Upholstering a Wing Back Chair, Upholstery Tips

Oct 10th, 2011

I acquired an old, drab wing back chair (look below for the before picture) at the local D.I., a thrift store here in Utah. I paid $8.00 for it. Then, fear got the best of me, and I left the chair in my garage for almost an entire YEAR. (Yes, this was a sore subject with the hubsters for awhile).

I. was. terrified. The unknown is always scary. What if I ruin it? What if I can’t figure out how to put the fabric back on? What if it looks terrible when I get done? Well, I started observing my friend Jen (who ROCKS, by the way, and it happens to be her BIRTHDAY today…Happy Birthday JEN!)

After watching Jen upholster a few chairs, I figured I had two choices: I can either TRY or NOT TRY. I knew I might FAIL, but then again I might NOT FAIL. I took an $8.00 risk (quite a small risk, I realize now looking back) and started tearing the chair apart.

The chair was quite ugly to begin with, and I threw all my worries away and got to work.

Now that I have a few chairs under my belt, I am getting more confident. I love getting together with friends and laughing while we reupholster chairs for each other. We chit chat, drink diet coke, and tear chairs apart. Ha ha.

Every chair that I do is different. Every one has a different challenge. I love to see someone’s face when they find out that I reupholstered the chair myself.

Upholstering a wing back chair can be a challenge, but you can save a LOT of money by upholstering a chair yourself, and I LOVE that I have a custom item that cannot be found in any store. I love browsing fabrics. I can’t get enough of it! The perfect fabric can add a lot of character, class, and can customize your space.

When you choose a custom fabric for an old furniture item, make sure that you choose one that you LOVE. Don’t settle for just any old fabric. There are way too many amazing choices out there.

Fabrics help tie together your designs. It helps the room to feel finished. When you put the perfect pillow on your couch, it will add texture and make the room come alive. I loved the tone of yellow and cream in the fabric for this project. In fact, upholstering a chair for this room has been on my “to do” list for months.

After you remove the fabric from your furniture, lay it out on your new fabric and use it as a pattern. Leave a few inches around the outside when you cut it out.

Then, piece by piece, staple the new fabric onto your chair. I use a compressor with an air staple gun. It is a much easier option to get the staples in tight.

The sides of the wing back chairs must be pulled tight and stapled around the arms. As you can see in the picture to the left, the staples are about 2 inches away from the outside edges of the chair.  We stapled in this area purposely. When you place your upholstered pieces over the top of this, you don’t want your staples to show underneath.

I have made the mistake of stapling too close to the outside edge a few times and it is always frustrating when you can see the staples.

Just be careful to leave extra room.

Also, make sure that you pull the fabric as tight as you can. I always upholster with someone else. This way, one person can pull the fabric tight, and the other person can staple it tightly into place.

If you missed my reupholster 101 and my top ten upholstery tips, check it out.

Also, if you are wondering how much fabric you will need, check out my fabric upholstery guide post.

Overall, the cost of this bad boy was $8.00 at the thrift store and 7 yards of fabric. I never buy expensive fabric. I think this fabric was $7.99 per yard. The chair cost less than $70.00 total. 

I am quite proud of how this chair turned out!

It comes to show, practicing furniture upholstery can only mean you will get better at it with time. There have been a few times where I wanted to throw in the towel, but it has always been worth it in the end!

The fabric for this wing back chair came from Home Fabrics and Rugs in Las Vegas. You might recognize the fabric from my Master Bedroom. I bought the fabric over a year ago, so I don’t think the fabric is still available, but you might be able to use this chair as the inspiration for another similar pattern.
Here is another reminder of the before and after picture of this bad boy:

Do you like it?


  1. Um YES I do like it!! I love yellow damask patterns and paired with that black and white pillow, it just looks amazing. You did such a great job upholstering it. I totally am going to do this sometime but I'm just nervous about picking fabric that will be permanent. So I made a slipcover for my thrift store wingback and that will have to do until my kids are old enough to not be climbing all over it. (Somehow they ALWAYS have chocolate on their hands.) Anyway, great job!!!!

  2. Really nice,you did a good job:)

  3. I think I love that yellow chair! I can't hardly believe its the same chair in the before picture! Great job!

  4. Beautiful!

    I'm so impressed that you can do that yourself. I have a monster chair (but so comfty) in my room that needs a major fabric overhaul. Your success is inspiring but.. I don't know if I could pull it off!

  5. love it

  6. I love that you take on such challenging projects. Wingback chairs are so classy, I've always wanted one. Next time I come across one I may be inclined to buy one and give it a shot or give my current chair a makeover. Great job!

  7. This is amazing! I only hope that I can find a chair with such potential for $8. And I hope that I can reupholster it as well as you did.

