How to Reupholster a Chair (with a Fabric Seat)

By Brittni • Updated on 02/15/2024

Learn how to reupholster a chair (the easy way)!

Learning how to reupholster a chair (like a fabric seat dining chair) is a skill that every DIYer should master. And I’m not just saying that because I have a chair obsession. 

It’s easy, only takes a few materials, and can really transform a piece of furniture once you know a few tricks. 

So today I’m sharing a detailed tutorial that breaks down exactly how to reupholster a fabric seat chair.

But also, it’s really just a good excuse to talk about this set of vintage chairs I found while scouting pieces for the show house makeover.

They are the perfect backdrop for a quick reupholstery job and look one thousand times better now that they’re all cleaned up with the new fabric.

Here’s what they looked like before…

The original fabric was dingy and basic, which made these guys look less than cute, let’s face it.

They weren’t horrible, but they also didn’t feel super special…and these chairs deserve to feel special. I mean, look at that open box weave cane webbing!

I knew that sourcing a cool fabric would give them a more modern look, to pair with the vintage silhouette.

And crossed my fingers that it would give them that little something extra they needed.

That said, here’s what you’ll need to reupholster a fabric seat chair or dining chair…

Materials for Chair Reupholstery

  • chair with fabric seat
  • fabric slightly larger than the seat you plan to cover
  • heavy duty stapler
  • heavy duty glue or screws (depending on how the seat is joined)
  • iron
  • scissors

How to Reupholster a Chair

1) Remove the seat.

After giving both chairs a really good wipe down, I popped the fabric seats off of each chair. This is actually super easy!

You can do this a few different ways.

In some cases, you may be able to just pop the seat off without any tools at all. Sometimes the seat bottom is just resting inside the lip of chair and not secured at all.

If that’s not the case, you can use a rubber mallet – hit it against the underside of the seat.

Or if the seat has been screwed into the wood from the underside, use a screwdriver to remove the seat.

2) Remove any leftover glue or debris from the seat lip.

This may not apply to every chair that is reupholstered, but it came into play on my chairs, so I though I’d mention it here.

If there is any glue or debris on the inner lip of the chair, scrape it off with a putty knife or something similar.

I used a screwdriver and it worked great.

3) Iron, measure, and cut your fabric.

Next, iron your fabric and then cut it down to size, if applicable. You want it to be around 2-3 inches larger all the way around than the size of the seat.

The extra inches will compensate for the fact that fabric needs to wrapped underneath.

For my chairs, I actually used napkins as the fabric because I love textiles and collect napkins as a way to have lots of cool textiles without having huge piles of fabric everywhere. This is a nice thought, but I’m not going to lie…I still have piles of fabric everywhere – I collect A LOT of napkins apparently. 

So, instead of measuring and cutting, I measured and realized each napkin was slightly too small, so I used a seam ripper to get those extra inches I needed.

I seam-ripped the underside of each napkin and then ironed the whole and managed to squeak by with just enough fabric to cover each seat.

The rust and cream abstract pattern is from Jenny Pennywood and the black and tan line pattern is from Block Shop. Also, Jenny Pennywood sells fabric by the yard here if you have a bigger project.

4) Stretch and staple the new fabric to the seat.

I staple the new fabric directly over the old one, so I don’t have to worry about adding new foam, etc.

But if the fabric is especially dirty or smelly, you may want to remove the old fabric and foam first before this step.

For reupholstering a seat, I always staple fabric the way I would stretch canvas onto stretcher bars.

So I start at the middle one side with a staple, then pull the fabric as much as I can (to make sure it’s tight) and rotate the frame around and put a staple on the exact opposite side, also in the middle.

Then, I do that on the remaining two sides, so that there is one staple on each of the four sides, in the middle.

I repeat the process of stretching the fabric, stapling and rotating to the opposite side until the entire piece is stapled and secure, like the photos.

Note: When you get to the corners, you may have to fold the fabric a bit on the back, and then staple, like the photo shows.

5) Cut any excess fabric.

If any excess fabric remains that makes the underside of the seat bulky or untidy, cut off excess with scissors.

This will mostly apply to the corners, since that’s where the fabric will usually be folded over a little bit after stapling.

6) Reinstall the newly reupholstered seat.

Then your newly reupholstered seat is ready to be reinstalled.

Depending on how the seat was originally secured, you can use a heavy duty glue around the lip of chair to attach the seat, re-screw the seat in (using new screws that are the same length as the originals), or simple rest the seat on the lip if no additional security is needed (ie it’s a really snug fit).

And that’s it! I love how the chairs look now – which probably has a lot to do with how much I love the fabrics I used.

But also…the caning doesn’t hurt. I think the only other thing I need to do to the chairs now is work on concealing the deep scratches and scuff marks.

I’m planning to try a walnut method, which sounds super easy. And will report back if it works.

Have you ever tried to reupholster a chair with a fabric seat, like this one? Can you think of anything that i might have missed that would be helpful to know? If so, leave me a message in the comments.

ALSO, curious to know, which one of these chairs is your fave? The Block Shop cream and black line pattern OR the Jenny Pennywood Abstract cream and rust pattern?

4 comments | Click here to reply

Great job. Your post is very informative.


In love with that rust and cream pattern!


Thanks so much Miss Agnes. Your living room sounds like something I would love, based on how you’ve described it. 🙂


I love both! Actually your chairs would look perfectly at home in my living-room, which contains a number of accessories in cream, black and rust, with a hint of deep red. I love these colors, they never feel old and the designs selected have a slightly retro vibe that matches the style of the chairs. Well done!

miss agnes
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