Reupholster A Desk Chair!

I recently decided that my old computer desk chair needed a little face lift. The chair is about two years old so the foam had gone all flat and it was no longer comfortable. Plus it was boring and black and ugly. So I reupholstered it!

DIY Desk Chair Makeover

It’s so cute and fun now; it makes me happy every time I look at it! Plus it’s way more comfortable because I replaced the foam as well as replacing the fabric.

I was actually surprised at just how easy this was to do. I always figured reupholstering something was a “real” project, not just some little crafty thing I could pull together in an hour or so. But it turns out it’s a lot simpler than I had imagined (and it only took me about an hour!) If you have a staple gun and a bit of time, you can do it too! Actually, you don’t even need a staple gun, it just makes it a little easier :-)

Here’s what you need:

  • an old chair that needs some beautification
  • fabric (something a bit thicker than standard quilting cotton)
  • foam (can be found in any fabric store; I used 1″ foam but you can use any thickness depending on how cushy you want your chair to be)
  • batting
  • a staple gun and staples
  • a screwdriver

Note: If you don’t have a staple gun, that’s okay! You can do this with a hammer instead. Just get some carpet tacks (super short nails; you can find them at any hardware store) and hammer the tacks in to hold down the fabric instead of stapling it.

By the way, if your old chair that needs beautification doesn’t have fabric, you can still spruce it up and give it new life! Check out these custom bar stools from The DIY Village for a tutorial on fixing up plain wooden chairs or stools!

1. Take apart your chair

The seat and backrest of your chair should come off of the main spine part, somehow. If your chair is like mine, there are screws on the bottom of the seat and on the back of the backrest. Just unscrew those guys to remove the seat and backrest.

2. Pull the plastic backing off of the seat and backrest

The backing on my chair has a little lip that curls around to the front to hold down the edge of the fabric and foam, so it was pretty easy to just “snap” the whole plastic piece off. Just make sure to unscrew any screws and remove any staples holding the plastic backing onto the wooden base before pulling the plastic off. (Totally missed a staple on my seat and I split the plastic in half. Thank God for superglue!)

DIY Desk Chair Makeover: Pulling apart the chair

3. Separate the current fabric and foam from the wooden backing

Meaning, pull out ALL THOSE STAPLES! I won’t lie, this was the least fun part of the whole thing. I shoved a flathead screwdriver under each staple to sort of pry it up, then grabbed it with the pliers and pulled it the rest of the way out. About 100 times. Blech. My hands were cramping for sure. (JM says I need a positive spin here. I just sort of snorted at him and added this parenthetical. There was nothing positive about this part, except that it got me one step closer to the fun part.)

4. Measure and cut your foam

If you’re reupholstering a normal dining room chair, you want your foam about half an inch bigger than the piece of wood so that the edges of the wood are covered and soft when you’re done wrapping it all back up. But for my specific project I cut the foam to exactly the size of the wood board because the plastic backing wraps around to the front and I didn’t want it to be too thick for it to “snap” back on.

DIY Desk Chair Makeover: Measuring foam

Place your wood backing down onto the foam with the back side face up, and trace the edges with a pen. If your wood pieces are slightly curved like mine are in the photo above, make sure you press the foam into the curve while you trace to get the shape right.

Then cut the foam along your lines. Don’t worry about making nice clean lines here; it’s going to get covered up and you won’t notice any weirdness in the finished chair.

I also broke the top corners of my foam just to make doubly sure that the plastic backing piece could snap back on when I was finished. This part is totally optional, but if you want a gentler slope towards the edges of your chair just take your scissors and cut off the top corner of the foam.

DIY Desk Chair Makeover: Breaking the foam edge

The side of foam facing the camera is the top, where you’ll be sitting.

DIY Desk Chair Makeover: Breaking the foam edge

See how raggedy my cuts are? Doesn’t matter at all!

5. Measure and cut your batting

I suppose the batting part is optional for a cheap computer desk chair, but if you’re reupholstering real chairs you’ll probably want it. I had some batting anyway and figured it couldn’t hurt to make it even more cushy!

You want your batting to be about two inches larger than your piece of wood. Since my foam was cut exactly to the size of my wood I just used that to measure.

DIY Desk Chair Makeover: Measuring batting

Again, don’t worry about being precise in your cuts here. I obviously wasn’t. :-)

6. Measure and cut your fabric

Your fabric should extend over the edges of your piece of wood by about three inches. Again, I just measured with my foam and batting.

DIY Desk Chair Makeover: Measuring fabric

Fabric already comes in straight lines and right angles, so I made it easy on myself and didn’t follow the curve of the batting exactly. Cuz it doesn’t matter. Are you picking up on how simple this is yet? None of the cutting really matters!

7. Layer your fabric, batting, foam, and piece of wood and start stapling!

I cut my pieces in this order for a reason. All I had to do at this point was add the piece of wood to the top of the pile and everything is already in the right order for me to start stapling! (Just make sure, if you broke the corners of your foam, that the unbroken edge of your foam is face up.)

