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How to Reupholster a Chair Cushion

This tutorial outlines how to reupholster a chair cushion.

Learn how to easily reupholster a chair cushion

Earlier today, as I was working on reupholstering the cushion for my new desk chair, I said to Mike, “If you would have told me one year ago that I’d be reupholstering my own furniture, I’d laugh.” And there I was, stapling fabric onto a Habitat for Humanity ReStore $10 chair.

Turns out, the great thing about reupholstering a chair cushion is that it’s reeeally easy. Although it sounds like something you need to be qualified to do, it’s really something that you only need some fabric and a hand-held staple gun to do. And it only takes a few steps.

When we first saw the chair, it was in rough shape. I couldn’t tell if it was stained or purposefully distressed and discolored, and the cushion was a murky fabric with something cursive written on it. Here it is before a few coats of paint and some new fabric.

Here’s what I used…

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  • Fabric
  • Scissors
  • Flathead screw driver—you might also need a drill, but that depends on your chair’s construction
  • Measuring tape
  • Hand-held staple gun; I have this one

Step 1: Remove the cushion and inspect

The first step is to remove the seat cushion and inspect it. My seat was glued to the base of the chair, so all I had to do was pry the seat off. Yours might be attached using screws, in which case you’ll need to use a drill to remove the screws and the seat.

Next I had to rip the old fabric off. That’s because I quickly discovered that this cushion had been recovered at least once before. I didn’t want to layer too much fabric on top of the cushion, so I used a flat-head screw driver to pry up the staples and remove the fabric.

If your cushion appears to have its original fabric on it and it’s in okay shape, you can just upholster new fabric over top of it. I wouldn’t recommend removing the fabric as it would be much easier to cover it.

removing the cushion cover from the cusion

Step 2: Measure, mark, and cut new fabric

Choose a fabric, measure it, and cut it. Make sure you leave enough to wrap around each of the four cushion edges. I chose a stretchy knit fabric to give myself a little wiggle room and to ensure I could fit it snugly around the cushion.

Since it was stretchy, I didn’t need to iron it first. If you want to be lazy and not measure, you can wrap the fabric over your chair cushion to ensure you have a big-enough piece before cutting it.

new fabric for the cushion
fitting the cushion with new fabric

Step 3: Staple the first side on

Lay the fabric out with the right side facing down. Then set the cushion upside down on top of the fabric and start stapling the first side of the cushion. To do so, simply staple a straight line along one side of the cushion.

fitting the cushion with new fabric
fitting the cushion with new fabric

Step 4: Finish stapling

When you’re done, pull the fabric tight to ensure your next line of staples (the opposite side) doesn’t leave any fabric wrinkles. Staple it down. Then, staple the two remaining sides. Think of it like wrapping a present. You want to wrap opposite ends first, then the sides.

Make sure you’re pulling the fabric tightly around the corners as you staple. Before you know it, you’ll be done stapling. You can trim the excess fabric if you ended up having too much excess.

fitting the cushion with new fabric
stapling the new cushion cover on
stapling the new cushion cover on

Step 5: Reattach the seat cushion

Next reattach the seat cushion however it was attached when you began. If it was screwed on, use the screws you removed to reattach it. If it was glued on, use that method (or pick up some screws and screw it on because that is more secure!).

While I was working on the cushion, I gave the chair a few coats of gray to match my desk. I used two coats of Americana Decor Chalky Finish in Primitive. Then, since I’m not a huge fan of the distressed look, I finished it off with two coats of Minwax Satin Polycrylic Protective Finish, which gives a nice egg-shell sheen.

Here’s the final product with the cushion popped back on. Super easy, and the chair has a much cleaner, brighter look than before.

finished painted chair with a reupholstered cushion
finished painted chair with a reupholstered cushion
finished painted chair with a reupholstered cushion
before and after of the chair reupholstering

Like this? Check out my tips for How to Make No-Sew Pillows, my post outlining a Beeswax and Coconut Oil Candles Recipe, and my guide for How to Refinish Wood Furniture!

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collage that says reupholster a chair cushion with photos of he process
Brittany Goldwyn
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  1. Jenne says:

    Love this. You make it look so easy too. I am dying to try this but never been brave enough! I may well just go and do this now!!

  2. Sarah says:

    Hi! Thanks for all the details about painting on your blog. Questions…..is Primitive white? it looks like it should be grey, but your chair and desk look white.
    Also, how do you decide if you want to finish with a wax, varnish from Americana, or polycrylic ?
    I am looking to do various pieces in my house, but don’t know what to finish with.
    Thanks for your help!
    ~Sarah

    • Hi Sarah! Primitive is a very light gray. The line’s true white is Everlasting. here is another chair done with Primitive, though I’m looking at a Primitive-painted stool in my kitchen right now, and it doesn’t look that dark–but it is close. I decided against using wax because I want something that I could apply with less work, I also wanted something permanent. Wax looks great, but it has a steep learning curve. I love all the Americana varnishes because they only require 1-2 coats, and they give a nice matte sheen. But I’ve also used a polycrylic when I wanted more shine. Good luck!

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