suggestions. They may have a few different ideas than you would (and what’s an extra few minutes anyways?).
  • After drooling over beautiful luxurious fabrics, head to a middle to bargain basement fabric store. These tend to be more ‘industrial’, less pretty and buzzing with interior designs. Head in, don’t be afraid, take your time and look around. These less posh fabric stores usually carry a larger variety of fabrics (some great, some not) and surprisingly, usually carry some of the fancy shmancy fabric that you may spotted in your ideal expensive fabric store.
  • Compare prices and remember to calculate how much you need. If you are not sure, ask a salesperson or bring along a math savvy friend or family member.
  • Once you find your perfect fabric – go home. Congratulate yourself for getting this far and have a cup of tea. Or wine depending on the time of day!
  • Once you are mentally prepared to continue on, sit down with your old piece of chair fabric, your new fabric and a pair of sharp scissors made for cutting fabric. If you use dull or multi-purpose scissors, you will be very sad. It will take you ages!
  • At the Row House Nest, we cut corners – so instead of measure out each piece perfectly, we placed the old fabric on the new fabric and cut around it. Amazingly it worked out very well!
  • While you have all the fabric and chair pads off the chairs, give them a good clean. Then polish them with wood friendly polisher. Chairs will bounce back to life with a little bit of love.
  • Once you have finished cutting out your new fabric, take the boards with foam padding on them (or whatever they were padded with), place the fabric over them and flip them over. Ensure you have placed the fabric on straight. Having a loved one, friend or neighbour help you at this point is pretty important. The best thing to do is to put each side towards the middle as hard as you can – and while you do that – the stapler – places stables into the fabric adhering it to the seat. Now do the other sides, remembering to pull the fabric as tight as possible.
  • Carefully fan/bunch the fabric at the corners, and place several staples into the corners to further secure the fabric to the seats.
  • Once you have secured the fabric on, place it back on the chair, flip the chair over and screw the screws back in.
  • Voila! DONE!

Where did we get my fabric inspiration? At this beautiful fabric source in Ontario: bbbargoons.

Where did we buy the fabric? At this fantastic Queen Street West fabric store, Designer Fabrics.

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