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?

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