My favorite pieces to paint are vintage and antique furniture. The details, scrolls, and craftsmanship are almost unmatched in modern day pieces. There’s just something so satisfying about taking a neglected dresser, table, or chair that was loved decades ago and transforming it into a beautiful, usable piece again.
Can I get an amen?
But sometimes, you come across a challenge that is different than your “usual” type of project.
Like these Parsons chairs. If you had an opportunity to do something with these, what would you do?
These are the dining chairs my family used for ten years – ever since my husband and I got married and bought our first house – until we finally got a brand new set. They’re very well used and I honestly considered just donating them to Goodwill because I didn’t want to mess with them.
They’re basic leathery Parsons chairs, with nothing special about them – quite different than the pieces I usually decide to redo. However I’m not one to turn down a challenge, so off to Hobby Lobby I went and found some gorgeous new script fabric to reupholster these babies.
First things first, everything has to come apart… (Warning: There are tons of photos because I wanted to be thorough for you guys!)
*This post contains some affiliate links so you can easily find the products I use and recommend. Discover all my favorite brands and tools for doing DIY makeovers here.
When you’re attempting this kind of project – one that you’ll have to put back together in a very specific way – take photos along the way so you can refer back later.
Also, put all the screws, bolts, and washers in a sandwich bag so they don’t get lost (you might want to label them if there are different sizes and you tend to be forgetful).
Next, remove all of the staples from the upholstery. You can use a staple remover, but I used a thin flathead screwdriver and needle nose pliers. Update: Now I own this inexpensive staple remover which speeds things up and doesn’t hurt my hands.
If you’re working on a Parsons chair like this one, when you take it all apart the back will look like this:
Gently remove the leather – you may need to use it as a pattern for the new fabric.
Thankfully all the padding was still in excellent condition.
Lay the new fabric over the back and cut off the excess – leave extra though “just in case.” You can always cut more off later.
Then flip the fabric with the printed side facing inward and wrap it around the chair back.
Make sure the pattern is straight and pin around the edges.
If your pattern looks the same from any angle, you can choose to use it lengthwise over the chair instead so you wouldn’t have a seam at the top. However, since I chose a script design, I had to do it this way or the script would be upside down on the back.
Think of it almost like you’re making a pillowcase.
Slide your fabric off over the top and then sew along the pinned lines.
Try it on for size and then make adjustments as necessary.
When I knew the size was right, I went back and stitched along the lines again and then cut off the excess fabric. I also ironed it again since this time it would be going on the chair permanently.
Cut, fold, and staple using the original fabric as an example.
For the seat, lay out and cut the fabric – leaving enough to fold it underneath when stapling.
Every time I remove old upholstery and staples I get an injury. 🙁
Also, I started stapling the seat and then my stapler got jammed and apparently I broke it while trying to fix it. (I don’t believe there’s any such thing as a completely drama-free project!)
Here’s a look at the underside of one of the corners. Those always seem to be a little tricky…
And this is Mr. GITG’s heavy duty Dewalt staple gun (below) that I had to use after my cheapo one from Hobby Lobby broke.
After adjusting the settings it worked just fine, but definitely made my hands sore afterward! He also has a pneumatic stapler that I need to try…
When the seat’s all finished, the bottom should look something like this:
Use your hardware to put it all back together and then you’ll have a perfectly (maybe imperfect, if it’s like mine) pretty reupholstered dining chair.
Keep going until you have a full set of these lovelies and then it’s time for a dinner party!
Here’s a closeup of the front corner:
Here’s a side view:
View of the top corner and seams:
Front of the seat:
And the script fabric. I fell in love with it and planned on redoing two Parsons chairs for today (and possibly all 4 of them), plus I had a coupon, so I bought FOUR yards of it. Holy cow that’s a ton of fabric.
(By the way, this is duck cloth – the type of fabric I usually buy for reupholstering.)
I only finished one chair so far, because we took our two older boys out of town for a mini vacation. And then I had those darn stapler problems. But hey, here’s a peek at our new dining set. 🙂
Whew, that was a lot of photos! I hope you guys find them useful and feel confident now to tackle this kind of project yourself. The most important advice is to use the original fabric as a pattern and take photos while you’re taking the chair apart so you’ll know exactly what to do and how to put it back together.
And who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired to redo a piece of furniture that’s not your “usual” style and you’d almost rather just donate it to Goodwill. Take a chance and see what comes of it!
So tell me – what’s your “usual” type of makeover? Do you have a favorite style or type of furniture? I’d love to know! – Jen
P.S. Did you guys notice that I did an entire furniture makeover with no paint?! 😉
Now it’s time for some Trash to Treasure makeovers from my friends.
These are the Before photos – click any of the links below to see the After and read the tutorial.