  8. I have 2 chairs sitting in my garage out of fear that i will mess them up – you are so right i am choosing not to try…. guess i need to do some fabric shopping! Thanks for the inspiration!!

  9. You should be proud….it's beautiful :)

  10. well done! i am actually in the midst of recovering a wing back chair myself. i have just removed all the fabric and bought the new fabric this weekend.

    it is a daunting task but i can't wait for it to be FINISHED!!

    thanks for the tips!

  11. I am in love with this chair! I have been trying to think of projects I could work on with my husband and I think this might be it. Thanks for posting this I really enjoyed it! :D

  12. I love this! Good job!

    I have a dusty rose wing back chair that I need to tackle, too. Since I'm a procrastinator…I'm saving it for winter.

  13. I have a wingback chair I've been saving to do, but I'm also freaked out about it because the back of the chair is round, not just straight and then it's scalloped… This description probably doesn't make sense. Anyway, I need all the advice I can get. I could even email you a picture if that would help!

  14. Wow, it looks great! I'm always intimidated by wing backs because of all the curves and angles. You make it look so easy!

    Love the material, by the way.

  15. I love this. Like, I really love this. Teach me master….

  16. Love love love it!! i have been busting to reupholster a chair for our bedroom but keep putting it off so thanks for the tutorial and the inspiration!!

  17. WOW! Great job!

  18. I absolutely LOVE your chair . . . how inspiring! Now . . . I must start working on my drab wing chair . . . wanna come over! :)

  19. Hi! I just gave you the "Versatile Award" over on my blog! Come and check it out! I love this chair- awesome job and with the black and white pillow- wonderful!

  20. The Yoder's Four says:

    LOVE IT! WOOO! Go Brooke!!! That fabric is fabulous. I wish I owned that chair.

  21. Classy Clutter says:

    Ummm i LOVE IT! I just found a mustard yellow wingback chair in great condition at a thrift store that now sits in my All Things Thrifty inspired bedroom! It's a perfect match but needs a teensy update and a fab pillow to finish it off!


    xoxo, Mallory @ Classy Clutter

  22. I love the chair fabric with the wall color. I'm painting my dining room "elephant skin" (almost-charcoal) and have been considering some yellow-and-white fabric for curtains and chairs. Yours looks so good, I think my decision is made!

  23. That is fabulous. I just did a reupholstery post on a chair. It was my first and I used your tips and tricks… and I also had a helper. :)

  24. This is stellar! you did a great job!

    Love the fabric you used (yellow is my favorite color). I can relate to the paralyzed-by-fear thing, though. I did the same thing, bought a chair and then it sat in storage… only mine sat there for years and I finally had to get rid of it when we moved overseas. But I'm feeling much more confident these days and if I can find another chair in need of help, I'm going for it!
    Thanks for the inspiration :)

  26. wow! looks great!

    Lindsey Turner

  27. I think it looks awesome! Great job!

  28. That looks absolutely amazing! Great job!

  29. Decorating with Cents says:

    Beautiful job and I love the contrast with the black & white pillow.

  30. Oh dear, you've got me wanting to reupholster something now… That chair looks awesome!

  31. UH-Maze-ING!
    Now I'm thinking I need to do our 'fancy' couch that's starting to fall apart….

    I *love* how you must have "fussy cut" that vase of flowers right smack dab in the middle!

    Great job!

  32. It looks fantastic! You did an excellent job on it.

  33. I just found THE PERFECT vintage rocker today and you've inspired me to take this challenge on! You rock!

  34. My parents have a wingback chair that needs some love. This post has made me want to see if I can take it on.

  35. You are reminding me to get another piece to reupholster. It is always scary when you start. But you realize that it is way more forgiving when you think. I think upholstery is easier than doing the cushion and sewing the cushions perfect. That is the hardest part if you ask me. It turned out gorg my friend!

  36. LOVE IT!!! I have a pink wingback chair that has been sitting in my living room for years, YIKES. I have wanted to reupholster it since I got it but money, time, lack of skill, and not finding that right fabric have stood in my way. I have not really seriously looked for fabric but always look if I happen to be in a fabric store in case I find the yellow fabric I have been dreaming about and then I get on u-create and there is your BEAUTIFUL chair, it is exactly what I want. Will you share where you have gotten all of your AMAZING fabric from???

  37. Just amazing work – congrats! Makes me want to run out and find a chair to do!

  38. Love your Ideas! Love the chair! I know you dont have lots of time but i started a blog of my own. Check it out when you can.


  39. Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. says:

    Oh wow, amazing job! And I love the new fabric!

  40. I have a wing back chair I got for free from my grandmother's home, and I too am terrified to reupholster it. I want to, but I just am not sure how I would do it. I LOVED your tutorial, and it was so inspiring! You have taken the scary out of it!! Thank you! I may have to try it out, free chair, small investment, alot of time and effort, great end result! Great on the charts, what an amazing find! I am a follower!

