• Tutorial Team
  • South Milwaukee, WI

Old & Ugly to New & Chic Dining Chairs

12 Materials
15 Hours

I got these chairs for FREE! Someone thought these chairs were garbage, but I saw a great opportunity. I've re-upholstered plenty of chairs, but I never upholstered the back of a chair, but that changed with this project.

old ugly to new chic

Here is where we started. These were clearly dated chairs with faded and stained seats, and a woven cane back rest.

old ugly to new chic

The first thing I did was remove the back. I used a scissors to start cutting it out and then a box cutter and pliers to clean up the edges. Then I removed the seats.

old ugly to new chic

Some of the chairs needed a few repairs that were easily fixed with some wood glue. One chair has a good chunk of wood broken out so I filled it with wood filler and sanded it smooth after it fully dried.

old ugly to new chic

I gave each chair a thorough cleaning with a vinegar and water mixture. After they were all dry, I started painting with Rust-Oleum Chalked Charcoal spray paint. Each chair was also sprayed with Rust-Oleum Clear Matte Top Coat.

old ugly to new chic

For the back, I used a solid color material that matched the design material. Once I stapled the piece of the back that will show, I lined it with a strong felt material and padding before I covered it with the main design. To cover any rough edges/staples, I made upholstery cords by using fabric glue to adhere the fabric to a thin rope. The cords were then hot-glued around the edge of the back rest.

old ugly to new chic

Here are the four final chairs!

old ugly to new chic

Before and After

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 9 questions
  • Sjt29229935
    on Dec 5, 2018

    They turned out lovely, but I too am wondering what you used for support on the backs and seats. I would imagine wood under the padding on the seats, but your instructions did not use any support other than a heavy felt and fabric on the backs. I don't understand how that will be enough to withstand the pressure of people leaning on them. Won't they stretch, give or even let go with the pressure?

    • Emily
      on Dec 6, 2018

      Initially, I was going to put the padding on MDF board, but as I did research on upholstering the backs of chairs, I found that most professionals use upholstery jute or another strong material. I actually did one chair with jute but then I found a strong felt material and that worked just as well. I sat on each chair to make sure everything was good-to-go, and I had no fear of falling through.

  • Fay34273850
    on Dec 7, 2018

    Could you have left the weaving on the chair and sprayed it also and staple the fabric to the weaving?

    • Fay34273850
      on Dec 15, 2018

      They turned out beautiful, I was just looking for a shortcut. I am getting lazy in my old age.

  • Youruba
    on Jan 3, 2019

    What brand of felt did you use? and where did you get it from?

    • Emily
      on Jan 3, 2019

      I got it from Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, I don't remember the brand name. Sorry.

Join the conversation

2 of 28 comments
  • Charlotte Koch
    on Dec 1, 2018

    Absolutely beautiful. I would have never seen the outcome by looking at the original chairs. Great Job.

  • Sabrina's Organizing
    on Dec 14, 2018

    WOW! That looks great! I love how you made the piping around the end of the fabric to hide the edges. Great job!

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