The Lazy Lady’s Guide to DIY: Upcycling Fugly Furniture

My name is Allie, and I love to make things. I am also cheap, lazy, and have the ability to injure myself with safety scissors. So when I say that if I can do this, anyone can, I mean it. In this first of many craftacular adventures, I’m going to show you how to paint and re-cover chairs. First, you’ll need to find an affordable piece of used furniture that you see some potential in. Craigslist, garage sales, and thrift stores are all great places to find unloved furniture that can be revived with a little paint and fresh fabric. I bought my chairs from a nice man on Craigslist who was leaving town and needed to get rid of them before he moved. They weren’t my style and had a few stains and chips, but I loved the graphic cut-out pattern and knew that with a little work they could be just what I wanted.

Chair Before Makeover
My sad chairs, crying out for a makeover

For painting you’ll need several cans of flat or semi-gloss spray paint in your color of choice and sandpaper. For the re-covering, you’ll need fabric, good fabric scissors, a screwdriver, pliers, a staple gun, measuring tape, and a hammer in case your staple gun isn’t top notch (mine sure isn’t!). Most of these supplies can be found at your local craft store or Home Depot. I bought my fabric at a local fabric store (the design is by Dwell Studio), but you can also find great deals on surplus or discontinued fabric on eBay.

To repaint: First you’ll need to pop out the seats. Just flip the chair over and unscrew the screws holding the seat in place, then push them out. Easy! Next, rough up the current finish with sandpaper. Be thorough, otherwise the spray paint won’t stick well and will flake off over time. Wipe the chair down with a damp rag to remove any dust from sanding. Apply the spray paint in two to three light coats, allowing them to dry for about 30 minutes or so in between. (This helps prevent dripping or bubbling). Tada, new paint! You could also use a brush and canned paint, but spray paint will get you better coverage and a smoother finish.

To re-cover the seats: First, measure your seats for the fabric. The tops of my chairs are 20×18″, so I used squares of fabric that were 28×26″, then trimmed them after stapling. Cut your fabric according to your seat size. Lay the fabric face down on the floor. Place the seat face down on top of the fabric in the center. That’s right, there will be no removing of the previous fabric, which is why this is so easy! Kneel on the seat to keep everything in place.

Starting at the front center edge of the seat, pull the fabric tight towards you with one hand while stapling with the other. If you mess up, just pull the staple out with pliers. The corners are a little more tricky, but all you really have to do is fold the edges in as if you’re wrapping a present so it doesn’t show at the top of the seat. Keep the fabric taut the entire time you’re stapling, from the front corners, down the sides, and finally to the back and then the back corners. It helps to have another person hold the fabric while you staple. Flip the seat over and make sure everything looks right, remove and re-staple as necessary. Trim the extra fabric, screw the seat back into the frame, and you’re done! With assistance from my always-helpful mother, we managed to re-cover six chairs in two hours.


Chair After

Chair Side

Have an idea for a craft or how-to you’d like to see? Shoot me an email at alliepersephone[at]gmail[dot]com or tell me your ideas in the comments!

By Bobella

I'm a twenty-something freelance writer and designer who lives in Memphis, TN with my husband, cat, and chinchilla. I require coffee and the internet to live.

14 replies on “The Lazy Lady’s Guide to DIY: Upcycling Fugly Furniture”

I like scrolling up and down on the page to view the before and after, going, “Ugly, awesome. Ugly, awesome.”

I want to add other places to find fabric, especially for small projects: garage sales, thrift stores, and fabric store REMNANTS. Always check the remnants! You can also get creative and recycle linens, blankets, canvas, etc.

Another important thing to remember is the durability of the fabric. If you’re recovering a chair seat, make sure you are using heavy enough fabric, otherwise it’ll wear/tear and you won’t be happy.

I don’t like the act of refinishing furniture, but I love that, for instance, I have a solid wood dresser that’s absolutely beautiful and cost $22 ($10 for the dresser at a garage sale, and $12 for the materials to re-finish it. That was, admittedly, after borrowing some power tools from my mother).

turned out so nice! the chair have a great shape to it but you definitely made it much better! I love making stuff like that. i have an arm chair that I found on the street next to my house that I sanded painted and reupholster it. it’s my favorite but I never get to sit on it cause it’s the cats favorite too.

I paint and reupholster a lot at my job and I always encourage others (who show an interest) to try it on their chairs and such. I think the biggest hurdle to re-doing furniture is the fear that you will “destroy the piece” or that you “don’t know how”. If you can get past worrying about ruining something (because generally you won’t ruin it) and jump into it, you can have some fun and realize it isn’t as complicated as it looks.

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