Mid-century chair makeover

There is nothing more satisfying for me than coming across a cheap bargain at a secondhand store or online auction that I can transform into a beautiful piece of furniture.



Looking at the mid-century chair above, it's hard to believe that it started out as the square pleather club chair on the left. Not quite a piece of furniture you would like to have on display in your living room. But simply by taking the old chair apart and using a few upholstery tricks, this chair really does deserve a place. I take my hat off to Liz at just about home and her mom for a beautiful job.

If you think about how most furniture is assembled: they make a frame for the seat, a frame for the back and a frame for the arms. Each frame is them upholstered and the frame sections joined together to make the piece. Therefore, you can and should be able to take any piece of upholstered furniture apart.

For this chair, take apart the chair carefully, making sure to remember where each piece of fabric needs to be stapled to the frame. Take out all tacks and staples as you go and put them in a safe place - you don't want to stand on these!

Sew some welting. Use the fabric that will upholster the chair to cover cord that you can use as piping on the new seat cushions and upholstered sections. Sew the welting together with cut fabric to form a slip cover for the arms. This may take some maneuvering, especially if the arms are tapered and smaller on the bottom than on the top. Make sure any lines or patterns match up in the fabric.



Note: The pleather on this chair is in perfect condition and Liz didn't remove the pleather, but simply fitted the new fabric over the top. If you need to remove the old fabric you can. You can also remove and replace the padding just as easily.

Cut out and sew a seat cushion from high density foam - the best place to buy is from www.FoamFactory.co.za. Don't use anything but high-density foam as it doesn't hold its shape and will not spring back.

Cover the cushion foam with batting, and then your sewn cover.

Cut out fabric and staple to the chair. Don’t worry about putting in too many staples! DO remember to make sure your pattern goes in the same direction and lines up, and copy what was previously done on the chair. You can always take out a few staples if you need to readjust. Reattach arms and cover the bottom in a plain upholstery dust cover. It gives a nice finishing touch!

I learned a few things on the way:

  • Always check your fabric to make sure it is going in the right direction. The front of the arms originally had the pattern going horizontally, which looked funny. Had to redo them both for a professional look.
  • The back of a chair can be tricky. You can use tack strips or decorative nail heads. We went for tack strips for a seamless look, but you only have one chance to get them in right.
  • Want to restain or paint the legs of a chair? Make sure you do it before you begin to put the fabric back on. Otherwise you could mess up all your new fabric.
  • This job would have been tedious all by myself. I have so much respect for people who do this professionally.