  41. Im not sure if I just missed it, but ware did you get your fabric?

  42. I love everything about this chair. The fabric is fantastic! You did such a beautiful job too!

  43. Totally kicking myself now for giving away two really solid ingbacks…Just hated them..thought about tearing them apart..didn't do it… Oh, well.

    Yurs looks AMAZING!

  44. Brooke @ www.allthingsthrifty.com says:

    Hi guys! The fabric was from Home Fabrics and Rugs which is located in Las Vegas, NV. That is my favorite fabric store! Thanks for all the cute comments!

  45. I love the chosen fabric (and the pillow is a perfect accent for it!). You did an excellent job on the reupholstering!

  46. Looks so good!

  47. I love it!!! And, thanks so much for your tutorial and tips. I've always wanted to try reupholstering…and you're giving me some much needed courage. :)

  48. You did such a great job. I am super impressed. Awesome fabric choice. Thanks for sharing at DIYbyDesign.

  49. How much fabric did you use to accomodate the repeat pattern in the damask? I'm buying some fabric from http://warehousefabricsinc.com and need to determine how much to buy to cover my chair.

  50. @Clownface

    I have a post about how much fabric is needed. I would reference that. I do know that professionals don't need as much because they are better at it! Ha! Anyway, I put the link below. Hope this helps!

    How much fabric?

  51. Awesome redo. You gave me the courage to try my own. :)

  52. I looove this chair, and I now have an ugly wingback chair in my basement (off craigslist for $10) because I discovered this post! I will tackle it before the year is out. :o) Thanks for the inspiration and great job!!

  53. Love your chair, you did an amazing job with it. My daughter has a wing back chair that she want me to reupholster for her, I was wondering what type of fabric to use. What type did you use on this chair.

    • You need to use fabric that is thick enough to pull tight. I used home decor fabric for this project. Good luck!

  54. Awesome! I just inherited a FREE wing back chair exactly like your original (pattern and all) and am planning to start reupholstering this week. Thanks for the tips and pictures. You do great work.

  55. Love the bright yellow. The finished chair looks great. You should have said how you redid the cushion, too.

  56. Shannon Page says:

    How do you do the seat cushion? Do you have to sew?

    • Yes, I take apart the existing cushion and use it as a pattern. This is definitely the hardest part of the entire process for me.

  57. I thank you for your advice because I just acquired a exact same chair that I am going to cover. Thanks again

  58. I am SO impressed!! My father-in-law recently passed away, and my husband and I have been figuring out what to do with a bunch of his furniture. He has several wing chairs almost exactly like this, that I think he bought from thrift stores! I have never much liked wingback chairs, guess they always reminded me of grandma’s house! We were just planning on sending the wingchairs right back to the same thrift store. BUT, after seeing this I am TOTALLY going to keep them and have a go! What’s to lose right? Thank you so much!!!

  59. Your chair looks beautiful! I have two wing back chairs that were my mom’s, but they are lounge chairs (can’t think of the name, the feet come up and the back goes back) anyways, my cats did a number on them…i would like to take them apart to get rid of the smell and of course change the fabric to my taste. I know how to take care of the smell, but since i will need to replace everything but the wood…do you have any suggestions or have you done one like this? I definitely will take your tip and start with an inexpensive one and see if i can even do this. Also, if you can ever show how you take off the fabric, where you start, what you cut….that would be very helpful, as well. Thank you for your help and advice.
    Teresa :)

  60. Erin McCracken says:

    Hey! I just had to leave a comment because im about to venture into re-upholstering my first chairs (i just got 2 from thrifts stores) so i have been browsing around tutorials and stumbled upon yours….I JUST PURCHASED THE EXACT SAME CHAIR!!!! honest i could not believe it when i saw it but this definitely gives me confidence that i can make it look amazing, however im choosing to do a “temporary re-upholster” so im not tearing anything apart just stapling over it! But just thought i would say great job and it looks amazing :) ps i loooove your fabric choice,

  61. I havent been able to find fabric cheaper than $25.00 a yard. Don’t I need heavy/tough fabric for a chair? Should I shy away from cotton, quilting type of fabric?

    • Yes, you definitely do not want cotton fabric. You need fabric that is upholstery grade, or at least canvas.

  62. NICE job, I am going to do 2 of them, ours are looking sad and I want to take my bidding at this little dilly. I have never done this type of craft before but I always say there’s a first for everything…


  1. […] 1. Wingback Chair This project is mostly to inspire me.  One of the items I took from my Grandmom’s house was her old wingback chair.  My grandmom and grandpa always glued broken items back together or reupholstered the furniture.  They might not have painted furniture like me, but they made sure it got a new life.  Now I want to make sure her chair has a new life in my life. […]

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