When you fall for a striking accent chair or design a custom armchair from scratch, it’s a forever kind of relationship. We get it. Not only is an armchair a grown-up purchase, even if it’s an affordable one, but it’s a symbol of your home and, if you sit in it enough, an extension of you. So, you want it to last. This means investing in quality craftsmanship and caring for your office or dining chair properly with consistent cleaning. There will likely come a time, though, and maybe it has already arrived when you need to clean and reupholster your beloved chair. But knowing how to clean fabric chairs as well as reupholster them is no simple task.
Whether the upholstery project is because your style has changed, the chair is moving rooms, or the piece is showcasing the signs of years of wear and tear, there are plenty of good reasons to learn how to reupholster an armchair. When you do it correctly, reupholstering an armchair can give it new life. And if it is made with a standup structure, the armchair can go on living for decades more.
When to Reupholster an Armchair
Not all furniture is suitable for DIY upholstery, but if your armchair has good bones, clean lines, and salvageable padding, it can be a good canvas for even the most beginner reupholsterer. When should you not perform an upholstery project on your own armchair? If its style is complex or its frame is cracking, it’s a good idea to hire a professional to handle the reupholstery process for you. This, however, can be pricey, so make sure the cost of dressing the antique chair in new fabric compared to purchasing a brand new chair is worth it to you.
What You Need to Reupholster an Armchair
If you’ve decided you’re going to give it a go, you’ll need a few tools to tackle the project at home. Get off on the right foot by gathering the necessary supplies:
- Staple Remover or Needle Nose Pliers
- Seem Puller
- Pen or Marker
- Staple Gun and staples
- Sewing machine
- Fabric Pins
- Hot Glue
- Grip Trim or Welting
- New Fabric (2-4 yards depending on the size of the chair)
How to Reupholster an Armchair: Steps
Let’s walk you through how to reupholster an armchair step by step so you can get the most out of your prized piece and not have to pay an arm and a leg to have someone else do it for you.
Start by removing the present upholstery fabric from your armchair using a staple remover to separate it from the frame and a seam puller. You’ll need to keep track of which fabric piece went where so grab your marker and label each piece of old fabric accordingly. Try and keep as much of the extra fabric intact as possible so you can trace it as a pattern for your new upholstery. Once the fabric is removed, make sure there are no lingering staples in the chair frame that will get in your way when you reupholster the new fabric.
Lay the front of the old fabric pieces on top of the back of the new fabric (so the pieces are facing the same direction) and pin the edges in place. If you are working with a patterned fabric piece, you’ll want to make sure the new fabric is cut to match where you want the pattern to be on the chair. After pinning the fabric in place, trace and cut the new fabric around the shape of the old fabric, leaving 2-3 inches of space. After cutting each new piece of upholstery fabric, label it in chalk with where it goes on the chair and in which direction (top or bottom, left or right), or simply keep the old and new pieces pinned together until you’re ready to apply them.
Place the new fabric pieces onto the chair and pin them in place, making sure the pattern is even. Then, piece by piece, starting with the inside back and then the seat of the chair, pull the fabric taut and firmly staple it into place on the back or underside of the chair where the staples will be hidden. Place the staples about a quarter to half-inch apart, facing the same direction in case you need to cover them with trim.
If you are creating upholstery for removable cushions, you can combine the fabric cutouts into covers by placing the pieces together inside out and sewing, adding a zipper to the back piece. Then cover the seat cushion in one fell swoop with the sewn cover and zip close.
If there is excess fabric around the staples, go in and trim it with scissors. If the staples are on a visible part of the reupholstered chair, you’ll want to use grip trim or create welting to cover them. To apply trim, simply hot glue it in place, working in small sections to ensure the trim sticks. Let the glue dry and trim up any loose threads.
Congrats, you did it, you reupholstered your favorite armchair to give it a fresh new look. Now you can love it for even longer.
For additional design tips, check out the Inside Weather blog!