Fixing Up the Dining Room Chairs- A Sort of Tutorial

Dining chair makeover with new fabric and chalk paint. You won't believe the before and after pictures.

Goodness, I have been crazy busy the past few weeks.  High on my list of priorities was working on some chairs for the new dining area.  I say dining area because we don’t have a dining room, just a large open space by the kitchen.  I scored a few weeks ago when I dragged a table home from the local thrift store but until this week we were using the old kitchen chairs with the new table.

Last week I posted about my thrifting finds, including the chairs I found the basement of my favorite store, Diamonds and Toads.  Lordy, I’m in there every chance I get….I’m starting to feel like a bit of a stalker.  And I swear I buy a can of Annie Sloan’s Paris Grey every time I’m there, too.  There has got to be a limit to how many things I can paint in that luscious color.  If there is a limit, I haven’t hit it yet.

On to this week’s project.  The dining room chair makeovers and “How Not To Recover Chairs” Tutorial.

The new/old chairs, pre-makeover…..

How much do I love these lines?  Sooooo much.  Great match for that funky dining table, too.

They needed some work so I got busy pulling the seats off right away. I was so excited to get started that I told Tom (Super Handyman Guy) to go ahead and take the old chairs away if he wanted them. Tom is smart. He asked me where I plan to sit and eat while the new chairs are being worked on. Smart, smart, man.  So the old chairs hung around for a little while longer.

I got to work on them with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (yes, again!) in Old White. Truthfully, not my favorite white in the world. I like the Pure White much better but I thought that would be too glaring against the top of the table, which I was keeping unpainted….Does that make sense?

It took two coats to get them from the walnut stain to a soft creamy white.

Here’s another reason I love Annie Sloan’s paint….low odor and low VOC which means I actually painted these while the Bubs got to know his new friend Mr. Jumper.  There’s a shot of the ugly old chair behind  Bubs, too.

I let the chairs dry thoroughly overnight and then waxed them lightly and ran a 220 grit sanding block over them to lightly (very lightly!) distress them.  And then I buffed until they had a nice soft sheen.

And then they sat there for a few days while I tried to find a fabric to cover the seats in.  Surprisingly I found a great print at Fabricland in town marked down from $18.99 a yard (probably a meter actually) to $7.99. I had to dig through tons of clearance fabric to find something I remotely liked at a price I could afford.  (Why I rarely shop for fabric in Canada.)

I’ve never recovered chairs and that became obvious when I bought 7 yards. I think I used about a yard total for the four chairs. I have loads of fabric left but given that it was discontinued I’m fine with having a little a lot left over.  I do have four more chairs to do which will leave me with 5 more yards. This ends our math lesson for the day.

Pretty, pretty fabric.  So loving gray and yellow right now.

Here’s the sort of tutorial part of this article.  I say “sort of” because I appear to have done most of it wrong.  So maybe this is more like a “Don’t Do This” kind of tutorial.  Starting with measure before you purchase so you don’t have six extra yards laying around.

I measured the old fabric currently covering the seat and cut accordingly but added an extra half inch or so in case I was off.  I figured I can always cut the extra but can’t add if I’m short.  It was perfect and I didn’t have to trim anything in the end.

Here’s another “Don’t Do This” step.  Remember where you put your tape measure.  I managed to slice right through mine.

Then I got busy with the staple gun.  I figured this would be the fun and easy part.  So wrong about that.  I pulled the fabric tight and stapled away.  But for whatever reason, I couldn’t get the staples to go all the way in.

Are you freakin’ kidding me!?!  I’ve used this staple gun a lot and never had this kind of problem.  I was so frustrated and had no idea how to fix it.  So I took the hammer to the little buggers and hammered them all flat.  And my finger too, at one point.  Step three in “Don’t Do This”.

And, yes, I just covered over the old fabric.  Step four in “Don’t Do This”.  The chairs need an extra layer of padding.  I didn’t realize that until the entire project was done.  They are way less comfortable then my ugly, old chairs.