I lined up my piece of wood on top of my foam, and then starting on one of the short edges, I pulled the fabric and batting around to the back of the wood and stapled it on. For the first round of staples I only stapled it about every three inches or so. You just want to get it all stapled on. Make sure that you are pulling your fabric tight as you do this.

DIY Desk Chair Makeover: First round of staples

See how the edges of the fabric aren’t pretty or anything and they are only pulled tight against the wood where the staples are? That’s totally fine. You just want to get the fabric stapled on at this point.

Next I did a second round of staples. This time I pulled the fabric even tighter around to the back and stapled it on about every half an inch on the corners and every inch on the flat sides. I’m of the opinion that you can’t have too many staples…just keep pulling your fabric tight and stapling it down until you’re happy with how tight all the edges are!

DIY Desk Chair Makeover: Stapled back corner

See how much more finished the edges of the backrest look now?! And for corners, I recommend folding the fabric over as you go around and stapling through a few layers of fabric to get it all to lay nice and flat.

8. Reassemble your chair

Now that you’ve got your seat and backrest reupholstered, all you need to do is reassemble the chair! There was some extra fabric on the back of the wood (you can see it on the corners in the photo above) so I cut that all off so it wouldn’t be too thick back there. Then I snapped the little black plastic pieces around the edges of the entire thing. And they totally fit, no issues! Woot!

Then I screwed the seat and backrest back onto the roll-y chair spine part and I was done! Brand new, beautiful, comfy, happy chair!

DIY Desk Chair Makeover

DIY Desk Chair Makeover

DIY Desk Chair Makeover

Isn’t that fabric super cute?!

The cats really like it too :-)

DIY Desk Chair Makeover: Finnegan

This is seriously my favorite project that I’ve done. My husband thought I had gone a little crazy after I finished this cuz I kept hugging the chair every once in a while. But really, it just makes me so happy every time I look at it, I love it!

Have you ever reupholstered something before? I’ve seen some great reupholstering projects around the internet, but now that I have finished this, I’m a little less apprehensive about trying something bigger. It was really a lot easier than I had expected!


I link up at these awesome parties!

The following two tabs change content below.
Hi, I'm Jessi! Welcome to Practically Functional, a blog about real projects that real people can actually do! You don't have to be a pro in order to craft or do DIY projects; Practically Functional is full of projects for everyday life that anyone can do, regardless of skill or experience! Whether you're looking for fun crafts, DIY projects both big and small, gardening advice, cleaning tips, or quick and easy recipes, you'll find them here! Follow the step by step instructions in every tutorial, and don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions! Make sure you subscribe to free weekly emails so you don't miss a single tutorial!

Latest posts by Jessi Wohlwend (see all)


    • says

      Haha, yeah my mom wants to know that too. When I first started the blog she was all “Do you even work anymore?” Well, yes I do, but I guess I make time for crafting because it’s the fun part, it’s what I want to do to unwind from a crazy day at work when I get home.

      Plus, seriously, this took me like an hour to do. It was soooo much easier than I had originally thought it would be!

  1. says

    That cannot possibly be that easy. How cute it is!

    Also, Hyphen would feel your pain on the staple-pulling thing. Because do you know how they attach carpet to wood floors? Staples. And do you know what you have to do if you want to pull up the carpet and refinish the wood floors? Pull. Out. ALL THE STAPLES. Heh.

    • says

      It really is that easy, I swear!

      And oh man, poor Hyphen. I do not envy him pulling out all the staples for an ENTIRE ROOM. Bummer… I thought about a hundred of them was bad…

  2. says

    This came out really nice! I never purchase office chairs because I don’t like the officy look but now I am going to rethink that!!! GREAT IDEA :)

  3. yvette gainer says

    That’s totally awesome! I have at least 7 different chairs to do and just bought a book about it. Looks hard but I’m going to try. Love the cat he looks like my mr. Hobbes :)

  4. Cheryl says

    I am SO impressed with this! I keep thinking I’m not ‘crafty’ enough, but this shows everything step-by-step-wonderfully done!!

    • says

      Oh my goodness, I just want to reach out and give you a giant hug!

      You basically put together in one sentence EXACTLY what I’m trying to do with this blog. I don’t really consider myself all that crafty either, so I want to sort of “prove” that you can do these fun projects even if you aren’t a super crafty domestic goddess. So I’m 100% sure that if you have a desk chair you want to revamp, you can do it too!

  5. April says

    Jess, I love this one. I like the detail in your directions because I am not crafty. And your fabric choice was great!

  6. Jodi says

    This is absolutely adorable. I would have never thought to cover an office chair like this, but it’s just so happy.

  7. says

    Love this! I have an old kitchen stool that could use a lift. I’m not sur that a can take it apart but I was thinking it needs to be recovered with something. Maybe I could mod podge on new fabric at the very least!

  8. Shatzi @ Love and Laundry says

    I love this! I SO need to re-upholster my office chair. I’m so glad I found your blog! I’m a new follower from the CHQ blog hop. :)

  9. says

    This is such a cute chair! My chair at work has seen better days…..I may just take it home and make it fabulous like this!! Do you suggest layering the 1″ foam to make it thicker, or would you just find thicker foam? (I need loads of padding) 😉 thanks for the post!!

