Re-upholstering Kitchen Chairs

A project I’ve been meaning to do for a long time – re-upholstering my kitchen chairs. It was previously done in the early 2000s some time and since then the entire kitchen has been renovated; the chairs are about the only thing remaining from the ‘old kitchen’.

Before (left) and After (right)

I ordered some cheap leatherette fabric (after getting samples, of course!) and after jumping through some wild inefficient delivery hoops it eventually arrived, only to find that our staple gun was broken… but a few staple guns later I was ready to begin.

I chose a navy fabric to match the green/aqua colours of the kitchen – the aqua green tiles and painted walls, the dark green leather sofa, I don’t know why the navy goes so well with them, but that’s why you should always order samples!

Essentially, I just removed the old tacks & fabric, stretched the new fabric over and stapled it into place.

First, I had to dismantle the chairs to take the back off. The bolts that hold the chairs together have bent a good bit over the years, so that was a fun discovery… You might also notice the metal plates on the corners of some of the chairs – this is my dad’s handiwork, of course, fixing fractures in the wood.

I started by tacking the fabric at each edge to hold it into place. Because the leatherette is slightly stretchy I could stretch the fabric tightly and staple it in place to hold the seat padding very tightly – so the seat will end up being very secure and robust. Before approaching the pleating around the corners, I found it was helpful to stick a tack in vertically at the point of each corner. Then by stretching the fabric, pulling it together into small pleats and stapling as I went, I could get reasonably well-spaced pleats and keep the seat cushion as smooth as possible.

Pleats at the corners of the chair

For the tight corners, where I couldn’t fit the staple gun in to get at them, I tried a few different things. I had ordered some upholstery tacks along with the fabric, which did work, but not so much better than the staple gun to warrant using them instead. I also tried using a smaller staple gun, which is weaker but more manoeuvrable. I also did a bit with the large staple gun, hammering in the half-in tacks with my adorable ceramic hammer (from Tiger). In the end, I did a combination of all of these. If I was going to be a real professional about it (see below), the upholstery tacks would look very well running around the whole chair.

Finished chair underside with upholstery tacks at the corners

I trimmed off the excess fabric with a scissors and removed any excess or incorrectly places tacks. To re-attach the back of the chairs, I had to punch holes in the seat fabric for the bolts to run through. I did this by sticking a skewer through the bolt holes to mark where the holes had to go, then punching the holes with an awl. It took a while to get the dodgy bent bolts back in where they belong.

I’ve now got 3 out of 4 chairs done and I’ve learned a new skill and become more comfortable using various tools. I’m delighted how modern the chairs look, even though they haven’t changed much. Ironically, I took the UK Government’s quiz for what job I should do (all my British theatre friends are doing it to find out what career Boris wants them to “upskill” into) and guess what? Apparently I’m destined to be either a dressmaker or a master upholsterer.
(or a shelf stacker, or a biomedical engineer. But of course.)

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