the armchair makeover – not really a tutorial!

by Sharon Santoni
Today, I get to show you how my chair has turned out.  Not totally perfect, I grant you, but for someone who’s never trained in upholstery it’s altogether passable and, most of all I enjoyed doing it.
white wingback chair with pink striped cushion
I’m not really taking the credit here,  I simply followed step by step the advice of Mr Desmond Gaston (what a splendid name) whose book I bought years ago.   So this is not a tutorial, simply wanted to show you how simple this can be.
two wingback armchairs, one covered in pink material and the other in white
Here’s the before and after, I found these two ‘cousin’ chairs a few weeks back, both upholstered in the pink material.  Both rather tired, but I liked their shape, known here as ‘Napoleon III’
The first step is undressing the chair.  This gets messy – be warned, – definitely a good job to do outside.  I had no intention of re-doing the stuffing of the chair, I simply wanted to replace the fabric cover.
undressing the pink armchair for reupholstering

Once the chair was undressed I realised I was gong to have to replace the webbing straps supporting the springs in the seat and back.

shot of the undressed chair with webbing straps on the back
With Desmond perched beside me and the right tool in my hand it was easy to stretch the straps tight and the seat magically raised itself back into the right position.
All the tools I needed are here, you probably already have most of them at home.  Essential are the tack lifter (5) and the web stretcher (2).
tools needed for reupholstering a chair, labeled with numbers
1.  THE book!  2.web stretcher;  3.curved needle; 4.scissors; 5.tack lifter;
6. webbing; 7. tacks; 8. pins and large upholsterer pins; 9. stapler and 10. hammer.
Once I was happy with the spring support I could start re-covering, I used the pieces of material I had stripped off the chair as a pattern, and cut around them leaving an extra 2″ in all  directions to allow for my inexperience and give me plenty to pull on.
wingback chair in the process of being recovered with a white linen sheet
As you can see I love to work outside, whenever the weather allows.  The picture below show one of the most fiddly bits, adjusting the pleats around the arm.   These big upholstery pins are really useful.
detail of the readjusted pleats on the arm of the chair
Reupholstering a chair in this manner is far easier than making a fitted slip cover because each piece is adjusted individually.  Get one piece right then move on.  Start with the seat, then the inside back; inside arms; outside arms then outside back, followed by a skirt if necessary.
I used one of my antique sheets for this project but bought some ticking for the seat.  I used a strip of the ticking to cover the piping around the little skirt.  Desmond approved of this idea!
ticked piping above the skirt of the recovered chair
The sheet I used was discoloured on one side so could no longer be used as a bed sheet.  The material was still strong and the small monogram rather pretty.  When the seat was finished I applied the monogram to the head of the chair with small hand stitches.
monogram on the back of the recovered chair, next to a vase of flowers on a table[blank]
recovered chair, with white linen back and pink striped seat cushion
Voila!  Now I just have to do the other one, probably in matching materials.  Then I’ll move onto the sofa.   For that I may well used this totally wonderful vintage ticking that I bought  at a brocante sale recently.  Just love this dark dark grey and white stripe, and love the ticking theme continued.  Next instalment soon  … ish!
side by side armchairs, with grey and white ticking draped across the uncovered chair


My Little World April 6, 2011 - 1:51 pm

I enjoyed reading this post, thank you. I love lots of pictures too.

Karen Workman April 6, 2011 - 1:53 pm

You are SO clever! I never would have thought that was an old sheet. And I love the monogram sewed on. Great project!

Kathy April 6, 2011 - 2:13 pm

S….this is one of my favorite posts that you have ever done. You took the perfect pictures to correspond with your descriptions. The chair is lovely and the monogram makes it. I can not wait to see the sofa. Thank you for posting this…k

IAMSNOWFLAKE April 6, 2011 - 2:22 pm

The chair looks lovely. Can´t wait to see the finished sofa.

The enchanted home April 6, 2011 - 2:57 pm

I am so impressed, what a makeover!! I absolutley love the elegant sweetness of the finished product, the monogram was the crowning touch..fabulous!

