Re-Upholstery for Under $40

I found a lovely iron and wood chair in the alley on the way home from work one day, and decided to haul it home in order to paint and re-upholster it. It was a long haul, but I made it home and began to clean it up. I removed the three back pieces and later removed the bottom and got to work.

I decided to match this chair to the telephone bench that I found at the thrift store a few weeks ago. Remember this guy?

So, what do these two pieces now look like? See below to find out!

Easy Bench or Chair Re-upholstery


What you need:

Staple gun and staples

1 in.-2 in. height NU Foam or other Poly-fill or bamboo foam

Upholstery fabric that is a few inches larger than the dimension of the bench


1.Take apart your furniture.

First, I analyzed my furniture, and began dismantling it. For the bench, it was as easy as taking off the seat by unscrewing it from the bottom.

The chair was just as easy, but a little more involved, as I decided to take off all four wooden pieces in order to paint the back with white paint before upholstering the seat.

After taking off the seat of the bench, I began to rip the old fabric off of the bottom by using a tool to pry the old staples off of the bottom. Surprise! This bench was upholstered once before, as you can see below. Wow, it was hard to decided whether to keep such beautiful fabric or not…

Hmm, ugly flower fabric, or ugly 70’s paisley fabric?

So, I tore off that fabric too. Underneath the second layer, I found some old batting which I promptly threw away. This brings me to an important point- I recommend wearing a dust mask while re-upholstering, especially when taking apart a piece of old furniture. You never know what’s going to be underneath, and I was thankful to not inhale a ton of dust from the old batting.

2. Buy new filling and fabric.

Head out to the craft store with the dimensions of your seat. Look for the upholstery section and buy yourself some poly-fill or NU Foam or some sort of cushion that is the dimension of your seat. I found that 1 in. height was plenty for what I needed, but if you want a lot of cush, you can get 2 in. height. It’s a bit overkill for my little bench and chair, however.

Then, look for a pretty upholstery fabric that is a few inches larger than your dimension. I found a remnant that was on sale, a bright yellow and white zig-zag pattern.  Regular fabric will not do, as you need something that will last through many morning breakfasts, in my case.

3. Upholster!

Get out your staple gun. Place the cushion onto the top of the seat and make sure that it is cut to the shape you want it. Center the fabric onto the foam. Make sure the pattern of the fabric will lie where you want it when you screw the bottom back on. If, in my case, you have stripes, make sure they are lined up perfectly. Then flip the sea over so that the bottom faces you.

Begin stapling two opposite ends, making sure to pull the fabric taut after the first staple to make the seat smooth. Then, turn it a quarter so that you can staple two more opposite sides, splitting the seat into quarters.  This will pull your fabric tight onto your seat and help to keep things organized.

If you are doing a square seat, do the edges, pulling the fabric tight as you go along, until you get to the corners. Then, fold the fabric so that it looks nice on the corners and make sure to staple it down so that the folds are even on each side. Trim the fabric if there is excess.

If you seat is round, as mine is in the above photo, you will continue to pull the fabric very tight and work each quarter of the seat so that you can make even pleats in the fabric to fit it around the circle. You can see some of the pleats above. Below is a photo of the bottom of the seat.

I didn’t make perfect pleats, but it still looked nice. If you want to make it more perfect, just make sure to work the seat so that you end up with 8ths, and then 16ths, stapling in equal sections each time and then pleating the fabric in the same areas in each quarter of the fabric.

After you have put enough staples into the seat so that you know the fabric will not wiggle or come off, it’s time to reassemble the seat!

4. Reassemble!

Matching set!

It may sound like a lot of work, but it really didn’t take me more than a couple of hours to upholster and paint my chair, and upholster my bench. This is an easy an inexpensive project in up-cycling.  The total cost for each-

Bench- $22 at the thrift store

Chair- Free!

Fabric- $2.50 for a remnant on sale

Paint- $2 for a mis-tinted can at the paint store

NU Foam- $5 for bench, $5 for the chair

Total for both= $36.50

I love how my chairs brighten my kitchen, and are comfy too. And I didn’t spend a lot of cash for new furniture. Also, I love knowing that I saved unloved furniture from a dumpster.

Show me your new upholstery projects below!


  1 comment for “Re-Upholstery for Under $40

  1. June 20, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    Wow, what a great job on the upholstery! I’ve been thinking I should give it a try someday, but it certainly isn’t easy. Love the fabric you chose!

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