I Chickened Out

This is about those five dollar chairs I snagged at ReStore got a little overhaul.  Great lines and deceptively comfortable, but not in the best condition or colors.


Before I started anything, I took pictures of the upholstery detail.  Because this is my first time upholstering something like this, the pictures could jog my memory if I ran into a problem.

MCM Chairs Upholstery Details Before

With the pictures on my card, I started pulling each staple out.  One at a time, prying with a flat screwdriver then pulling with a pliers.

MCM Chairs Removing Vinyl

Roughly one trillion times.  I counted.  Okay, I didn’t count, but there were a lot. of. staples.

At that point, I wondered what the h–e double hockey sticks I was thinking.  Too late now, I had to keep going.

MCM Chairs Vinyl Tear Off Detail

So I did.  After pulling off the vinyl, I sanded the wood frame down using an orbital hand sander with 220 grit paper.  And loved the lightness against the dark fireplace and the subtle grain.  Two coats of Minwax Polycrylic in a satin finish brings out the grain and protects the wood.  Conveniently, it’s water-based which makes it a breeze to clean up.

MCM Chairs Clear Coat

Then my indecisiveness kicked in.  Upholstery time, but which direction to go.  I stopped in a leather shop, gathered samples and prices, and thought it over.

MCM Chairs Leather Samples

Leather is super durable and easy to clean, but far more expensive than fabric.  Not to mention I could only buy the leather as a full hide, roughly twice as much material as I needed.  Perhaps if I had another use for the leather I could justify buying it.  Instead, I hit up two fabric stores where I found a beige subtle herringbone pattern upholstery fabric for 9 bucks per yard.

I bought it, then stopped in the second store where I found a greige subtle herringbone upholstery remnant for six dollars per yard.  And bought three yards.  Now that I could justify.  Yes, I chickened out on a bold color.  Pillows can fix that.  Right?!

MCM Chairs Fabric to Cut

To get started on the upholstery, I used the vinyl pieces I pulled off as templates, tracing it to the front of my fabric to keep the pattern straight.  Don’t do that!  Add at least 1/2 inch around the sides for a little wiggle room.  I don’t have four hands, so I used a clip to keep my pieces straight while I worked.

MCM Chairs Back Fabric

First tacking the arms, folding the fabric under, wrapping around the back.

MCM Chairs Back Upholstery Arm Back

From the front, it looks like this:


With the arms secured, I stapled along the top and bottom, pulling tightly.  Then the sides and finally the slightly rounded corners.

MCM Chairs Back Front Attached

That covers the front of the back rest, so now for the back.  Like the vinyl predecessor, I folded the fabric under, creasing it with my fingers.  Using that crease as a guide for the outer edge, I stapled just inside the crease and worked around the top.

MCM Chairs Adding Back Cover Staples

The corners are tricky to staple under, so then I tacked the bottom of the fabric to the underside.

MCM Chairs Back Cover Panel

Satin nickel nail heads, placed using a needle nose pliers, hold the sides of the fabric in place.

MCM Chairs Nail Head Detail

I’ve upholstered chair seats before, so I thought the back would be more tedious than the seat.  As usual, I under estimated.

MCM Chairs Seat Upholstery

Turns out, the slight curves of the seat were a pain in the arse.  No matter how hard I tried, the fabric puckerd at the turns.  Finally I gave up and let the slight puckers stay.  So, if anyone has pointers, please share!  I’ll leave you with that, because I have to clean up the family room to take pictures of the finished chairs.  Let’s pretend it’s because there are already 17 pictures in this post, okay?

9 thoughts on “I Chickened Out

  1. It’s going to look great when it’s finished. Good job on the pattern match for the chair back. Email me the pics of the bottom and I might be able to help you out with some pointers. I used to have a professional workroom for this sort of thing.

    1. Hey Hevel Hosue!

      Thanks so much! I got the bottoms done where I’m happy enough with them, but I’ll keep you in mind for any future upholstery questions!!


  2. They look great! And I think you’ll be happy you went neutral because now they can live anywhere in your house. I am using that same minwax poly, it’s my favorite. I have not tackled a reupholster project yet, yours really looks great!

    1. Hey Sara!

      That’s kind of why I wanted a neutral, so these could move around if need be. And isn’t that Minwax poly awesome?! No messy clean up and it dries super quick!


  3. Love the fabric you are using on these chairs. . .I have a set of chairs I want reupholstered, but am thinking I may just spend the money and get a professional to do it. =)

    1. Hi Bonita!

      Thank you so much! These chairs were actually easier than I expected, but pulling out the staples gets old really quick. And hurts your hands. Depending on the chair shape, I’d say paying for the job is worth it!


  4. I have this same exact chair except for the vinyl was a lime green color, the chair used to be my grandmothers. I started doing this same thing over a year ago and have not finished it yet. Hopefully I will finish it soon and I can share my pictures with you how it turns out. Thanks for the tips!

  5. I just picked up four of these same chairs from a Christian Summer Camp that was renovating. My chairs have a dark stain and grellow, vinyl fabric (at least I think it is vinyl). I cleaned the vinyl and am in the process of sprucing up the finish of the stain for two of the chairs. I think I may go an entirely different direction with the other two chairs – giving them a new life with some bold, geometric fabric. I’ll keep everyone posted. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. It will make my job easier.

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