French Country Chairs
~An Upholstery Tutorial ~
Transforming a piece of furniture has to be one of my favorite things to do! I have found that some of the most amazing makeovers are those that change the entire look of a piece, which is why I love upholstering furniture. The process of upholstering furniture can be a tedious task for sure, but the ability to design and change so much of how it may look, can be very rewarding. Creating a new look with the use of paint and fabric lends itself to so many possibilities.
I decorate my home with some French country decor and I have always been drawn to this design style. When I ran across these two arm chairs at an antique mall, the french country design style immediately came to mind and I was excited to bring these beautiful chairs back to life.
When thinking about a design, I pictured a ticking stripe or a french graphic fabric to add some character.
When I got home and cleaned them up, I decided I wanted both a french graphic and a ticking stripe on the fabric. I chose a cream canvas for the seat cushion and chair back fabric and a burlap for the back rest. Adding burlap trim to go around the canvas and some decorative nails to accent the trim would tie it all together. I will show you each step I took to customize the chairs in this tutorial, so let's get started.
As I said before, re-upholstering a chair can be tedious and mainly because it takes time to take the previous upholstery apart. I think I took a million rusted tiny nails out of about 5 layers of fabric, by the time I got it stripped down to just a muslin layer of fabric left on the seat. I decided to leave this layer and upholster over it using quilt batting to add some cushion and provide a barrier for the new fabric. I did this for germaphobic reasons! Yes, I'm a germaphobe and your welcome because I can assure you, due to my heebie-jeebies, that it was as good as new before I covered it. If the muslin had been dirty or stained, I would have replaced it but it looked to be in good shape. That didn't keep me from vacuuming it, wiping it with a soapy damp cloth, spraying it with fabric spray and drying it before applying the batting and new fabric. :) Here is what it looked like stripped down and cleaned prior to painting the chair frame.
After I painted the frame with 3 coats of chalk paint, I sanded it for a light distressing and waxed it with Annie Sloan's clear wax. You can see from the pictures below that the batting was attached and it was ready for upholstery. (See all the million holes in the back rest? Those were from the nails I took out of that thing!)
Next, I wanted a medium gray ticking stripe on the fabric that I knew I would have to paint in order to get the look I wanted. If you have never painted fabric before, no worries, I will show you how to do that step next. First, I taped off the stripes, then chalk painted one coat, fairly generously, onto the canvas. As the canvas dries it can gather the fabric. Don't worry about this because you will sand the paint down and stretch the fabric back down. If you don't want the fabric to gather however, take a spray bottle and lightly mist your fabric with water before you paint. It will take a little bit longer to dry and that is why I didn't bother with this step. Time is of the essence people! Just kidding, since I have done it both ways and either way works fine, do what feels better for you!
After your paint dries, peel back the paint tape and sand the stripes with a 150-220 grit sand paper. Sanding the paint will smooth out the fabric, as well as make it feel soft and part of the fabric. Once you are done sanding, it is really hard to tell the stripe is painted on if you didn't know that.
Now it's time to upholster your chair! Here I will walk you through the steps I follow to make sure the fabric is as tight as possible when attaching it. You will cut your fabric before attaching it , leaving about an inch to 1/2 inch of additional fabric to fold under the edges. Attach your fabric with a staple gun starting in the front, making sure the stripe is centered and attach about 4-5 staples across the front to secure it in place. I fold about a 1/2 inch of the fabric under the edge where I will staple it to get a tighter fit.
I then will move directly around the back, pulling the fabric as tight as possible and securing, from the center out again, about 4 or 5 staples. At this point, I go to the sides and starting in the center, pulling fabric tight, secure the same 4-5 staples across. Rotate to the opposite side and do the same thing. Now all four sides are secured from the center and you will work from the inside out to the edges to secure the fabric tight. I usually rotate front to back and side to side, securing the same amount of staples each time for each side to make sure it is uniform. Once I got to the edges, I cut and folded the material to form squares around the sides to meet the wooden legs. I'm sorry I forgot to take pictures of this step, but you just fold the excess material under to make the edges tight, like you did around the perimeter. As a side note, because my legs were square meeting the fabric, I cut a square section from the fabric to meet the legs, leaving that 1/2 inch extra fabric to fold it in and secure it. Sometimes you will just have a seat cushion that is inset into the frame of the chair, without meeting legs, and you will just fold the fabric under the lip of the seat to make the edge, which is much easier to do.
Once the fabric was stapled, I added burlap decorative trim with a hot glue gun. After the trim was attached, I hammered the decorative nails into the trim to give it some french country flair.
The seat back of my chair had burlap, which of course I didn't get pictures of that part! Boo! On the back rest front, I simply ironed on a french graphic using a freezer paper transfer method. I used the tutorial from The Graphic's Fairy, which is also where I printed the French graphic. I will provide a link to the iron on transfer method here for instructions. If you are looking for beautiful free graphics that you can use and print at home for your DIY projects, then check out The Graphic's Fairy website @ www.thegraphicsfairy.com. It's also a great place to find some amazing DIY craft ideas and furniture tutorials!
Again, I attached the fabric using my staple gun and used the same burlap trim that I did on the bottom seat cushion. I used these small trim nails to add accent to the top back rest instead of the decorative nails just because the other ones seemed too big. Here is a look at the final projects and a round table that I painted to match the chairs.
These pieces are at our booth space at Daisies & Olives Antique Mall in Prairie Grove, Arkansas. I hope this tutorial was helpful to you for your next design project! If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below!
Here is another look at the before and after:
Until next time..........I leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Albert Einstein,
"Creativity is intelligence having fun!"