Divine Theatre April 6, 2011 - 3:31 pm

You are amazing!

I Dream Of April 6, 2011 - 3:34 pm

Impressive and inspiring. I'm looking at the "ugly chair" my husband brought into our marriage with a raised eyebrow… it could be next.
You did a fantastic job!

The Shade Shop, Inc. April 6, 2011 - 3:39 pm

You are a brave woman to attempt upholstering with only a book……however, c'est formidable!!!!! You've inspired me!

Jeanne April 6, 2011 - 4:24 pm

I am so impressed!! The chair looks stunning and I love your choice of fabric for the other chair. Will these be 'his and hers' for your home?

Jeanne xx

Blondie's Journal April 6, 2011 - 6:23 pm

This is amazing…you did a wonderful job and the pictures outside make this post magazine worthy!! Very well done, Sharon! I can't wait to see the other two pieces.


LA POUYETTE - und die "Dinge des Lebens" April 6, 2011 - 6:37 pm

Well done Sharon! Love the "tableau" of tools!

Sunny greetings to Normandy from Périgord

Lorrie April 6, 2011 - 6:54 pm

You did an amazing job. The chair looks wonderful! I've thought of doing something like this, but lack the nerve. You make it look attainable.

Emily April 6, 2011 - 7:39 pm

Wow, the makeover is magical, you make it look so easy. I'm so impressed and love, love the finished chair. It looks very French. Congratulations…….great job!

The French Hutch

Bella April 6, 2011 - 8:56 pm

It turned out wonderfully! You did a fantastic job. It looks beautiful.

Mark D. Ruffner April 6, 2011 - 9:36 pm

A most inspiring posting! You're a role model for us all!

Ange April 6, 2011 - 10:17 pm

I'm truly impressed. Gotta get me one of them tack lifter thingamabobs!!
You do make it look so easy…And I KNOW it's not!!

Sarah B April 6, 2011 - 11:31 pm

It looks fabulous! You have done such a great job!

Acquired Objects April 7, 2011 - 12:54 am

If you had fun Sharon, then that is all that matters but personally I think you did a wonderful job!

Mariette April 7, 2011 - 3:27 am

Dearest Sharon,

You're quite brave to start doing this but the endresult is very rewarding!
Love the striped Toile de Jouy and you're so right for doing it outside…

Lots of love,


Beth - In My World... April 7, 2011 - 3:45 am

Sharon – Brava! Absolutely beautiful!

I purchased two chairs several years ago that I have always wanted to reupholster but the thought of attempting this DIY terrifies me.

I will have to see if I can find this book…but I don't think I possess your courage or talent!

Julie@beingRUBY April 7, 2011 - 5:42 am

Fabulous Sharon.. you did a wonderful job… Desmond too..
Love the grey ticking also… clever you… ciao xxx Julie

Ideezine April 7, 2011 - 8:14 am

Loved the project. Nothing fills the heart more than a craft well done. I enjoy these types of impact projects. They give you ambition for the next one. Lovely!


Jenny April 7, 2011 - 11:27 am

Fabulous! You have done an amazing job – well done! 😉

Grace @ Sense and Simplicity April 7, 2011 - 1:41 pm

Well I for one don't see any mistakes – it looks amazing and I love the contrasting fabrics you used. Are your two chairs slightly different in size (a Mr and Mrs set?). I especially love the little ruffled skirt with piping trim.

webb April 8, 2011 - 1:58 am

There are few things as rewarding as reupholstering yourself, and then using the piece for years – knowing every time you sit down that YOU did it! Haven't done anything in more than 10 years, but still remember the good feeling fo finishing up and having a lovely piece. Good work, and great photos.

Millie April 8, 2011 - 6:08 am

Sharon you are too modest – this result is awesome! Truly one of a kind & sooooo you.
Millie x

angebleu April 9, 2011 - 6:08 am

Thank you for the clear step by step pictures – the result is certainly worthwhile. Your blog is wonderfully diverse and I will be following.


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