WARNING: Super long post!

Ya’ll I did a crazy thing a few weeks ago!! I’m not exactly sure why I decided to tackle this project now, after all these years, but I finally wanted to have 8 matching dining chairs.

That’s not too much to ask, is it?

But unfortunately for as long as I’ve had my dining set, I’ve changed the look of just 4 chairs at a time – creating essentially two sets of chairs that didn’t match. The problem is that refinishing chairs just sucks really, and I’d lose steam after completing the four that typically live in our dining room full time. It only becomes a problem if I have a large party, and then I get so annoyed at myself!

I also thought some time ago that I really wanted to use cowhide somehow in this space, but could never find a good faux version. And maybe that’s really what the hold up was. So occasionally I would tool around fabric stores waiting to be inspired. Then something a little shimmery caught my eye.

Chair Fabric

I spotted it at JoAnns – it’s Kelly Ripa “Inner Calm Granite.” To me it had the same appeal as cowhide with the dappled pattern, but with more glam. I fell in love with it and decided on the spot to buy several yards without even measuring my chairs or anything! The fabric was on sale for 50% off – plus I used some coupons – but I’ll be honest this was an expensive project. It doesn’t have to be. If I hadn’t already had drop cloth covered chairs, that would be a great cost effective fabric alternative.

It’s a little out of character for me, but I totally went wild with these chairs by using expensive fabric and making the decision to turn my ladder back chairs into upholstered parsons chairs.

Dining Chair Before

I couldn’t find an exact step-by-step process for upholstering the back of my chairs, but I got a good idea of what had to be done through some google and Pinterest searches. Essentially I’d need to cover them in batting then fabric. Simple, right? It wasn’t bad, although I definitely just did one chair first to make sure I liked the way they would turn out.

First I did the easy part – the cushion. I removed the old drop cloth and any staples that came halfway out and replaced it with the new fabric. I used a sort of box-y pleat for the corners which I find to be pretty easy to execute and the most consistent way to go.

Reupholstering Dining ChairThen I spray painted the bottom part of the chair with oil rubbed bronze. I tried a dark gray first and didn’t like it.

Oil Rubbed Bronze Chair Legs

Now for the hard part – the back. I honestly had no idea what I was doing really, as I’ve never upholstered something like this before. But I think they turned out pretty well, so I’ll share my method 🙂 I picked up some batting from the fabric store. It probably doesn’t matter what kind you get, it really just depends on how “cushy” you want them to feel. Mine was “extra loft” from Soft n Crafty.

Quilt Batting

I cut two pieces to fit the back of the chair from where it meets the seat to over the top “rung” of the ladder. I cut a smaller third piece that just went towards the top to help with coverage over the edge. It worked out fine, but play around with how much padding you want for your chairs. You could even upholster the whole front and back. Because ours are in structurally good shape, I really just wanted the look of a padded chair but didn’t need a ton of “cush.” If you are working with something like damaged cane back chairs though, you may need more padding.

Upholstering a Ladder Back Chair

I tacked it down at the bottom, then stretched it over the top and stapled to the back of the chair. Then I brought in the sides and stapled those to the rungs.

Stapling Batting Over Chair

When it came to the corners, I just did the best I could. It will depend on how the profile of your chair is. A box pleat similar to what I did on the seat cushion worked pretty well.

Upholstering A Wood Chair

My staple gun didn’t do a great job of pushing the staples all the way into the wood, so I went over all of the staples with a hammer to flatten them. This is important because you will feel them through the fabric otherwise!

Then I draped the fabric over the chair and trimmed a piece that would cover the front portion. If I was smart I would have made a template. I actually thought about doing that each time, but just continued to cut as I stapled. It wasn’t very efficient though, and I had some close calls – so I definitely recommend a paper template.

DIY Parsons Chair

Again I tacked down the bottom then stretched it over the top and stapled to the top rung.

Stapling fabric to frame

Upholstering ladder back

From there I pulled the the sides around, alternating, and stapled the fabric to the rungs.

Fabric covered ladder back

To do the corners, I used the same pleat I used on the chair cushion. I’m sure there are nicer ways, but honestly anyone who is staring that closely at my chairs is probably no friend of mine!

Pleated Corner

Here’s a close up of how I finished the bottom edges. Essentially I tucked under the raw edges (continued from the front of the chair), wrapped the fabric around the leg tightly while covering any batting, and stapled.

Fabric covered wood chair

Now that the front of the chair was covered, I had to somehow cover the back. My goal was to not have to use any trim pieces to cover edges (because I was already so deep in $$$), but trim can be a great addition to your look! I love the pre-made strips of hobnails, which would make a great detail. This part was definitely the trickiest because I had to conceal all the raw edges from the front and leave no additional ones.

I started by cutting a piece that was a few inches longer and wider than the open space left. That gives you room to tuck under the raw edges and make a nice clean seam. I decided to start from the top, with the piece right side down raw edge exposed for me to staple. This way, when I flipped the fabric down over the back, it would leave a straight line at the top and the fabric would be right side up.

Finishing the back

It took a little practice to see how many staples I needed to get a good finish, but eventually I was happy with the position of the fabric and moved on to the next task. This might sound weird but get out your hot glue gun.

covering the back of chair

From here, all I did was tuck in the edge and hot glue – alternating sides and pulling fairly taut. Hold the fabric in place a bit until the glue sets.

DIY parsons chair conversion

When I got to the bottom, I tucked under the edge to match the part that was wrapped from the front. I put one single staple on each leg. Because of the color of my fabric it’s practically invisible. You could definitely use glue instead.

Finished Edge

I went around the seams again with the glue to make sure everything was nice and straight. I even added glue to the top seam that had been previously stapled. It made a huge difference I think in how finished the chair looked.

I actually did 6 complete chairs, and 2 with just the seats and painted legs because I ran out of fabric (they are slip covered for now with old drop cloth covers I made). Both of those chairs are typically in use in my office and in the basement. I ended up buying the whole bolt of fabric at JoAnn and haven’t purchased more yet to finish. But the slip covered chairs would blend nicely as end seats if I needed all 8.

Parson's Chair DIY

Obviously I couldn’t take a picture of my new chairs without setting the table.

DIY Upholstered Wood ChairsMy next task will be to finish the last 2 chairs and repaint the table legs. Right now they are kinda shabby-white, which I don’t think blends well with my new high glam look. I can’t decide what color to use though! Maybe something fun! What do you think?

Dining Chair Makeover

I’m really super pleased with how these came out, and they totally transform the look of the space. Now off to Scotch-Gard them against impending baby produced fluids…





3 Responses

    • Rachael Evans

      Thanks!! It wasn’t too awful to figure out! The payoff was huge!


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