This particular post is an exciting one for me. I always love a good challenge, and this project was definitely that.
My friend, Suz, bought a cute little bench on Move Loot. She planned to get it reupholstered so that it would better match her home decor. The original bench was actually in really good shape, and the fabric wasn’t awful. It just wasn’t what she wanted for the house. I can totally relate.
So she started doing some research on local companies that could give her the look she wanted. It was a discouraging process to say the least. I think her exact words were “they asked for one of my kidneys and home cooked meals for a year”. In other words, professional reupholstering is expensive!
I’d given her the very limited information I had on local companies in the area. I’d also suggested that she and I could try to do the project ourselves if she couldn’t find a reasonable price for the professional work. Needless to say, that is the option we settled on.
The key to success on a big project that you virtually know nothing about is low expectations. Neither one of us had ever taken on a task this daunting. I replaced the fabric on the glider for our nursery, but that seemed to be a lot less involved. Just the word “reupholster” is a little scary, but we dove right in.
Suz had the bench delivered to my house and she picked out a fabric that she liked and some white chalk paint for the legs. We found a few pictures on Pinterest and I read some good tutorials as well. Once I had the general process figured out, we got to work.
The first step was to take a lot of pictures of the original bench. This is probably the most important step of all. I took pictures of every nook and cranny, tuck and turn, and all the staples. And let me tell you, there were A LOT of staples.
The pictures served as a map and overall guideline for reassembly. I referenced them throughout the entire process and lived by the information they provided. So this step is crucial.
Once I had all the pictures, Suz and I started pulling out staples. There was a thin fabric layer on the bottom of the bench that we removed first along with the legs. This exposed the guts of the bench and gave us a better idea of what we were working with.
Under that layer, we could see where the actual bench fabric was folded and attached to the wooden structure. We took a lot of pictures of these parts as well.
Once we had our photos, we studied what part to remove next. The goal was to remove the parts one piece at a time so we could take pictures and keep track of what went where. So we continued with the sides of the bench under the arms.
These pieces were fabric rectangles that were attached with metal tack strips on each side and a thin piece of cardboard right under the arms. The bottom was stapled on the underside of the bench.
We removed those two pieces, took lots of pictures, and put them off to the side. Then we repeated those steps for the next part.
We pulled the buttons out of the arms and started unfolding the creased fabric, but then we realized that the front and back pieces of the bench were actually stapled over parts of the arms. So we switched gears and removed those pieces instead.
As you can see from the original pictures, there was a fabric piece that wrapped around the front and the back of the bench that had some sort of tubing sewed into it. We removed those two pieces and set them off to the side as well.
The piece with the tubing looked like it had been covering up a bunch of the staples for the other pieces which made a lot of sense. So we look more pictures, and continued to remove more fabric.
These particular pictures may not be the most helpful tutorial photos, but they do document the process along the way. Every piece of furniture is different, and the only way to know exactly what needs to be done is to figure out how the piece was originally constructed and try to replicate that.
The next pieces we removed were the arms. This was a bit of a debacle. I was trying to take pictures of the way the fabric was folded, but it was much harder than it seemed. The pictures I took at the beginning of the process proved to be more helpful than the ones I took while removing these parts, but we managed.
Once the arm pieces were removed, the only part left was the piece that covered the seat of the bench. It was one large piece that folded under the bench on the front and back. It also had a piece that stuck through the space between the seat and the arms and was stapled to each side. It was the biggest and easiest piece to remove, but the pictures might look a little confusing.
Once we had all the original fabric removed, we started cutting the new fabric. The easiest way to handle this step is to place the old fabric pieces right on top of the new fabric and cut them out so they match the shape and size of the pieces removed. I did give the new pieces a little bit of extra fabric around the edges as a buffer. I used pins to keep them in place while I cut.
When all the new pieces of fabric were cut out to match the old fabric, we began reassembly. This is where all of your pictures will really come in handy. You want to put the pieces back on in the reverse order that you took them off. I put an example below based on what our process was.
3. Rectangular Sides
4. Front and Back (with tubing)
5. Arm Buttons
6. Arms (folded pieces)
2. Arms (folded pieces)
3. Arm Buttons
4. Front and Back (with tubing)
5. Rectangular Sides
Following the reassembly order, we put the seat piece back on first. We stretched it over the original filler and used the staple gun to stretch and staple the fabric to the underside of the bench. We stretched the sides through the space in between the arms and the seat as well and stapled that to the sides of the bench.
The next step was the arms. This was the most challenging part for me. I used the original photos to fold the arms pieces as best I could. I did a lot of intermediary stapling. As long as you staple in a place that gets covered up, the amount of staples you use doesn’t matter. At least that was my motto.
Once I had the folds the way I wanted, I put the buttons back in. I’d covered the buttons with the new fabric, but they weren’t cooperating very well. They were old and the metal kept bending. I ended up using quite a bit of hot glue to secure them.
I used a hammer to get the buttons back into place.
The next step was adding back the pieces with the tubing. Before I can show pictures of that process, I have to explain how I constructed the new pieces to fit the tubing.
The picture I took of the tubing is not the best. You may or may not be able to tell that there was a long plastic white tube wrapped in a small piece of fabric that was folded over and sewed to keep the tubing inside. That small piece was then attached and sewed to the bigger rectangle of fabric that covered the bottom half of the front and back of the bench.
I snipped all the threads, removed the tubing, and cut out some pieces to match the original fabric. I kept the original tubing and just reused it.
It’s hard to explain in writing, but the picture below shows the pieces I cut out on the top and the pinned and ready to sew part on the bottom.
I used my sewing machine to sew in a straight line along the edge of the tubing, effectively securing the tubing inside.
Once I had those two pieces ready to go, I put them on the front and back of the bench. I lifted the flap under the tubing to staple it into place and then stapled the other side to the underside of the bench. This wording confuses even me, and the pictures are almost just as confusing. That is why you take tons of pictures along the way. Your original pictures will be able to explain the process much better than I can.
The last pieces of new fabric to go on the bench were the sides. These also required a little bit of manipulation. I removed the tack strips from the original fabric to reuse them. I also took out the thin strips of cardboard and reused those as well.
I lined up the old fabric and the new fabric on my ironing board and used my iron to fold down the sides of the new pieces to match the old ones.
I put the old accessories in the new fabric and put them back on the bench. I used the staple gun to secure the piece with the cardboard in it, and I used a hammer to nail in the tack strips.
Once all the fabric was back on and the staples were in, I put the original piece of black fabric back on the bottom of the bench. I didn’t bother cutting a new one. The old one was still in pretty good shape, despite all the original staples.
As for the legs, Suz wanted them to be white. So she painted them with Martha Stewart white chalk paint. It took three layers to cover up the color of the wood.
Once we let the last layer dry for 24 hours, we put them back on the bench and flipped it over to start taking pictures.
We spent the next few minutes high-fiving and marveling at our achievements. I mean, it looked pretty darn good! Maybe it wasn’t a polished, professional look, but it was cheap! The only costs incurred were the actual bench, the fabric, and the chalk paint. We reused everything else and I already had all the tools we needed.
Reupholstering used to be on my list of things to try, but it was always a scary prospect. After this project, I am ready to take on something bigger! I might have to make some trips to the thrift store this weekend. Then again, I still have about 10 projects to finish for the nursery and baby will be here before we know it! Choices, choices.
Until next week…