Dining Room Ideas

How to reinvent a vintage chair

Weekend decorator: paint, fabric and a little effort have revived an old chair
Melissa Heath

Definitely in need of some love, this old timber chair nevertheless had good bones and a simple balloon back, a classic look that fits myriad styles of home. Paint and a new fabric-covered padded seat have worked wonders to give it a whole new look.

Before (Credit: Melissa Heath)

You will need:


Methylated spirits

Undercoat/primer (we used Dulux 1 Step Acrylic primer, sealer and undercoat)

New paintbrush (to avoid streaks)

Paint (we used Dulux Aquanamel in Vivid White)

Fabric (we used upholstery-weight cotton drill, Spotlight)

Staple gun

NB: If your chair is missing its seat base and cushion, you’ll also need: plywood, a jigsaw, foam and batting

From tired to terrific with a fresh coat of paint and fun fabric


1. To prepare your chair, give it a light sand and wipe with methylated spirits. Use a clean paintbrush to apply undercoat. This seals the timber, preventing the original paint from seeping and staining your finish. Once dry, apply two coats of white paint with a clean brush using long, light strokes. Allow to dry between coats.

2. To find out the amount of fabric you will need to recover the seat, measure depth of seat cushion and double the height plus 5cm extra per side. If your chair is missing the seat, like ours, create a new one by tracing seat frame onto plywood, then cut out with a jigsaw. Using ply, trace seat template onto foam and cut out. Lay fabric face down with some batting, the foam, ply and seat frame on top. Cut batting, leaving a 12cm clearance. Cut fabric, leaving a 5cm clearance. Alternatively, remove your chair’s existing seat base and old fabric, retaining any screws or hardware needed for refitting. On a large flat surface, lay new fabric face down and seat atop it. Cut out fabric leaving a 5cm clearance around edge.

3. Starting at the centre of your longest side, turn the fabric up over edge of frame, fold a seam (so ragged edges are tucked inside), and fix using staple gun. Repeat on opposite edge, pulling fabric taut but not too tight as you fix it with staples. Repeat with short ends, then follow your edge all the way around the seat, pulling fabric taut as you go.

4. Reattach your new seat to the chair frame using screws.

The finished product – easy! (Credit: Melissa Heath)

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