This is my Victorian Chair DIY Makeover which is distressed yet elegant. This vintage chair reupholstery project surpassed all my expectations. It is the first time I have ever done a project like this for myself. And I just let my creative juices flow. This quite possibly may have been the project that opened up farmhouse style into my life. I had no idea how much I could love lace and roughed up edges until this project!
Choosing the right chair
When you are planning on putting a lot of time and effort into reupholstering a chair there are some things you need to consider.
- You need to ensure it has a great backbone to work with.
- Make sure the frame is relatively strong and no signs of rotting or water damage.
- Check how the filling feels, will it need to be replaced or can it be salvaged?
- Are any pieces or parts missing that can not be replaced?
You also need to consider your level of skill when deciding on the perfect chair for your DIY makeover. If a chair is missing a leg and you have no woodworking skill that presents a problem. I’m not sure I would be any good at carving myself a chair leg to match this project. I have done upholstery in the past and am self-taught. Therefore you should also remember that you can learn anything if you put your mind to it. There is always going to be a first project to start on and learn from.
The chair I used for this project was very strong and sturdy. The filling was nice and thick as well. The wood had quite a few dings in it however that would not be easily sanded out. The fabric was discoloured and stained but still in quite an impressive shape.
Choosing materials for the Victorian Chair Makeover
I had this chair for almost two years before I finally found the time to knock it off my to-do list. When I first found the chair I went to Fabricland and choose a few upholstery fabrics that I loved. I chose different colours and textiles and patterns. At the time I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do with the chair, however, I knew I wanted it to be elegant. I decided to go with a teal damask pattern that was both elegant and bold. Then I searched through my bins of lace and beads from my dressmaking supplies. I picked out a few options for the lace and some bead strings and pearls I loved.
Stripping the Victorian Chair
The first step in this project was to remove all of the material from the chair. Noting how it was put together so it can be reassembled easily. This chair had many decorative nails in it and quite a few broke while removing them. Decorative upholstery nails are quite costly. After pricing the cost to replace them, I decided to take another route to meet my budget.
Once the decorative nails were removed I began to remove the one million staples that held the fabric in place.
My favorite tools for stripping
If you have been struggling to remove staples from your projects these are my favorite tools to use:
Staple puller – This tool allows you to slip under the staple and pry up upwards. It is quite effective at removing them. However, you need to take care not to damage your wood when prying. The link above is a nice one from Amazon that is nice and slim.
Staple Grabber AKA Nail Holder
Staple Grabber – this tool allows you to cinch onto the staple and pull upwards to remove the staple. I really love how this tool works. The only setback is that if the staple is sunk into the wood it may be a bit difficult to grab. Therefore I like to use both of these tools to work together to get the staples out. First, pry up, then use the puller to take out those hard to get staples.
Back to the Victorian Chair Makeover
Once all of the staples are removed it is time to give the chair a good sanding. I used a palm sander to get the larger flat areas free of its sheen. For the more rounded detailed areas, it is easier to use a sheet of sandpaper working through the details and curves.
Once the sanding is complete, blow it off with an air compressor and wipe it down with a damp cloth.
Refinishing the Victorian Chair Wood
After much contemplating I decided I wanted to paint the chair white. I used Rust-Oleum Chalked paint in Linen White and with a brush, I painted on a coat of paint watching carefully for any drips before they could dry. Boy oh, boy did I ever have brush strokes and to do this day I’m not sure why. I have used this paint with this same brush many times but never had an outcome quite like this.
I gave it a sand with a sheet of sandpaper in my hand no sanding block or palm sander. While I was sanding to remove my brush strokes the deep wood started to peek through in a few spots. I was falling in love with it. Once the brush strokes are sanded smooth apply a second coat of chalk paint. No longer as concerned with brush strokes. Now I had a new plan in my head.
Once dry, I again sanded it smooth and distressed it. By focusing on areas that would normally see the most wear it looks more natural. The distressed white against the dark wood adds such a rustic farmhouse feel to this project that it is mesmerizing. I’m now forever sold on shabby chic.
Cutting the fabric
Cut all pieces out by tracing the removed fabric onto your desired fabric. I like to add about 1/2 inch maybe a bit more before cutting so I’m not short any fabric. You can always trim excess fabric once it’s in place.
While cutting I tried to ensure I placed the old pieces well with the pattern. So that the fabric pattern would flow in the same direction.
Upholstering the chair
Use the right tools for the Job
For this project, I used a special nail gun that has a fine tip and makes upholstery easy. I had borrowed this one but would like to purchase my own someday in case I decide to upholstery around the house again. You will also need an air compressor and hose too.
This one pictured below shows the type that works best for upholstery. It has a narrower head to get into tight crevices and hide the staples.
Applying the fabric to the back
I started with the back of the chair. Most of my experience with upholstery is boats and other recreational seats. Therefore my experience is mostly a lot of vinyl with stretch to it. Upholstery fabric does not quite have that same amount of stretch to it. I soon realized I had to be a bit more careful than I normally would when stretching it nice and tight. Because of this, I tacked my top center, bottom center and both side centers before stretching too much more.
I went ahead and stapled the back layer of fabric fully out. I’m quite impressed with how it took form and didn’t require any extra tweaking. Then I put the batting back against the now stapled fabric and aligned the front of the backrest. I added a couple of staples to hold the thick batting up while I worked on the front piece.
Again I tacked the top and bottom center as well as side centers. I worked my way from the center top to each side while adjusting all around as I went. Ensuring I wasn’t pulling in one direction more than another.
Bottom seat and armrests
For the bottom seat of our Victorian Chair, the armrests made it a bit tricky to go around. But I just practiced folding until I came up with something I liked and then stapled everything in place. The shape is sort of a folded under U-shape.
Last, of all, were the two armrests and matching the fabric pattern for both. When cutting these pieces try to make them unison. Ironically the two smallest pieces on this project were the most challenging to attach. I perhaps should have cut them larger, to begin with.
Once all the fabric is in place it is time to trim the edges where there is any excess fabric. You can use a pair of scissors or an Exact-o knife to trim your fabric. Do not cut too close to the staples. Allow enough fabric to remain, 1/4 inch should suffice.
Adding some elegance to the Victorian Chair Makeover
I decided to go with a pretty lace in a corresponding colour rather than a decorative binding edge. Then I applied it with hot glue all around the back seat armrests and base of the chair. Virtually every edge with staples is concealed with lace. I had purchased this lace a couple of years ago and I finally had the opportunity to put it to use.
Next I applied some decorative beading trim to the front base and back base to add some more bling.
Lastly, I added a few pearl beads to the center of the back and to each armrest. Then I finished off the front leg corners with a wrap of pearl beads as well.
My rustic Victorian Chair is elegant and distressed
Every time I look at this Victorian chair makeover I feel so proud of pulling off such an amazing distressed and elegant work of art. This chair says a lot about the style that I love and I truly think this is the first time I really gave farmhouse and distressing a try.
Unfortunately, this beautiful chair hasn’t quite found it’s own place in our home just yet. Perhaps when we renovate the bedroom it could finally have its own spot.
If you have any questions or need any advice please always feel free to drop a comment or email me. We love to help and we love to hear your ideas too!