    • says

      You can probably do it either way… When I was at Joanns they definitely had 2″ and 3″ foam, so that might work if you want something thicker. Also, I’ve heard that carpet pads can work too, they are a little firmer so it won’t flatten out if you sit in them every day :-)

    • says

      Thanks Kathy! It sounds like a lot of people have similar kitties. That tabby color is my favorite; they’re so pretty it’s no wonder why :-)

  10. says

    The chair looks amazing! We love the fabric. Thanks for linking up to our Strut Your Stuff Saturday! We loved having you and hope you will come back soon! -The Sisters

  11. says

    Jessi, the chair looks soooo pretty and COMFY!!! Thanks for showing all the steps.. I’m very visual.. and now I know how I can update my chair too! :)

    Thanks so much for sharing this at The DIY Dreamer.. From Dream To Reality!

  12. Crystelle says

    You were very thorough withe new foam and batting! And it looks so professional when done…
    I like it a LOT
    {the fabric too….}

  13. Jen says

    That chair is adorable. I bought this cool orange and lemon yellow fabric months ago thinking I would re-cover my ugly green office chair but I haven’t tackled it yet, but now that I see your steps, I’m inspired for a weekend project. Thanks!

  14. sharon says

    What a great idea. I have been wanting a new office chair for a while, due to an ugly grey tweed cover, and now I know how to fix it. I would have thought it too difficult with the black plastic, but it looks easy. Thanks for sharing.

    • says

      I was worried about the plastic bits too, but the one on my chair snapped off really easily. Hopefully it’ll be that easy on your chair too!

    • says

      I got it at JoAnn’s, in the utility fabrics section, but I don’t remember the specific name of the fabric. :-( It wasn’t a special order or anything; I just found it in the racks at JoAnn’s, so hopefully you’ll be able to find it too!

  15. LauraT says

    Love the chair redo & the fabric.. I got some of that green foam in 5 inch thick for a window seat cushion and the ladies at JoAnn’s showed me hoe they cut it with electric carving knives. Might be more than you need for one inch but if your hands are cramping from pulling staples it might do the trick. Can’t wait to get to the ugly black chair in my office that has cat hair all over it. Thanks.

    • says

      Oh wow, I bet you need a big ol’ carving knife for 5 inch foam! If you can’t cut it with scissors, you probably can use a carving knife or a bread knife; that’s a really good idea! You could also use a utility knife and make a couple of cuts to get all the way through. :-)

  16. Jessica Richardson says

    Thank you so much for giving me the idea and showing us how to do this! It cost me $5 and I got a brand new chair. My fabric is similar and I added some padding to the seat and I love it.

  17. Janie says

    I’ve reupholstered several small projects, and it’s so satisfying! I took a class at a community college. One thing about batting or no batting- it’s always good to have batting, or muslin between the foam and the outer fabric so the foam won’t wear through. Foam is very abrasive and will cut through your upholstery fabric, especially if the piece get’s a lot of use.

  18. Wendy Verdon says

    I love it! I have a pink one when my daughter was in to the pinks from a few years ago. I did not want to just throw it out, so now I know what to do! Thank you for the great tutorial.

  19. Kirsten says

    I know this post is like a year old but it’s so helpful! Question, my chair looks very much like yours but has no plastic backing on the top piece, I don’t want the stapled fabric to be seen on the back of the backrest, any tips?

  20. says

    Thank you SO much for sharing this! Like you, I’m intimidated at the thought of “reupholstering,” but your blog post gives me confidence. I bought all the supplies and am going off to do it right now. If all goes well, I will be blogging about my experience, and referring people to your tutorial. I really appreciate this! Thanks!

  21. says

    Hi Jessi
    Thank you for posting this! I just recently recovered a standard Target desk chair for my office. I used some fun Lily fabric, and wanted to say that I loved your easy step-by step tutorial.
    I recently started a blog (mostly for family and friends) and shared my experience of recovering the chair, in one of my first posts. I added the link to your tutorial for viewers to follow.
    I Love my new chair! Thanks!


  1. […] Check out that beautiful desk chair.  (You’d better click on the photo to make it bigger.)  Can you believe that it started out just like the boring chair that you are probably sitting on right now?  Jessi (Practically Functional) recovered it with a fabulous fabric and created something truly unique.  Best of all–she shared instructions for how we can do it too!  Check out her tutorial. […]

  2. […]   I’m liking the funny picture thing. It makes me smile. I hope you do too.   Now for this week’s features!   Most Viewed    Reupholster a Desk Chair ~ Practically Functional […]

  3. […] Desk chairs get deteriorated after a while and it’s important for you to make sure they are comfortable if you don’t want to have back problems. So when you notice that the seat is no longer ok or when the upholstery is just too old and ugly, make some time and give your desk chair a makeover. You need a few supplies that include fabric, foam, batting, a staple gun and a screw driver. First take apart the chair and then pull the plastic backing off. Separate the fabric and foam from the wooden pieces and then measure and cut new foam. Cut the batting and the fabric as well and staple the new upholstery.{found on practicallyfunctional}. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *