Montag, 20. Februar 2012

Das Sesselprojekt [the reupholstery project]


after :-)

a midcentury coffeepot, a fleamarket find from last year, my inspiration piece for the color

I thought about writing a tutorial while doing my reupholstery job. It didn´t feel right because this was my very first attempt to try upholstery on a bigger project. I secretly called it my trial and error project so how could I pretend to know exactly what I was doing? I was so anxious to see if it worked that I kept working and working and working and often forgot to take pictures on the way. And last but not least - every piece of upholstered furniture is different. I decided better not to give advice in a tutorial but to share what I´ve learned doing this project. (There is still the 2nd equal midcentury chair to reupholster. This time I feel I should know what I´m doing so there might me a tutorial one day.)

What I have learned doing this project:
1. The best way to understand how to reupholster a piece of furniture is to analyze the original upholstery job when you strip the old upholstered piece.

2. Take pictures: I took the chair apart piece by piece and took pictures of every step that I regarded useful. Some are blurry -but these pictures were only ment to remind me e.g. how the fabric was folded in a corner or how the staples were set at a certain spot so I could reproduce this later. I still didn´t take enough pictures so when I finalIy came to the part when I could do that actual reupholstery I sometimes had to improvise.

3. It takes longer than assumed. There were zillions of staples to pull, there was so much material to remove and it required two more visits to the local fabric shop to find the material that I needed. So it took me two weekends and some hours after work instead of one whole day. Yeah I´m a bit optimistic. The next one will be faster.

after glazing the front legs

4. A reupholstery job is always good for a surprise. You´ll never know what you will find underneath. I didn´t know what the old batting and foam would be like. It was disgusting! I had hoped that I could reuse the old foam after cleaning and would only need some batting that I already had at home but there wasn´t any foam in there- just tons of yucky dusty wool. I had to remove everything except for what you see on the above picture and wait for the next working day and the shop opening to buy some foam. Plus I found a burried treasure in this chair, little by little, while I stripped it:
- some old Austrian coins that were used before the euroization in 2001: 11 Schillinge and 60 Groschen (worth less than 1 Euro, so you´ll find me back at work on Monday)
- a hair pin,
- a pin, a broken rubber band, a metall hook

- a pen,
- a knitting needle
- and a button for a blouse. Apparently the midcentury chairs had belonged to a woman. There is still hope that the former owner hid her packet of paper money in the 2nd chair that is awaiting upholstery. Keep your fingers crossed!

I´m rich!

5. Choose a not so complicated piece for your first attempt. I did good to choose a chair with wooden armrests for my first project so I had to sand and glaze but didn´t have to upholster the armrests. A winged back chair with upholstered armrests is definitely something for advanced learners but now I think that it is totally doable as a second upholstery project if you use the old fabric as a template to sew the new cushions. I want to reupholster my old navy blue wing chair in the living room one day (Add it to my to do list- haha. First I need to finish my second mid century chair. Both midcentury chairs will be in our bedroom. Then I need a matching king size quilt for our bed and I have only bought the fabric yet -'Ruby' by Bonnie and Camille. You get the picture. :-) )

6. Just try it! It´s fun and rewarding. It is really not so hard. If you try it on a thrift store find you can see if it works and if not- who cares?

cover buttons

the back in between

the finished back :-)


  1. Was für eine Arbeit, wahnsinn!!! Aber sie hat sich gelohnt, der Sessel sieht jetzt wirklich wundervoll aus :)
    Alles Liebe. maria

  2. Wow!! It turned out so good! And I love the color. What a great job you did. It's beautiful! :o)

  3. Ich bewundere jeden, der das kann! Sieht großartig aus!

  4. The chair looks so good! The fabric color is perfect and looks so pretty with the coffeepot. I am intrigued as to how you made the cushion so smooth. Is everything on the chair stapled? The chair I need reupholstered has fabric legs too. I am going to the thrift store tomorrow, so I will look for a project chair. I found a great one a few weeks ago, but the asking price was $60 which is out of my price range for an experiment! Great job and I really enjoyed reading this post. Hope you find a lot of money in the next chair!

  5. Jamie, when I found this chair, I thought that the cover was sewn and that it was pulled over the chair and only stapled at the bottom. So I planned to take the old cover apart as a pattern and sew the new cover and pull it over again. That´s why I choose fabric that is a little stretchy. But when I stripped the chair I found out that the front fabric had been stapled to the back and the back fabric was mostly sewn on after and only stapled at the bottom. That´s why I had to visit the fabric store again for special unholstery needles with a "curve".
    I will use the same fabric (there are still some meters left) on the 2nd chair. It was nice to work with, it was smooth and it was not so pricey like 'real' upholstery fabric (which starts from € 30/meter and I need about 4 meters per chair), so it was perfect for an experiment. But it tends to wrinkle and I had to be very careful when I stapled it to avoid a crinkly finish. That´s ok for a bedroom chair. For another upholstery project, e.g. a chair that is used daily in the living room, I would probably use thicker fabric. Good luck on finding the perfect experiment chair!

  6. Well, we didn't find anything on Wednesday, so we'll keep looking. I will take a photo of our sad, sad clawed up chair and put it on my blog this weekend. I don't think it would be a good choice for a first project because it has seams and basically the entire chair is covered with fabric. But it would be sweet to do it myself and save some money. We had it reupholstered and it cost nearly $500 for labor and fabric. When we had another chair and ottoman covered about 5 years ago, it was over $900 for labor and fabric. Custom upholstery is very expensive. An alternative for this chair would be a slipcover, but I've never done that, either.

  7. Kännchen und Sessel in einem Ton - Super! Verrückt welch aufwand es ist einen Sessel neu zu beziehen!


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