DIY crafts and projects

Refresh a Time-Worn Dining Set: 3 Simple Steps

Like many DIYers, I learn by doing. Therefore, I looked up a tutorial about how to properly reupholster seat cushions, and I found it was easier than writing a blog post! Read on if you’d like to learn the three simple steps.

What you’ll need:

  • Staple gun
  • Arrow JT21 5/16″ 8 mm staples
  • Sandpaper (not rough)
  • Soap, water, paper towels
  • Matte black spray paint with built-in enamel/sealer
  • Fabric of your choice (bring a seat cushion into the store to be sure you’re buying enough fabric for the whole project!)
  • Screwdriver

First, the before photos…

I found this old Ethan Allen dining set on Craigslist for $50, and fell in love with the farmhouse-style legs and apron it had.

The chairs at first glance were incredibly worn and dated (like something I’d expect to see in a ’70s sitcom… or along the side of an alley for that matter). Too harsh? At least I realized they had some potential with those gorgeous spindles and removable chair cushions.  

1) Prep the Chairs

The first thing I did was remove the seat cushions from underneath using a screwdriver (each one was held in place with only two screws). Once all the seats were off, I lightly sanded the wood all over the chair to make it nice and smooth after all those years of wear. Then I took a warm, soapy paper tower and wiped all the residue and debris off. Since paint won’t stick where there’s oil (from fingers) or soap, I then ran over the chairs with a few warm, damp, sans-soap paper towels. Let the chairs fully dry before moving to step two.

2) Reupholster the Chairs

Cut your fabric into four equal sections. Make sure that the pattern lays the same way on each seat cushion. Since the seats’ fabric was a solid, neutral color already, I purchased a thick (non-see-through) fabric and simply stapled it on over the existing fabric. Of course, vacuum the original cushions before stapling new fabric over them. There’s a method to stapling fabric onto chairs, though, so pay attention here.

I’ve read that you’re supposed to pull opposite ends taut until there’s no middle area left to staple, but in my experience, that technique led to some ripples in my fabric. Instead, I did the four edges first (top, bottom, left, then right), making sure to pull the fabric taut before stapling, but then I worked my way around to the corners. For each corner, I treated it like I was wrapping a gift (fold, fold, staple) rather than pulling it tight and stapling it until there was no more slack. I also made it difficult on myself by choosing a striped fabric, so I was constantly flipping the seat back over to make sure my lines were still straight.

Once I had repeated this process four times and all the seat cushions were finished, I took the chairs outside and spray painted the bases black. The look I was going for was one I had seen on Fixer Upper (the Nut-House episode)… 

…so I painted the chairs black but left the table wood. (Many people opt to paint the legs and apron of the table to match the chairs, but I wanted to be like Jo, I suppose.) Leave the chairs out to dry, then place the seat cushions back on and screw them into place.

3) Clean up the Table

Since the table was already in pretty good shape, all I needed to do to it was sand down the legs a little to take away some of the sticky-looking shine. I wiped over them with a damp paper towel and set them out to dry.

Here are some of the “after” pictures:

If you try it, let me know how it went!