Of all the DIY projects out there, there are few that can make quite as big an impact as reupholstery. The only catch? Upholstery can often be outside the realm of the average DIYer, with complicated pleats, tufting, seams, and finishes best left to the capable hands of professionals who have mastered the craft. But fear not, eager crafters: There are still plenty of furniture items whose makeovers are almost too easy to believe. As in, nary a needle and thread required. To prove it, I'm going to walk you through one of the easiest reupholstery projects ever. The proof? I completed this one in about 30 minutes with just three tools. Follow along to see how it's done.
1.Pick your furniture piece
For a super-easy reupholster, you'll want to look for items whose upholstered parts are separate from their bases or frames and are a rectangle, square, or trapezoid shape. Think benches with upholstered tops, chairs with fabric seats, or ottomans with wood or metal frames. Flea markets, tag sales, or antique fairs are the best places to score these finds, as super scuffed or torn ones are sold on the cheap—I bought my small bench at a tag sale for a measly $15.
Pro tip: A good way to tell off the bat if an item will be a good candidate is to flip it over and look for staples where the fabric is secured underneath—or the edges of the fabric itself. Some pieces may have a paper or cardboard covering over the fabric edges, so if you see that but the upholstered part is removable, you should be good to go.
2. Select your fabric
Next up: picking your (new!) fabric. Think about the location of your bench and what you'll use it for. If you want it to be at a dining table, for instance, best to go for a performance fabric to avoid stains from any spilled food or drink. If it's more decorative, opt for a more delicate fabric—or even something textured, like a bouclé or sheepskin. In my case, I happened to have a few scraps left over from a past DIY so I decided to stretch that to fit.
Pro tip: When deciding on yardage, allow about 4 additional inches on each side of your seat. If your seat is raised, be sure to include the height of the side in your measurements.
3. Gather your tools
For this project, you'll need: a staple gun, a flat-head screwdriver, and scissors. That's it!
Now for the fun part: taking apart your furniture! Flip the piece over and look for upward-facing screws—they'll be the ones holding the seat in place. These are often inset into brackets in the corner of the seat. Using a screwdriver, carefully unscrew. Be careful, as the old hardware might be rusty, and you might get a healthy sprinkle of dust! Pop the upholstered part out of the frame.
5. Remove fabric
Using a staple remover or the tip of a flat-head screwdriver, carefully pry the old staples out of the seat. Make sure to drop them in a bag or trash can nearby—there's nothing worse than stepping on a rogue rusty staple a few days post-project.
Once all the staples are out, peel off the top layer of fabric.
6. Replace padding (optional)
Depending on the quality of your item, you may want to replace the padding on the seat. If you see any signs of mold or mildew, this is a must. It's also a wise decision if the padding has dark stains and you're reupholstering in a lighter color. If this is the case, cut a piece of batting to fit on the seat.
For an extra layer of protection, you can attach a layer of muslin on top, underneath your fabric of choice. In my case, the padding was a little scuffed up but mostly okay, so in the interest of time I decided to keep it.
7. Measure and place your fabric
The simplest way to do this? Lay your fabric down on a flat surface and put the piece you're upholstering on top (make sure it's facing the right direction!). Then, cut around the piece with four inches to spare.
8. Staple, staple, staple!
Pull the edge of the fabric up and around to the bottom of the chair, then secure your first staple, about 1/2 inch from the edge of the wood. Continue along one side, then pull the opposite side taut as you staple there.
9. Fold your corners
For crisp-looking corners, fold the edge of your fabric in at an angle, secure, and then secure the other side on top of it. This might take a little trial and error, but fear not: An errant staple can always be removed!
There's no need to have excess fabric hanging off the bottom of your seat, so trim the edges, leaving about an inch so the fabric won't fray past the staple.
11. Reattach your seat
Once the fabric looks good, fit your seat back into the frame. Then, place it on top of a surface and replace the screws that hold it in place.
Ta-da! You've got a brand new furniture piece! Take a seat and enjoy your hard work.
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