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Reupholster an antique or vintage chair

Bustle back or reproduction dining chairs are an elegant choice for dining and you will find these for sale at secondhand stores and online auctions. What scares buyers off is the work involved in reupholstering this type of chair.


Reupholstering a bustle back or reproduction dining chair is reasonably simple... if done the right way. Here's how to reupholster a bustle back or reproduction dining chair...


When doing upholstery workshops I always try to explain to those attending that you have to think simple. Consider that every piece you want to reupholster is put together, which means it can be taken apart.

When buying dining chairs, look at how the upholstery has been added and what needs to be done to remove and replace. Be fussy when choosing fabric for your new chairs. You don't need a lot of fabric, so splurge on quality fabric.

Step 1

Start by removing the existing upholstery. Once you rip off old fabric, straw or foam padding, the bare bones of the chair will be visible. Gently prise out tacks, nails or staples to reveal what lies beneath.

Step 2

While the inner coil springs should still be useable, you will probably have to replace the strapping that supports them.

Most fabric shops have a selection of strapping that you can buy to replace the old strapping, or cut a piece of chipboard to fit the opening and screw in place.

Step 3

Use string to hold the coils in place for re-upholstering the seat. Hammer in a few tacks on the seat frame to wrap your string around and over the coils to the other side and then secure.

Step 4

Top off the spring coils with a layer of hessian or canvas as a buffer layer. Use a staple gun to attach. If you own a pnuematic stapler this speeds up the process dramatically, but slow and steady works just as well.

Step 5

After adding foam and batting it's time to wrap with fabric. Cut a piece of fabric larger than the area to be covered and staple this to the edge of the frame. Start at one side and then move to the opposite side to gently pull the fabric taut before stapling. Repeat this movement for the other two sides.

Step 6

Make up or buy welting or cord to cover up the staples and hot glue this in place. I prefer to use a Dremel Hot Glue Gun for this process, as it has a low or high temperature adjustment that allows you to control the amount of glue applied. You don't want any glue to show.

Although not shown here, to reupholster the back of the chair remove the back and be sure to keep the backing board intact so that you can recover and replace.

As an alternative to welting or cord, upholstery pins or nailheads add a new, modern dimension to reproduction dining chairs.


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