Perfectly Imperfect – A Chair Gets A Makeover

Don’t you just love cinderella stories for chairs? This one from Shaunna at

is stunning! Here is her post:

First, let me say two things:

One, my computer is going to a new place of crazy and i’ve literally been trying to upload pictures to blogger all morning long!

Second: let me say that our house is turning into a flea market as we wait to get in our addition….there’s theater seating in the living room (creating somewhat of a circular seating arrangement), an elliptical, desk, and dresser in the entry….all that to say: These after shots are not my norm. There’s lots of background stuff, but I hope you appreciate them all the same! 🙂

Okay, drumroll…….Remember Darla? (i giggle every time i say “her” name)

She had a LOT of problems that don’t even show up in the before shots, but on to that in a minute.

Here she is this morning:

Let me say, I’m just as excited to hear what you think as I am to have her completed!! Lots of work and two battered thumbs later, I might be a little anxious for some affirmation. Just maybe. 🙂

Okay, anybody care for lots of pictures and a tutorial??

Let’s do it……let me say this before I begin: This was way more than just recovering a seat cushion. I’ve done that before and it’s a pretty straightforward job….this old gal had a LOT going on underneath her “dressing.” I posted about some of the trouble here.

One of the problems was the massive amount of prep work to be done…..I know I pulled 300 staples out of the framework from the previous reupholstery job. If you can call it that….fuzzy leopard and ric rac…..and LOADS OF GLUE.

First, I had to remove staples, and all the previous fabric. (notice the back of the seat does not come out of the frame….I was going to have to reupholster new fabric into the back cushion. Yikes.)

I also showed you the dirt dobber nest….and I love that so many of you have asked what a dirt dobber is! Sometimes I forget that there is most definitely a different culture here in the South. A dirt dobber looks exactly like a wasp…just no stinger. 🙂

There’s the lovely nest and other yuck that I cleaned up.

We removed the seat cushion (with some force, I might add),

then I had to prep the chair frame for painting. On detailed pieces with small grooves like this chair, I like to use Gloss Off to strip the surface. It’s less tricky than true paint-stripper, dries quickly, and really helps the surface “grab” the primer.

Here she is….stripped down, primed and painted two coats of Valspar’s Delicate White (one of my favorites). I did use my Wagner sprayer, but even if you don’t have a sprayer, I would recommend using some of the latex spray paints out there….it is so much easier to cover all those hard-to-reach areas and grooves. Rustoleum has lots of options, like the famed “heirloom white.”

Next up for me was to cover the bottom frame of the chair with fabric….look back at the before…it was covered in fuzzy leopard. I chose a white linen….the original upholstery was glued on so tightly, I decided it would be better to cover than to restore that part. I chose the linen to off-set the formality of the nail head trim….I felt like it would blend seamlessly as the frame, but with softer lines.

In case you have to do this one day….first, measure your chair…..length of fabric needed and
width to wrap it.

I found it easier to wrap my fabric first as a practice run to be sure I had the right amount and that I was pleased with the look.

I then moved on to the back of the chair…..again, the back did not remove.

Luckily, I was able to separate the upholstery from the frame just a bit, and used my flat cricut tool to smooth the fabric into the frame….that part was great! No stapling, glueing, or praying. 🙂

Next, move on to your seat cushion….again, pretty straightforward.

Choose your batting, and how much foam you want to add. I wanted the seat pretty comfy since this will be my desk chair, so I added 2 pre -cut foam cushions and filled in the rest (because of the angular shape of the seat) with pulled-apart batting.

Time to break out that staple gun….and get ready to use it. A lot.

I found this fabric (that I love, by the way) at on clearance for $5 a yard!!! It was normally $25 a yard; thank you! I am sure most of you brilliant ladies know this, but when you are recovering seat cushions, it’s been helpful to me to start in the corners first. At least, begin pulling there so you can control where the seams will be….I definitely wanted those in the corners. Just keep working it around and when you feel good about it, staple away!

Next, I covered the back…..this was definitely the hardest part…on my nerves and my thumbs. 🙂

I save the old fabric and cut out a piece of the new fabric 1/2 inch larger so I could fold it under for a smooth edge.

Those are my mom’s sweet hands…I asked if she would come over to watch me nail in the first upholstery tack….have I mentioned that I refinish furniture? More painting, less complicated upholstery (and I know as I say that, there’s someone out there reading who does the complicated upholstery in her sleep–go you, by the way! you can give me some good tips!)

I bought simple upholstery tacks in an antique bronze….I searched high and low for actual nailhead trim that comes in one long piece….with no luck. I was VERY nervous about the line being really crooked, but all in all, it turned out fine. Not perfect, but I love it still.

One little tip: it helped me tremedously to place each tack in partially with the rubber mallet, then use my pliers to rearrange any that “stuck out”, and then my Matt nailed them the rest of the way down with a small hammer. (I think he could see that my thumbs were literally swollen from placing each tack.)

Sweet Darla is not actually totally complete….I think I’ll add some tack trim around the arm upholstery, and possibly the very bottom of the linen. Not sure….I like the softness the linen brings.

I’ll reposition a few more tacks, and I’ve got to seal her with verathane…. I’ll post later on why that’s my favorite. And you know what else? I haven’t even screwed the seat and recovered arms back in…I was just TOO excited to show the reveal to all you guys!

Here she is next to the desk she will accompany….this is a turn of the century table I found that I’m raising to turn into a desk for the writing room. I love the idea of all that surface space!

I love all the sweet details, like the spindles at the top and the curves all along the legs.

One more shot (because I’ve clearly not given you enough 🙂

Okay, you know I’ve got to know….tell me what you think?? I hope she didn’t disappoint!! It was so much fun to restore something for my own home…I’ve been sending those pieces out the door lately. 🙂

Thanks for sharing your creativity, Shaunna and for the great tutorial! “Darla” certainly is stunning and I love her new look! You crack me up! I enjoyed reading a tutorial – is that possible? lol Beautiful job!

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