Re-upholstering a victorian parlor chair

It is so much fun to give old treasures a new look!! We are not professional upholsterers by any means but we decided to revamp a used Victorian parlor chair that we found on ebay. There are a lot of different places to find pieces like that... craigslist and flea markets are really good to discover finds like that as well.

Besides the Victorian parlor chair, there are a few more things that you will need to get before you get started with this fun project:

Tack puller (You could also use a standard flat head screw driver, needle-nose pliers or a tiny flat head screw driver instead)

Bowl for discarded staples and tacks

220 grit sandpaper

Paint (we used Behr Paint & Primer in one)

Paint brushes

Staple gun (We used a manual Powershot Staple Gun Model5700M – there are a lot of staple guns out there but we tried a few and found that this one is definitely the best one to work with)

A box of 8mm T50 staples

Upholstery or heavyweight fabric (you will need 3-4 yards depending on the size of your chair)

Fabric Glue or a hot glue gun (we used Fabric-Tac glue by Beacon)

7-8 yards of trim

Step 1: Stripping down the chair

This is probably the least fun part of the whole project but it is necessary to do if you want to have a great result. First of all you need to remove all of the old trim that covers the staples in the chair. This should be very fast and easy and since the trim is always glued on, all you need to do is to strip it down (you can use noodle nose pliers to do that or do it by hand). Once all of the trim or cording is off, you'll have access to all the many, many staples that are keeping the fabric against the frame.

For the next step you have to pull out all the staples that are holding the old fabric in. This can be quite time consuming since there are usually a lot of staples in old chairs like this. If you use the tack puller that we did, it is an easy process and it will be totally worth it in the end. It is also very helpful to take a lot of pictures from different angles while you do that, so that you can easily remember how to staple the new fabric back on the chair later.

Save your layers!! If you can, try your best to save all the layers that are underneath the fabric like burlap and batting. Just in case that you are not able to save any of the foam in your chair, you can easily get that in any craft or fabric store.


Step 2: Painting the chair frames

Once you stripped down the chair, you can start with giving your chair a whole new look!! We used 220 grit sandpaper to scuff the chair frame in order to get a good painting result. We then used a white paint & primer in one by Behr to paint our chair. We had to use 3 coats of paint to make it look perfect. Give it 1-2 hours between coats and let the chair dry over night to start with the next and most fun part of the project.

Step 3: Stapling

Now that the chair has been stripped of it's old fabric, cleaned and repainted, it's time to staple the new fabric on. The easiest way to do that is if you keep the old fabric that was on the chair and use it to make templates for your new fabric. When you're cutting your new fabric, pay special attention to the pattern. Line things up both vertically and horizontally so that the pattern is perfectly centered. It is also very important to cut the fabric at least an inch bigger on each side than you template is.

If the insides of a piece are still in good shape, save the money and hassle and just reuse. We were able to reuse all of our burlap and batting here, which was awesome.

The biggest problem we head was to find the right staple gun. We used at least three different electric and manual staples gun (some of the were even over $100) and found that the manual staple gun by PowerShot (Model5700M) was the very best to work with (and it only costs around $20). And as far as the staples go, the 8mm T50 worked perfect for this chair.

We started with stapling the fabric on the back of the chair. It is always best to use only a few staples at first to secure the fabric. Once everything is centered and securely tacked in place, you have a great foundation. The next steps are all about pulling and getting the fabric smooth and very tight and putting in a lot of staples to secure that. On top of that, we also used a hammer to tack the staples in very nice and tight. We then put the old burlap and batting back on and stapled the front top part over that the same way.

After that we started stapling the new fabric on the cushion part of the chair the same way: Secure the fabric with only a few staples first and then work your way around it to staple the fabric on so that it is very smooth and tight.

Part 4: Final touches and trim

After the stapling is done you can simply cut off the left over edges of fabric. After that, all you have to do is glue on the trim or cord that you bought for you chair. We used Fabri-Tac by Beacon – the best fabric glue in our eyes.

Let everything dry and...

voilà your new chair is ready to get the party started!!!



Find our matching throw pillows: