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.ย 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 everย reupholsteredย 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!

signature2

I link up at these awesome parties!

Jessi Wohlwend

I believe that anyone can do crafts and DIY projects, regardless of skill or experience. I love sharing simple craft ideas, step by step DIY project tutorials, cleaning hacks, and other tips and tricks all with one goal in mind: giving you the tools you need to โ€œdo it yourselfโ€, complete fun projects, and make awesome things!

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Reader Interactions

  1. TS says

    5 years ago

    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!

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      5 years ago

      Oh my gosh, your chair is beautiful! I love that fabric!

  2. Linda H. says

    6 years ago

    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!

  3. Kirsten says

    7 years ago

    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?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      7 years ago

      Is there a backing at all on the top piece? How are the staples covered up right now? If you want, feel free to email me a photo at [email protected] and I can see if I can help!

  4. Wendy Verdon says

    7 years ago

    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.

  5. Janie says

    8 years ago

    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.

  6. Jessica Richardson says

    8 years ago

    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.

  7. LauraT says

    8 years ago

    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.

    • Jessi @ Practically Functional says

      8 years ago

      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. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Virginia @ LiveLoveDIY says

    8 years ago

    Jessi ~ it’s AWESOME!!! I was so pleasantly surprised! I’ve never seen an office chair turn out so beautifully! You’ve got ‘that’ eye, girlfriend!!!! xo

  9. Donna McLain says

    8 years ago

    Thanks for this tutorial!! It was just what I needed. We were given an office chair that was hot pink. My teenage boys shunned the thing. After seeing the tutorial, I recovered my chair in music fabric that I already had and it turned out great. Nice addition to my music studio! See photo: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Music-Studio-of-Donna-Mclain/360325470748074

    • Jessi @ Practically Functional says

      8 years ago

      Donna, that chair is totally fabulous! I absolutely love how it turned out! And I bet the boys are much more willing to sit in it now. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. susan alford says

    8 years ago

    Sweet cat…love the fabric you chose.

  11. Erin says

    8 years ago

    I love the fabric, do you happen to remember where you bought it, or the name of the print.

    Thanks

    • Jessi says

      8 years ago

      I got it at JoAnn’s, in the utility fabrics section, but I don’t remember the specific name of the fabric. ๐Ÿ™ 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!

  12. Debra says

    8 years ago

    Lucky kitty to sit on such a pretty chair. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. sharon says

    8 years ago

    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.

    • Jessi says

      8 years ago

      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!

  14. heidi says

    8 years ago

    Iโ€™ll be featuring this idea on OneCreativeMommy.com on Facebook. Be sure to stop by One Creative Weekend to grab a feature button and link up to the new party! I canโ€™t wait to see what you have to share. The party opens tonight.

  15. K Coake says

    8 years ago

    It looks great! I knew you could recover a chair, but for some reason I never thought of using new foam…great idea!

  16. Gina says

    8 years ago

    Super cute- I have been wanting to do this for forever. Thanks for the inspiration!

  17. Dawn @ Pretty Shabby Uk says

    8 years ago

    Wow thats lovely, you have made it look so easy. I think if i were to try it i would be finding screws that i had forgotten to put back in lol

  18. Jen says

    8 years ago

    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!

  19. Crystelle says

    8 years ago

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

  20. Becca says

    8 years ago

    Found you via From Dream to Reality… that is a beautiful chair redo!

  21. Christine says

    8 years ago

    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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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

  22. six sisters says

    8 years ago

    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

  23. Kathy Moody says

    8 years ago

    Wow, I love it!!! It is so adorable, and I love the material. Our kitties could be twins. LOL

    • Jessi says

      8 years ago

      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 ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. Danni Baird says

    8 years ago

    This is the best! I’m sitting on an ugly one now….but not for long! Thank you for sharing this…I’ll be trying it soon!

  25. Betsy @ Romance on a Dime says

    8 years ago

    I would love to update my office chair in this way. Thanks for sharing this tutorial! I’m glad you linked up at Romance on a dime! Pinning this.

  26. Helen says

    8 years ago

    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) ๐Ÿ˜‰ thanks for the post!!

    • Jessi says

      8 years ago

      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 ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. Peggy says

    8 years ago

    Love the fun fabric you chose!

  28. Shatzi @ Love and Laundry says

    8 years ago

    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. ๐Ÿ™‚

  29. Jessica @ Dear Emmeline says

    8 years ago

    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!

  30. Jodi says

    8 years ago

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

    • Jessi says

      8 years ago

      Thanks Rachel! I’m really happy with how it turned out, and I can’t believe I found that fabric on clearance, it’s perfect!

  31. Deanne says

    8 years ago

    I love the fabric and the chair looks awesome! If my chairs weren’t ready for the tip I would do this!

  32. kelley @ Miss Information says

    8 years ago

    Jess this is fantastic! It’s ok I’m crazy like that too! Thanks for sharing at I Freakin did it Friday

  33. April says

    8 years ago

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

  34. Anne says

    8 years ago

    I love that fabric!!! and it looks fantastic on that chair. Great job!

  35. [email protected] and More says

    8 years ago

    I can’t wait to try this, we have 3 chairs that have been banished due to wear and tear by the kids. Just need to run out and get some foam! Thanks for sharing!

  36. [email protected] says

    8 years ago

    Love your makeover! Great tutorial! Hope you’re having a great weekend! XO

  37. Cheryl says

    8 years ago

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

    • Jessi says

      8 years ago

      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!

  38. Katherine A. says

    8 years ago

    I’ve always wondered if this was possible. Good work!

  39. Sarah says

    8 years ago

    I didn’t know you could do that! Looks great.

  40. yvette gainer says

    8 years ago

    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 ๐Ÿ™‚

  41. Desperate Craftwives says

    8 years ago

    WOW!!! The chair looks amazing. I have a gray, sad looking office chair that is screaming for a makeover!!
    Blythe

  42. JES says

    8 years ago

    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 ๐Ÿ™‚

  43. [email protected] Feathers & Sunshine says

    8 years ago

    I have an office chair badly in need of some TLC. Seeing how awesome yours turned out, has given me the extra push to finally give it the attention it needs!

    • Jessi says

      8 years ago

      Do it! It really was a lot easier than I was expecting and I’m just thrilled with how it turned out!

    • Jessi says

      8 years ago

      Thanks Fran, glad you’re here!

  44. heidi says

    8 years ago

    Awesome job! I love the fabric. I will definitely be taking a second look when I see a desk chair second hand! PInning. Thanks for sharing this week at One Creative Weekend!

  45. Katie says

    8 years ago

    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.

    • Jessi says

      8 years ago

      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…

  46. Kendra @ A Proverbs 31 Wife says

    8 years ago

    Jessi, it looks amazing! What I want to know is how you find time to do everything, if I recall right, you work outside the home more hours than I do and yet you come up with this??? Way to go girl!

    • Jessi says

      8 years ago

      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!

  47. crystal says

    8 years ago

    This is fantastic and so is your cat…looks just like my Olivia. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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