Upholstering a French Provincial Chair

How to Upholster a French Provincial Chair

Who out there has a chair in need of a serious wardrobe change? I do I do! Or at least I did. My Mom passed on a set of French Provincial chairs to me that she picked up at an estate sale. They were so bad, ya’ll. Many of you know exactly what chairs I’m referring to. These lovelies:

French Provincial Chair Makeover

French Provincial Chair Makeover

Only they weren’t always so lovely…

French-Provincial-Chair-Makeover-33

Were they? If you can’t tell, the fabric has a terrible paint job.

I posted this makeover back in the fall and I had many requests to see the how-to on the upholstery for these chairs.

I’ll tell you, this was my first time taking on such a project, but I truly believe this is something anyone can tackle. Even if there were times along the way when I felt like this:

French-Provincial-Chair-Makeover-11

Ha ha! Good times. So let’s get started!

  • Take Photos

The first thing I did was take photos. A lot of photos, not only because I’m a blogger who takes an obnoxious amount of photos, but because you’ll need them to reference later when you put your chair back together.

How I upholstered my French Provinical chairs!

  • Remove Piping

Removing the piping gave me a better idea of how it was put together.

How I upholstered my French Provinical chairs!

  •  Label the Pieces to be Replaced

I used a sharpie to mark my pieces to use as a pattern for the new fabric.

How I upholstered my French Provinical chairs!

  • My Big Mistake

For some reason I thought I could upholster the entire chair over the existing upholstery. No problem. So I carried on painting the wood:

How I upholstered my French Provinical chairs!

It was after that I realized it would be impossible to upholster over the existing fabric.

  • Deconstruct the Chair

So I continued to deconstruct the chair, taking pictures as I went to reference later.

Removing the piping gave me a better idea of how it was put together.

I couldn’t resist another opportunity to show me in serious work mode. 🙂 Gloves (yes, those are gardening gloves), and needle-nosed pliers were my two best friends here. I took my chairs down to this point:

Removing the piping gave me a better idea of how it was put together.

This is the point where I should have painted the frame.

I kept the fabric on the top of the arms in tact and by the time I got to the second chair, I realized I could keep the bottom intact also. The rest of these instructions are the first chair with the chair fabric removed. My seats were in really good condition, so unfortunately for you I don’t have instructions on how to redo that portion, but here is a peek at what was underneath:

How I Upholstered my French Provincial Chairs

  • Cut New Fabric Pieces

I used the old fabric pieces as patterns for my new pieces. I also tried to be mindful of what part of the pattern would show where, since I had a graphic pattern.

How I reupholstered my French provincial chairs.

  • Let the Upholstery begin!

How I reupholstered my French provincial chairs.

I started with the sides. These are the pieces that will be seen from the outside. The staple gun I used was a $9 Stanley staple gun from Walmart. I used 3/8″ staples. I own an electric staple gun and a heavy duty Arrow staple gun, but neither worked as well as my cheapie version, and it was smaller and easier for my small hands.

Then I added the back panel:

How I Upholstered my French Provincial Chairs

Next I moved on to the tops of the arms.

How I Upholstered my French Provincial Chairs

 

How I Upholstered my French Provincial Chairs

Everything is secured using the staple gun.

For the inside pieces, I started with the back, using my staple gun to adhere the fabric under the top edge of the back and folding it over the front. I staple gunned it place down either side. You can see my mighty staple gun in this photo:

How I reupholstered my French provincial chairs.

To create a nice seam for the inside corners, I referred to my before photo:

How I Upholstered my French Provincial Chairs

I needed to create the piping pieces seen in the corners. For my piping, I use clothesline cording from Walmart.

How I Upholstered my French Provincial Chairs

I folded 2″ strips of fabric over the cording and sewed close to the seam (using regular sewing foot) to create these pieces (two for each chair):

How I Upholstered my French Provincial Chairs

I also have a piping tutorial that includes a SEW and a NO SEW version here.

I added these pieces to each inside corner, folding them over slightly at the top first:

How I Upholstered my French Provincial Chairs

To create a clean edge for the side pieces against that piping, I used a strip of cardboard:

How I Upholstered my French Provincial Chairs

Again, I learned this from the photos I took while taking the original upholstery off.

I folded the edge of the side panel aver the cardboard and stapled in place:

How I Upholstered my French Provincial Chairs

I reused the original batting, two layers thick:

How I Upholstered my French Provincial Chairs

And folded the side panel back over it:

How I Upholstered my French Provincial Chairs

Then I secured it all around the edges with the staple gun. These edges will be hidden by the welting.

How I Upholstered my French Provincial Chairs

Voila.

How I Upholstered my French Provincial Chairs

Just the seat and the welting to go!

How I Upholstered my French Provincial Chairs

The seat wasn’t too difficult. There will be pleats on the front corners, just try to keep them neat and symmetrical.

How I Upholstered my French Provincial Chairs

The final stage of this process is adding the welting. There are several options for ready-made welting on the market, but I wanted to stick to the original idea of matching welting so I made my own.

I posted a full tutorial on making your own double welting here:

How to Make Double Welting for Upholstery

I added the welting using hot glue and that is it!

How I Upholstered my French Provincial Chairs

 

How I Upholstered my French Provincial Chairs

You can see more pretty after pictures here:

How I Upholstered my French Provincial Chairs

Now that you’ve seen the break down, is this something you think you can do? Of course you can! One step at a time. Your hand might be in a cramp for a few weeks from all the stapling and staple-removing, but it’s a fair trade for beautiful décor, don’t you think? 🙂

How to Upholster a French Provincial Chair

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like to see how I upholstered my leather desk chair:

Desk Chair Recovered

If I missed anything, leave me a message in the comments and I’ll try to answer the best I can!

XO,

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Comments

  1. Thanks for this step-by-step tutorial. After seeing the steps broken down, I think this is a project that I could tackle. Now if I see chairs like this that need new fabric, I’ll consider them instead of immediately passing them by. Great job!!

  2. That’s a lot of work but they look great and well worth what you did to them. I really like the fabric you choose for them. Enjoy those beautiful chairs. Jo

  3. I’ve been waiting for this post Christy – thanks! Pinning for future reference.

  4. Nice…and thank you! The trick with the cardboard certainly answered my questions as to how that attachment is made. ~Julie

  5. mariah hensley says:

    I really enjoy all your posts. I have a leather ottoman that I am getting ready to reupholster, so between this and the office chair post I am all set! Thanks a bunch!

  6. Love, love love your chairs. You did a fabulous job re-covering them. Would you mind sharing where you got your gorgeous fabric from?

  7. marilyn polifroni says:

    Great Job !! they are beautiful … Did you take the seat off to cover it? was wondering how you stapled the fabric on the seat seeing the back and sides were done??
    Thanks
    Marilyn

    • Thanks, Marilyn! I left the seat in tact. The fabric for the seat went across the seat and out under the sides and back, and was stapled on the outside, if that makes sense.

  8. Gaye Ingram says:

    Christy, you should hire out as a technical writer! I’m a retired English prof and editor, and lifelong re-do-er, though my husband always tackled the upholstery of the sort you show. Still, I watched and sewed the welting. And this plain English, straightforward instructions, correct in language and technique. Good for you. I noticed that “y’all”—-a Southerner?

  9. Caressa Bashful-Tate says:

    These chairs are AMAZING! I really love the fabric! I used the tutorial that you posted for your office chair to re-cover my sewing chair (). I totally love the results! Thanks so much for the inspiration; I gain more confidence as I tackle more and more projects!

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