Give that Old Chair a New Lease on Life
by Cheryl Lewis
Every one has the one chair, it might sit by the desk or in a corner in the bedroom, – you just cannot seem to part with it. It has become a part of your life and now you would like to give it new life. I have that very same chair, it is part of me – part of my space in life, and because I could not bear to part with it, I spent some time learning how to give it a new seat and a new lease on its own life.
I started on my project by turning the chair upside down. Examining the underside gave me a good idea of to start. Does your chair pad screw on (like mine was), nailed on, or maybe it is a part of the legs? If the chair seat is actually part of the legs, you may not be out of luck, but let me share what I learned with you – and hopefully you can put this information to good use.
My chair seat was screwed on, but in the event that your chair seat is nailed on – it can still be removed easily. Once I discovered that the chair could be saved using this easy method, I started to consider my options more closely. One of the easiest choices I had to make was what kind of padding I wanted to put into my new chair seat. There is a wide variety available – hard, soft, or plush, and you can feel the types available at a local fabric or craft shop near you.
I had to measure the actual seating area of the chair to be sure exactly how much padding to buy. Of course, I have other projects I am working on also, so I bought more than what I needed for this one chair seat. It is a bit less expensive to buy a larger piece than to have the store cut a smaller piece for you.
Now that I knew how my chair came apart, and what kind of padding I wanted to use in replacing the chair seat padding, I was able to move on to the next step that was - what did I want to match my chair to? There are many choices in every room through out the house; my chair sits in my bedroom. I could match the curtains, the bedspread, the carpeting, or the pictures I have on the walls. I choose to match my chair to a lighter color in my curtains. A gray fluffy looking tone, which will also match the fall, colors with in the entire room. Just think about the new chair will look – adding new life to a corner, a desk, or a wall like never before!
As I went to the craft store with my measurements and ‘pictured’ choices of my colors wanted I felt prepared and confident about my chair project. Here is a photo of the padding and the fabric of my choice for my ‘new’ chair. Materials did not cost anywhere near as much as what a new chair would, and my time was well worth it as I look at my finished chair.
Now I will discuss the next few steps in reviving your chair seat. My chair seat was screwed on, so I only needed a few tools to complete my project, which were a screwdriver (to match the chair type (Flat or Phillips head), a heavy-duty stapler, a hammer, scissors, and you might possibly need a long three-inch nail. If your chair seat is nailed on I learned that you may also need a pair of pliers and nails similar in size to the ones your will be removing from the underside of your chair seat. In either case, you will also need to take notice whether you chair seat fabric is stapled on or hot glued on. My chair seat fabric staples to the wood frame of the seat, so I did not need the hot glue gun.
Now I was doing well, the chair is easy to take apart. Undoing the screws one by one, I placed them in a safe place to use again, when I put my chair back together again. My chair seat came right off, in one large easy to manage section.
If you chair is nailed on I have been told that you can use the hammer to pry the nails out carefully – not to splinter the wood, pulling the nails straight out is best. If the nail does not seem to want to come out of your chair seat easily with just the hammer, you may also want to consider grabbing the head of the nail with the pair of pliers and pull very hard to loosen the nail from the wood, and work it gently out of its place.
Now that my chair seat is off the chair, I examined how the fabric was exactly attached for a better idea of how I will want to arrange the fabric when putting the chair seat back together. Depending on your particular chair – how old it really is, what type of fabric is on the chair, and whether the chair fabric is glued on or stapled on - you may find the fabric will easily pull away from the frame of the chair seat, or you may need the hammer and screw driver to lift the staples out of the wood. I found this to be a rather simple process. I had to use a hammer and screwdriver to remove a few of the toughest staples, but the remainder fell out with just a tug on the fabric.
I was left holding this strange looking square wooden frame for my chair seat. I took my padding and placed it over the chair seat frame. Making a couple of measurement marks to cut accurately the shape of my chair seat. My chair seat is more narrow in the back than the front, yours may be square, rectangle or maybe with a curve on the sides. You will not want to trim excessively to the exact size of the chair because when you put the fabric over the padding you will want enough ‘extra’ padding around the sides of the chair seat so it is not uneven or flat.
I then cut my padding, leaving about an extra half and inch over the sides of the chair seat outline the I had marked. Placing the padding back on the chair seat frame to double check that I was comfortable with the cuts I had made, I then was ready to start on my fabric. One note to keep in mind at this point, if you picked a fabric with a pattern or picture just make double sure you have the printed side facing the direction you are wanting to appear for the finished look.
I had my chair seat frame sitting on the floor and I placed the padding on top of that. I then took the fabric – right side up, and laid it loosely on top of the padding. I cut my material about four inches larger than the chair seat itself. I your chair is thicker (from top to bottom of the chair seat frame) you may want to cut a larger piece to ensure you have enough material to wrap the entire seat and to be able to attach it to the bottom of the seat frame. Double check your padding, that you have enough for a comfortable seat as you envisioned at the beginning of this project, you can add another layer if needed. I then took the pile (of the material, padding and chair seat frame) and neatly turned it over. Keeping my materials lined up I started to attach the fabric to the bottom of the chair seat frame.
I was careful not to pull to hard on the fabric, not to leave creases in my material. I started my fabric in one corner, then the opposite corner until all four corners were attached. I then was able to determine if I wanted to trim more of my fabric off or if I had just enough left to attach it to the frame. There really is not a right and wrong procedure to follow here, as long as you keep you holes available to put the screws back in place, and that the fabric is secure to the chair seat itself. If you are using a hot glue gun here instead of using a heavy-duty stapler, you may want to wait a few minutes until your glue is completely dry before continuing. I now trimmed excess material from the underside of the chair seat.
I then was ready to attach the chair seat on to the chair itself. Inserting the screws I had carefully placed aside earlier, into the holes from the chair to the chair seat, I had a great feeling of accomplishment as I tightened the screws and trim off the excess fabric. As you finish giving life to your old chair, take a seat to rest and take a break in your new chair.
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