1. Artsy Chicks Rule
2. Confessions of a Serial DIYer
3. Bless’er House
4. Prodigal Pieces
If this reupholstered Parsons dining chair project has inspired you, please share it with others!
Larissa ~ Prodigal Pieces says
What an amazing new look! They are so refreshed and love the fabric you chose, Jen. Ooh, la, la!
love the new look! what you didn’t mention but was very noticeable in the photos is that the seam on the back of the chair is toward the back, and not in the middle – that looks so much nicer than the easier way i would have thought to do it! the corners on the seat look fabulous too! once, i used ‘our’ pneumatic stapler and blew right through the wood – so be very careful to set the pressure that’s appropriate for the wood! (love the new dining room chairs too!)
Geri Ann says
Love this tutorial…I’ll be doing this with mine! Thanks so much for posting…
Marcie Lovett says
Wow. You almost make it look easy! What a transformation a little fabric makes.
Well done! Wondering WHERE you found that material to upholster the chairs with, sure would like to have it myself!!
Thank you, Linda! The fabric is from Hobby Lobby (duck cloth).
Thanks so much, will be looking for it!!
Great job! Love it! Can you share where you found that script fabric?
Thanks so much, Vicki! The fabric is from Hobby Lobby (duck cloth).
[email protected] of Serial Do-it-Yourselfer says
Wow, Jen! You really gave that sad leather chair a whole new life!! I would have totally passed those by had I seen them in the thrift store, but the one you did looks SO good! And I too can’t seem to escape an upholstery project unscathed lol! My hands just look awful! XO
Chris[email protected] of Serial Do-it-Yourselfer recently posted…Child’s Antique Desk Makeover
Marie from The Interior Frugalista says
I had parsons chairs exactly like yours and for a couple of years contemplated reupholstering them. I chickened out and ended up giving them to my daughter. After reading your excellent tutorial, I’m kicking myself for not doing it because they were so comfortable. Pinning to share.
Marie from The Interior Frugalista recently posted…Rustic Wood Centerpiece Boxes repurposed for Christmas
Nancy @ Artsy Chicks Rule says
Now THAT is a trash to treasure transformation Jen!! Awesome job…I’ll think twice before I pass those up!!
Nancy @ Artsy Chicks Rule recently posted…DIY Tiled Frame Criss Cross End Tables
Lorna Price says
Thanks for detailed photos, I have 12 of these to do for the grand dining room before our house goes up for sale, so really appreciate your insightful tutorial. 🙂
Oh my, good luck! Be sure to pace yourself. 🙂
Nice job! I really like the fabric. I also did the same reupholstery to my dinning chairs. In addition, I sprayed water repellent, is it very handy… I don’t want any red wine over my beautiful chairs!
Jennifer Leon says
Do you remember the size of your material? how many yards per chair?
I’m sorry Jennifer, I don’t remember. I know I started with 4 yards and I still had a lot leftover. I might’ve used one yard total for this chair? If you have a pattern that has to be right-side up (like my script fabric) then you may need extra just to be safe. I wish I could be more help to you!
Where did you get the script fabric as well as the gray in your dining room chair pictures? Looking for some good fabric online. thanks!
Jen, Girl in the Garage says
Hi Ciara, I’m sorry but I don’t remember where I got the script fabric from. I usually buy from Hobby Lobby though, so they might have it there – or some other similar options. The dining room chairs (grayish fabric) were bought new from a furniture store. Sorry I can’t help more!
Mary Frances says
Thanks for the tutorial. I just bought 2 parsons chairs yesterday. One site I looked at said that it would take 3 yards of fabric per chair. That seemed like alot. I am glad that you commented that you thought you used about 1 yard per chair. I think I will buy 3 yards, that should do both of my chairs if I keep the fabric simple. Mine feel like they may need some more padding but that should be easy. Again…I pinned this for future reference.
Jen, Girl in the Garage says
I’m so glad you found this post helpful Mary! 3 yards definitely seems like too much for one Parsons chair, you should be safe for two chairs though. Good luck with your project (and have fun)! 🙂
I know this is an older post, but thank you! I have parsons dining room chairs that have the “leather” peeling off. I’ve used cloth covers for while but they still need to be washed each week, with my 5 children. I’ll be doing this project with vinyl if I can find some that looks relatively decent. Hobby Lobby, here I come! Question – how did u know or measure on how much fabric to get? I have 6 chairs to re-do.
Jen, Girl in the Garage says
Honestly I just overestimated and had a lot leftover (try to buy it on sale or with a coupon at Hobby Lobby!). Maybe buy enough for one chair to start out and then estimate the rest based on how much you had leftover? I’ve seen charts for how much fabric to buy based on the type of chair and they were way off (overestimated). Sorry I couldn’t help more – good luck to you!!
Manco Painting says
Looks fresh! Great job!