One of the easiest upholstery projects is a slip-seat dining room chair. These seats simply pop up from the chair frame, ready to be loved and dressed in new fabrics from the pros at Kovi Fabrics.
Project Time: 20-30 minutes per chair
Level of Difficulty: Beginner to moderate skills level
Why This Project Is for You
Collecting antique furniture is a passion, and if the bug has bitten you, you’ll be hooked. The problem is it can be challenging to make all those amazing–but odd–chairs fit together. With the same upholstery treatment for all your chairs, you can achieve just that.
This project is for you if you want to give your beloved chairs a makeover but don’t have the budget to pay for a professional upholsterer.
- Antique slip-seat chairs
- Fabric measuring tape
- An upholstery staple remover
- Pliers (regular or snipe nose)
- Cotton batting
- Silk bee upholstery fabric (S3382 Gold Neptune)
- Upholstery backing fabric
- Staple gun (air type is preferred, but manual kind also works a charm)
- A flat work surface
A slip-seat chair is one where the seat simply slips out, giving you a square wood or frame section that is padded and upholstered. This is usually wider toward the front than the back. To start, simply pop the seat pad out of the chair and place it on your work surface.
Now, it’s time to have fun!
Step One: Removing the Old Fabric
(0:53) Take the old liner off by simply ripping it with your fingers. Use the staple remover to remove any stubborn nails or staples that may prevent all of the liners from coming off.
(1:06) Using the staple remover, begin to pry the old staples and tacks out of the upholstery fabric. Take care when using the staple remover as the ends are very sharp, and if the tool slips, it can cause serious injury. To be safe, never place your supporting hand in front of the staple remover.
(1:40) If you find a particularly stuck tack or staple, pry it out as much as possible, then use the pliers to pull the staple out of the wood. Always secure the wood frame of the seat with one hand to prevent it from accidentally falling off the work surface.
Step Two: Organizing and Preserving the Padding
(1:47) Try not to remove any of the original paddings, especially with antique chairs, as this preserves the special nature of the chair. Antique chairs like this have padding materials such as horsehair layers, burlap or jute webbing, and natural cotton. These all add to the character of the chair and the unique feel of sitting in an antique.
While the chair is open, inspect its padding for signs of insect damage or mold. Treat these appropriately to prevent the new upholstery fabric from becoming damaged.
Step Three: Measuring the New Upholstery Fabric
(2:15) Measure the length and width of the chair at the widest parts, adding at least an inch and a half to wrap the fabric around the frame when upholstering.
(2:28) Clean your work surface to prevent damaging your new upholstery, then roll the fabric open, placing it face up on the surface. Flatten the fabric neatly, then measure out your chair length and width.
Center the pattern for each dining seat. In this case, choose a row of bees that will be in the middle of the seat. Measure from there, ensuring you have the same pattern repeated on either side of the central bee.
(3:37) Measure while cutting, ensuring the bees match all the chair seats to create a symmetrical look.
Step Four: Adding Extra Padding
(3:57) Using more cotton batting that will add to the comfort and softness of the seats, place a suitable layer over the existing padding. Cut the batting to size so it doesn’t fold over the edge of the seat, but it shouldn’t fold up on the front of the seat either.
(4:10) Shape the cotton padding along the edges of the seat to ensure a smooth finish, gently patting it into place.
Step Five: Centering the Upholstery Fabric
(4:20) Place the upholstery fabric over the chair seat, ensuring the central bee is in the middle of the seat. Gently smooth the fabric out by hand, creating a smooth surface while you tuck the extra length and width over the edge of the seat to the back.
(4:28) Carefully flip the seat, placing it face down on the work surface. Tuck the bee located on the center of the back of the seat, then use the staple gun to staple the middle of the back fold-over into place.
(4:57) Continue to the front of the seat, fold the extra fabric over, center the bee (on the edge of the chair), and staple the middle of this section into place. Repeat on the sides of the chair, gently but firmly pulling the fabric taut.
(5:00) Flip the seat back over, examining the upholstery to ensure the bees are centered correctly. You should see a tightened cross pattern in the fabric, indicating the fabric is tensioned correctly.
Step Six: Fixing the Upholstery Fabric to the Seat Frame
(5:22) Lifting the seat onto its side, pull the left side of the top fold over down over the frame, pulling with sufficient force to remove any puckers or folds. Staple into place with one staple to hold the fabric in place. Repeat with the left side of the top fold.
(5:47) Repeat this method with the bottom of the seat panel. Remember to smooth the padding and fabric to the side to remove any folds or puckers.
(6:00) Use the bees to help you balance the tautness of the fabric from the left to the right side of the bottom of the seat.
(6:38) Repeat with the left and right sides of the seat panel. Tension the fabric by rubbing it to the outside corner to remove any wrinkles. Staple each side to ensure the fabric is now correctly tensioned.
(6:57) If there is a bee on the left side of the seat panel, it should repeat on the right side, so tension the fabric to ensure an even pattern repeat.
(7:19) Remove any remaining puckers along the back of the seat and staple the fabric in place to completely fix the upholstery to the seat. Remember to work on opposite sides of the seat first. (Top and bottom, then left and right sides.)
(7:53) There should be no lumpy sections to the seat padding as you work.
Step Seven: Tightening the Corners of the Seat
(8:36) Taking hold of the center fabric of each corner, staple the corner into place. Repeat with all four corners. With your scissors, trim away any excess fabric, taking care not to cut into any of the staples. The corners need a lean finish to ensure they don’t become bulky once the backing fabric is stapled into place. Cut as much as you can of the corners, but don’t cut so much that the corner of the seat is exposed.
(9:23) Tighten and pull the left side of each corner over the centerpiece, stapling in place on the right side of the frame. Repeat on the right side of the corner, folding the extra fabric over to make a neat corner pleat.
Repeat this with the three other corners. If any staples are in the way, use your staple remover to pull these out and replace them as you staple the corners into place.
Step Eight: Adding Backing Fabric
(11:19) Cut a bottom liner fabric to conceal strings or staples. The liner should be cut to the same size as the seat panel, plus an inch and a half on each side to allow the liner to be folded over.
(11:27) Tack the liner on the same way you added the fabric by placing a staple at the front and back edge, followed by the left and right side of the seat bottom. While you don’t need as much fabric tension as the upholstery fabric, you still want to ensure the liner fits tautly and doesn’t pucker or hang.
(11:46) Finally, place one staple per corner, followed by a few more staples to secure the liner fabric to the bottom of the chair and neatly conceal any other staples, strings, or blemishes.
The Final Seat
Upholstering your own slip-seat dining room chairs is a breeze. With minimal skills, you can create a beautiful renovation for a classic furniture piece or preserve an antique chair while still giving it a more contemporary look.
As always, get the best possible fabric from Kovi Fabrics and speak to their consultants about making the right choices for a tasteful look.