Am I going to fix them?  Heck, no.  We’ll just linger over coffee and dessert in the living room. Okay. I’ll probably cave and re-do them when I have the time and energy. Like when the boys are in college or something.

Having no clear plan I just sort of tucked and folded the corners and tried to make them all the same. I was going to stop and look up some sort of direction from all the spectacular Bloggers who have really good tutorials but I wanted these suckers done and just did my own thing. They actually turned out just fine. If you’re dining at my house and staring long enough at the corners you might notice that they’re not perfectly even or symmetrical.  If you comment on it, you’re cut off. I mean, what would you be doing down there anyway?

Regardless of all the silly mistakes I made in doing my first chair re-cover, I’m still really pleased with the end result.

Love them!!!

And the final step in “Don’t Do This”?  Always remember to re-attach the chair cushions to the chair.  Slumped down with my coffee for a good slouch the other day and the cushion flew off, taking me with it.  Feeling slightly foolish but still really, really pleased. Before and After anyone?


Liked this article? Sign up to get new posts delivered straight to your inbox.


  1. I'm a fan of Diamonds and Toads too. I've only been in there once, but I fell in love with it and Michelle is such a sweet person! I wish I lived closer.

    And yes, I'm a clumsy girl just like you, I do silly things all the time, and I'm OKAY with it. That's the beauty of reaching a, ahem, certain age. You don't care.

    I LOVE the fabric you chose and the chairs turned out beautifully!!! You are very resourceful. (And yes, why is fabric more expensive here, in fact, why is everything more expensive here? Bugs me!)


  2. Girl the Chairs are "Fab" I went crazy when showed a sneak peak of them. That's because I get plum excited when I hear the word THRIFT STORE. The Grey and yellow is awesome I just posted a chair redo yesterday on my blog using some grey and yellow fabric I got on sale also, those colors also inspired me to paint some night stands the same colors please go check them out and tell me what you think, it was my first chair re-cover…
    Good job though on your chair.

  3. Love, love, love the chairs! Already told you how much I love that table (swoon). And had I not read this post, I probably could write one just like it if I ever recover a chair. Sounds just like things I'd do! The leftover fabric…enough for matching curtains? Table runner? Placemats? I LOVE leftover material. I used to sew for friends and for pay I'd get the leftover fabric. Must be why I'm poor but have a ton of material. Huh. Imagine that. Anyway, one last thought….I LOVE those old chairs!! The one in the pic looks so interesting…with the leaves going up the back! OK. that's all! Dona

  4. I love your chairs and I love the fabric!!
    I was laughing reading your post because although I've never recovered chairs, I've done all of the above "Don't Do This" items! All of the way from smashing your fingers to cutting your tape measure! opps!
    Have a great week!

  5. Great "tutorial"! You made me laugh- you are fun to read, and I am totally bookmarking your blog! I adore the chairs and the fabric, and hope you post a pic of the chairs with the table (I'm trying to figure out what to do in my dining room). Thanks for the fun read!

  6. LOVE the fabric!!! I think you did an awesome job! My current project is a complete re-upholster of a big overstuffed chair and ottoman! All I've done to date is recovered chair pads like you. But how hard can it be?? Lots of tucking, folding and stapling, right? I did talk my husband into a pneumatic stapler so that I don't have the same issue with my hand stapler. I don't care what you do, they just don't go in all the way!!!

    I love your blog and will be a constant visitor! I read your post about doing dumb things and I don't think any of them are dumb mainly because I'm right there with ya Sista!

  7. I love the chairs! They turned out great. I can totally relate to the "what not to do." I recently reupholstered my first chair too. I thought it would be sooo easy but nope. I ran into a few issues too especially with getting the staples in. I saw a You Tube video where they used an air compressed staple gun for reupholstering. It looks like that works much better. I'll definitely be investing in one if I decide to tackle another chair.

    • Hi Diana

      The wall color is Benjamin Moore's "Stone Hearth" and it's actually more of a cool beige than grey. We've just moved and I miss that color…it's a great neutral.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *