Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Comfy Make - funky recovered dining chairs

In my most recent post, I made reference to our dining chairs, which had been a bit of a project for me late last year.  I realised that I had taken photographs with every intention of doing a 'Comfy Make' tutorial / ta-dah / reveal, and then never actually getting around to doing anything about it!  Better late than never though I suppose…!

You can cover your own chair inexpensively and quickly with very few tools or expertise

We bought the chairs three or four years ago, at an antiques warehouse close to where we live.  The chairs were a good size for our dining table at the time - sturdy, solid wood pieces that have a history far longer than their time with us.  I'm really not very good at dating furniture, but at a (very wild) guess I'd think they were maybe 60 or so years old when we bought them - they'd clearly been well used by others, but had also clearly been well looked after and cared for.  Yes, they had some dints and marks, but I quite like that in old furniture - it gives them character and is a nod to their heritage and past.

The seats of the chairs were covered in a sort of muddy green coloured fabric, which just didn't seem to match with anything we had and was really not my kind of thing at all.


One of the chairs with its original, gloomy green cover

A couple of the seats got stained relatively soon after we got them, as often happens when you have a young family, and we considered buying new chairs.  But these are so comfy, they're the ideal height for our dining table and structurally they're perfectly sound, so it seemed a shame to get rid of them.  Instead, I decided to try and give them a new lease of life by recovering the seats.

I'd never tried recovering chairs before, and I suspect my method has included a couple of shortcuts that would have professional upholsterers recoiling in horror.  But… to the untrained eye they look good and they do the job, so I'm happy with them!  I'm especially pleased that I took the plunge and did the job myself, giving the chairs a brand new look and a new lease of life.  And it only cost a couple of pounds per chair too - bargain!

Here's what I did, with minimal tools and minimal effort.

The chair seat just 'pops' out from the frame so it's easy to work with.  I turned the seat over and discovered that the green material had been simply staple-gunned into place. So I got a slot head screwdriver (the one with a single line across it, not a cross), carefully eased it under each staple and gently manipulated the staple out of the wood and fabric.  The fabric, once off the chair, was a great template to use for my new material.

Luckily, the foam of the seat was intact and perfectly serviceable for all four of my chairs - if you need to get replacement foam this is fairly easy to source either online or in places like Hobbycraft or Dunelm.  One thing to note, however, is that it's best to replace like for like - for example, if the foam on your seat doesn't wrap around the sides of the seat base then refrain from doing so with your new foam, as the chances are it won't sit snuggly into the chair frame if you do (it will be too bulky).

As you know, I'm not a fan of co-ordinating items in our home.  I much prefer an eclectic, mix-and-match approach. No surprises, then, that I chose four very different fabrics, one for each chair.  I tried to match the personality of the fabric with that of each of the members of our family, to give us all our own chair, so to speak.  I went for a cotton fabric - as it was my first time upholstering chairs, I thought it was probably best to go for a lightweight, easy to manipulate fabric to give me the best chance of success.

For the Girl I chose this retro-ish 'bottle cap' design by Michael Miller fabrics which, sadly, I don't think is available any more.  It suits her fun, fizzy personality and she loves it.


The Girl's fabric, which suits her fizzy, fun nature

For the Boy I chose this fantastic shark design by Riley Blake Fabrics.  I bought this, and the fabric for the Girl's seat, from Stitch Studio.

The Boy's fabric - he loves these funky retro-ish sharks

For the Husband I chose this sausage dog print, because he is a massive canine fan and is a professional dog walker by trade.  This fabric is by Dashwood Studios and is called 'Mori Girl Sausage Dogs'.  I bought it from online store Prints to Polka Dots.

The Husband's fabric - for dog lovers everywhere

And for myself, I found this vintage / retro / funky material. I honestly can't remember the brand of this fabric, but I'm pretty sure it also came from Prints toPolka Dots.

My fabric - sunny, sophisticated and sometimes spiky, just like me (honest!)

Using the fabric I'd removed as a template, I cut out a piece of fabric the same size and shape, making sure that the pattern / design would be the right way when securing the fabric to the seat base.

Now at this point, if I were being a little more professional about things, I would have hemmed the fabric and ensured that the underside of the seat was as neat as the top. But - who looks at the underside of a chair?!  I decided to get right on with the staplegunning…


No hem, no care - no-one sees the underside of the chairs anyway...

I placed the fabric right side down on my table, and then carefully placed the seat upside down on top of it. Starting with a side edge, and making sure that the fabric was pulled taught but not stretched so much that the pattern warps, I stapled the fabric to the underside of the seat. I then did the opposite side edge, again pulling the fabric tight over the seat but not so much that the pattern looks out of shape, and checking it with each staple.  I tucked the material under at the corners, making it as neat as possible (another benefit of using the cotton fabric was that there was no bulk at the corners).  I then stapled the top and the bottom edges of the seat in the same way.


The Boy's chair is complete!

And here are the finished chairs - ta-dah!

The chairs as a set! I think they look amazing together and really complement each other -
I had no intention of or desire to 'match' the chairs colour-wise but I really do think they look good as a set

The Girl's completed chair...

...the Boy's completed chair...

...the Husband's completed chair...

...and my completed chair. Ta-dah!

The chairs look fantastic, even if I do say so myself, and get lots of favourable comments from visitors.  They've moved from the dining room to the living room recently, to enable us to accommodate Dad's dining table and chairs, and they look wonderful in our bay window at the table where the kids play, draw, craft and do homework.


The chairs are now in our living room.

One of the best things about recovering the chairs myself is that it cost so little to achieve.  Because of the size of the seat, none of the fabrics cost more than £3 as I only needed a fat quarter per chair.  £12 for what feels like a whole new set of chairs can't be bad!

The chairs will inevitably suffer from wear and tear over the years, but for £3 a pop I'll just get some new fabric and recover them again.  Who knows, this time I might even hem them…


Not bad for £3, right?


I loved my fabric so much that I bought twice the amount, and designed and created this cloud cushion for our living room too!

I'm very proud of this cushion as I created the pattern for it as well as actually making it

I hope I might have inspired you to take the plunge, be brave and try something new with your own furniture!

Bye for now xx

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