How To: Upholster an Open Arm Side Chair

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Project: Upholstered Open Arm Chair
Time: 5-6 hours (max)
Cost: $35.00
Open Armed Side Chairs or Occasional Chairs can serve multiple purposes in your home. They can be picked up for a song at thrift shops, but they usually need some upgrading. A coat of paint, a little extra padding, new fabric, and an easy tutorial can yield a lovely original showpiece for your house or apartment.

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Tools and Resources:

  • chair
  • fabric
  • scissors
  • electric staple gun
  • staples
  • flat head screwdriver
  • crescent pliers
  • gimp or other trim (not shown)
  • hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • touchup paint for chair
  • dacron or cotton batting (available in rolls at big fabric/craft stores)
  • covered button kit
  • twine
  • spray adhesive
  • scrap fabric large enough to cover bottom of chair seat
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Step by Step:

1. Measure the chair seat and add 3" to both measurements to determine the size of dacron padding and fabric needed
2. Cut dacron and fabric
3. Using spray adhesive, attach dacron to existing foam seat
4. Center padding on chair seat
5. Fold left side of dacron over so that the fold is right up against the left arm post
6. Cut a perpendicular line in from the edge of the folded section of dacron towards the fold, stopping 1" short of the post
7. Repeat this on the right side, smooth dacron down to fit snugly around posts
8. To accomodate the back posts, fold the back section of the dacron over towards the center of the chair seat so that the fold is right up against the back posts
9. Cut a diagonal line from the outside left corner of dacron towards the left back post, stopping approximately 1" from the post, repeat on the right side, smooth dacron down around posts
10. Attach 3 anchor staples under the center front rail, then pull firmly and attach three staples under the center back rail and then staple the dacron on either side of the arm posts
11. Working from the anchor staples towards the chair corners, pull padding firmly and attach all the way around under the rail trying not to let the padding get bunched up
12. At the front corners either make a tight fold or ease the dacron around curve and attach below the rail
13. Repeat the above steps for fabric placement, fitting and anchoring
14. When fitting the fabric around the back posts, it may be necessary to stuff a little extra dacron around the posts so there's no hollow spaces
15. Pull fabric firmly around back posts making sure the cut edges are folded under around the posts
16. Pull firmly and staple in place
17. Pull fabric firmly down, fitting it around arm posts so no cut edges of the fabric show, staple in place
18. The front corners offer a few options for folding techniques, they can be pleated, folded like a bed sheet corner, or gathered. The goal is to have as clean and flat a corner as you can. It takes some practice.
19. Measure and cut two fabric pieces and one dacron piece for the back of the chair
20. Place one piece inside chair back with the right side facing outwards, starting at center points, attach with staples moving outwards towards corners pulling firmly, cut off extra edges that overlap frame
21. Cut 1/2" off all around the dacron and place it in the center of the outside back
22. Place inside back fabric, right side up, on top of dacron, staple in place
23. Using hot glue gun, attach "gimp" or other trim around edges to hide staples
24. Make four covered buttons from kit

For a quick tutorial in making covered buttons see step #16 from this previous post.

25. Measure button placement, thread large needle with twine and pull buttons through entire seat cushion, pulling and tying twine around a rolled up piece of dacron
26. The last step is to cut a piece of fabric an inch or two larger than the bottom of the seat, fold edges under and attach all around. This is the dust cover.

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Another good How-To and Upholstery Confidence-builder:
How To: Ugly Coffee Table Into an Upholstered Bench

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