How to Reupholster a Stanley Dining Chair Part 1

Monday, April 4, 2016

How to reupholster a Dining Chair with Piping

All the way back in 2014 I stumbled on eight Stanley dining chairs for sale on Craigslist for $100. I didn't even mess with any bargaining, I just swooped them up! EIGHT chairs for $100! Woooo-Whooo!

And then they sat in my garage.

And sat some more.

Because I was working on other projects, sure, but also because I was scared to get started. I had no idea how to reupholster those bad boys and I was worried about messing them up. Eventually I gave my current hoop back wooden dining chairs to Katie in an effort to force myself to get on with it already. But instead I just brought six of the eight gold velvet chairs up to the dining room and pretended that was an okay decorating choice.

The good news is a year an a half later I finally finished all the chairs, amen! And I'm ready to share the journey with you, although I suggest you act like a sane person and start with one chair instead of eight. One chair would be like, a perfect project, instead of a go big or go home extravaganza.
The first thing to do is to deconstruct the chairs. 

Oh wait! The first thing is to gather your supplies. 

You need fabric, about two yards per chair. I couldn't decide between a clean linen, Restoration Hardware type look, and a patterned upholstery fabric for a really custom look. I decided to do the six side chairs in an oatmeal colored linen (actually cut from curtain panels that I found at a going out of business sale at my favorite discount fabric store) and the two armchairs with an ikat floral pattern that I found at the same store. You will also need a butt load of piping. I will do video post soon of how to make your own piping, promise.

You also need some tools and while you might be able to do it with what you already have, I ended up needing to invest in a couple specialty items that made it a lot easier.
1. A staple remover tool that you can get at any hardware store.

2. A long nose upholstery staple gun. I ordered mine from Amazon here. We already had a staple gun that works with our air compressor, but needed the long nose to fit in the channel that you can see in this photo.
3. Upholstery staple remover. It's nice because it rocks back and forth for finessing out tough staples, and the pointing nose can get down in the channel too. Another Amazon buy from here

4. Pliers for yanking out staples that won't come all the way out with the removers, and for grabbing at stubborn fabric that is glued on.

5. Fabric scissors

6. High temp hot glue sticks 

7. Staples that fit your special snowflake of a staple gun. Link, because I care.

8. A pen for labeling the different chair pieces as you take them apart.

9. A high temperature hot glue gun. I got mine at Ace Hardware.

Okay! Let's do this thing!

Begin by flipping over a chair and unscrewing the seat. Keep the screws together in a safe place. It should pop right off and you'll have just the seat cushion to work with. You'll see that the seat is made up of three parts, the outer fabric-which is wrapped around and stapled to-, the foam cushion, and the wooden base. Use a screw driver or staple remover to remove the fabric.

You will want to take one of the fabric covers off in tact so you can use it as a pattern for your new seat covers. After that you can cut and rip the rest of them off like a beast!

As you take chairs apart number all of the pieces so you can put the same chair pieces back together. So this is chair number four. I wrote 4 on the foam cushion, 4 on the wooden piece you can see beneath the cushion and 4 on the underside of the chair itself. When I took apart the back rest I also labeled the piece of foam from it with a 4. Even though all the pieces from each chair are essentially the same, I found they go back together more easily if you keep the same pieces together. Even with all my labeling I goofed once and put the wrong wood piece back with the wrong chair frame and the screw holes wouldn't line up properly. Doh!
After you take apart the seat, do the back. It's kind of scary the first time, but you have to use your scissors to poke a hole in the middle of the chair back. Avoid damaging the foam cushion as much as possible and cut through the fabric to the edge of the chair. You are simply going to cut and pull at the fabric until it all comes off. You'll see that the piping (sometimes called welting) is just glued over the staples used to attach the fabric to the wood frame. Use a slow and steady pressure as you pull; the more staples and glue that come off with the fabric the happier you will be because you won't have to remove them later. 
Once the fabric is all off you can gently remove the foam backing. You may have to wiggle it free from some staples. Remember to label it!

Now use your scissors, staple remover and muscles to pull off the back piece of fabric. 

Wowee! You've made a nekkid chair!
I wish everything was as fun as making a nekkid chair but unfortunately you have come to the less fun part. It is taking out staples. For this you will use both your staple removers, pliers, and swear words. Okay, I don't usually swear but I made a lot of unhappy growling sounds. You do whatever you need to do. I'm not here to judge, that is fo sho!
I don't think it is possible to get all the old staples out without going crazy. What you are working for here is less staples than when you started. You don't want the old staples making lumpy weirdness under your new beautiful fabric. And you also need some room to put your NEW staples. So just, you know, take out as many staples as you can before you need a valium. 

Be careful as you rock the tools against the wood. My chairs are pretty old and you can see in this picture how I chipped the upper right hand corner trying to pull out a staple. All is not lost if you do get a chip, you can hide it with a little bit of wood stain when you're done.

And that concludes part one-taking apart your chair. On Friday I hope to cover the steps for putting it back together. (Link to Part 2 of this tutorial is here)

Happy DIY friends!

3 Responses to “How to Reupholster a Stanley Dining Chair Part 1”

  1. Good work! They look great!

    I just donated a beautiful chair that sat for years in my house waiting to be beautified. It was sad! I saw it's potential, but alas, it will now be someone else's treasure.

    1. Sometimes when you know something isn't going to happen it's nicer to let someone else have a try at it. Life is to busy to feel bad about projects that got away-plus, there'll always be another beautiful chair to be found when you're ready to reupholster :-)

  2. Good work! They look great!

    I just donated a beautiful chair that sat for years in my house waiting to be beautified. It was sad! I saw it's potential, but alas, it will now be someone else's treasure.


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