How-to: Reupholstering a Chair Seat

reupholstering a chair seat

Do you have a bench or a chair that’s got good bones but the fabric is either torn or…well…ugly? Give it a brand new life by reupholstering it! You can use these instructions for reupholstering a chair seat, a bench, or any other cushion that has a hard back on it.

My in-laws gave us a beautiful little bench that’s so perfect for our foyer! It’s just the right height for dropping my purse on the way in, and it’s not so wide that it crowds our house’s little entryway. It’s got great bones – it was made in the 1930s, and the shape is classic without being too fussy.

If the wood on your piece needs a little love, check out these eco-friendly paints and stains that you can use to revamp it! I’d definitely remove the cushion before painting or staining, so you won’t have to worry about messing it up.

The only problem with this little guy was the cushion cover. Someone decided to take this pretty little piece of furniture and cover the cushion with hunter green vinyl. It made this elegant little piece of furniture feel so heavy. Reclaimed fabric to the rescue! I had these super sweet blue and white sateen sheets that I’d scored at the thrift store that I knew would make a perfect cover for this thing.

Reupholstering an almost-antique piece of furniture like this was a little bit scary, but once I got into it, it was really quite simple.

reupholstering a chair seat

Reupholstering a Chair Seat

The trickiest part was figuring out how to get the cushion off, and some careful examination revealed that it was actually just attached with four screws. When you remove your cushion from its frame, I recommend using a piece of masking tape to tape all of the hardware to your table. If one of those screws rolls away, your project just went from simple to annoying, because you’ll have to head to the hardware store to try to match that screw. On an antique piece, that might not be so easy!

All you need to get started are:

  • ottoman or small bench with a less than desirable cushion cover
  • tools to remove your cover from your ottoman. Probably an allen wrench and/or screwdriver, depending on how it’s attached
  • fabric – I’ll explain how to get your measurements below the instructions
  • scissors
  • staple gun


1. Figure out how the cushion is attached to the frame, and carefully remove it. On my little bench, there were a couple of screws on the bottom to remove, and the cushion came right off.

cushion back

2. Iron your fabric, then lay the cushion face down in the center. Start with one of the short sides, and fold your fabric over by 2″, then fold it so that it overlaps the back of your cushion. Use the staple gun to secure it in place.

3. Move to the other short side of the fabric, and fold it over by 2″. Then, pulling the fabric taught, fold it over the back of your cushion. Hold it nice and tight as you staple it in place.

4. Repeat steps 2-3 with the long sides of the fabric, tucking in the corners as you stretch and fold your fabric.

stapled fabric

5. Flip your cushion over, admire your work, and re-attach the cushion to the frame.

To get your fabric measurements: Measure the length and height of the cushion you want to recover, then add length + height + height + 4″. That’s your fabric length. Measure the width of the cushion, then add width + height + height + 4″. That’s your width. So, if your cushion was 24″ long, 8″ wide and 1″ high, your fabric length would be: 24″ + 1″ + 1″ + 4″ = 30″. The width would be 8″ + 1″ + 1″ + 4″ = 14″.

Easy peasy, right? Have you guys revamped any old furniture? I’d love to hear about your upcycling ideas in the comments!

all photos by Becky Striepe

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top