Reusing What We Have: Recovering Dining Room Chairs.

Let me begin with being floored and humbled by the response to yesterday's post! So many new voices are finding their way to this space, as well as many familiar ones. And while we may not see the world from exactly that same vantage point (how interesting would that would be, really?) we do hold similar values of preserving the peace and joy of our homes and of childhood. And so we embark on this journey together!

Several people referenced a post I wrote last year on downsizing. Here is a link if you missed it. It was one of the most popular I have written and judging by the comments yesterday inspired more change than I knew!

Now, onto the chairs.

For me one major piece of simplification is the shortening of my works-in-progress list. I am a great dreamer and an even better project starter. However the Project Completion Gene is missing from my DNA. Take our dining room chairs. Back when I was still thrifing with some regularity I picked up a set of dining room chairs for a song at an estate sale. I paid $20 for eight solid wooden vintage chairs. The seats were worn and saggy but the lines were lovely and the quality was outstanding. I decided to recover them. Eventually.





After more than a year (perhaps two?) of loving the chairs and hating the seats I finally made a decision on fabric. I chose a PVC-free laminated cotton because it is soft to the touch and cleans up easily. Our kitchen and dining room are purple and orange, and I found the most fabulous fabric to recover them. And that fabric sat in my closet all winter long. Just waiting…

As I cleaned out my closet yesterday on the latest simplification purge I spied that gorgeous fabric. Something had to come off of my to-do list. It might as well be this.





Every tutorial I could find on-line told me to use a chunk of high density foam for padding and additional batting/padding and finishing with new fabric. I know that high density foam, the type you find in new furniture, is like a solidified chemical soup which I didn't want in my dining room. I looked into natural latex and as I contemplated the added expense realized I could forgo the foam and just have less squishy chairs.

The process was simple. (I say "simple" because Pete was in charge of the woodworking.) He cut new (upcycled) plywood seats to replace the loose webbing that comprised the seat. Sage and I glued and stapled the ply onto the existing frames. (When we took off the old fabric we discovered that they were stuffed with horse hair. Cool/creepy.) Then I cut fabric and quilt batting a couple of inches bigger around than the chair seats and stretched and stapled it into place. 

Better? Heck yeah.

I can't tell you how much I love these. Someday I might paint or refinish the chairs, but until then they brighten my entire day each time I walk into the dining room. Progress! (And yes, I still have half of the chairs to recover. So technically they aren't off my to-do list, but they are moving in that direction.)

30 thoughts on “Reusing What We Have: Recovering Dining Room Chairs.

  1. Casey says:

    That fabric is fantastic!!! Recovering my great grandmother’s dining room chairs (which now live in my house) is a major chore on my to-do list as well. My aunt recovered them when they lived with her, but between my cousins and now my children they are really worse for wear. White woven fabric + little boys = disaster!

    I will be going without foam as well, thanks for the idea. I wasn’t keen on it. Just need a staple gun and some fabric remnants…

  2. anne says:

    Simply gorgeous! I’ll bet they really brighten up the table. How nice to remove something from your to do list. I know how good it feels whenever I finish a project that has gotten pushed back for too long.

  3. says:

    Ohmigoodness, those are gorgeous! Kinda makes you want to sit in another chair just so you can stare at the finished product. I’m always contemplating fixing up some of our old furniture, but my To Do list is neverending as it is. I can’t even finish painting some old wooden picture frames!

  4. Rachel Wolf says:

    I once made a list of projects and broke it down by time frame (IE: This week or this month I will tackle xyz…). While I never did do them all I was STUNNED by how much I was prompted to complete with that type of resolve.


  5. Kara D says:

    LOVE that fabric!
    In the process of downsizing the ammount of stuff for our next (eventual) move. Your site is so inspiring!
    (Last weekend we made felt eggs from your tutorial–they were a hit!)

  6. Pamela R says:

    Okay, seriously, I thought the chairs were a score when you bought them, but with that fabric…WOW! Not every kitchen/dining room could pull that off. 🙂

  7. Nahuatlv says:

    Sounds great, I just cross off a to do thing yesterday by making a clothespin apron I have wanted for so long.
    It;s so good to have something making yourself happy in you every day, and such a big change on the feeling on the chores.
    They look great.

  8. Kim Akari says:

    Oh my! I love that fabric. Where did you find such a cute fabric that’s laminated? Usually the laminated offerings are pretty slim. Your chairs are totally transformed!

  9. Leslie says:

    Purple and orange! LOve the combo and the chairs.

    BTW, I have another pile already. I have just grabbed things from here and there today. Definitely better to go in a room and go from top to bottom.

    What to do with the attic??? I have a huge box of vintage greeting cards. I desperately want to be free of them, but my Granny and Granddaddy gave them to me and the notes in them were always written with great care. What to do??? I thought of retyping their notes and having a book printed and maybe keeping five of the cards (one for each of our children). Any thoughts???

    Keep the simplifying ideas coming. Blessings, Leslie

  10. Rachel Wolf says:

    The best decluttering advise I have ever received is this: Keep the love, and pass the gift along. Is there another family member who would value them? An aunt of cousin? If now I would do a ceremonial burning or something. That was what I did with my big box of journals when Sage was small. The content was nothing anyone needed to read again, and they were a burden to move from here to there each time we relocated. Bonfire. Or perhaps choose just a few favorites to frame for family members with a photocopy of the text taped to the back. Id let them go… They sound burdensome.


  11. Alecia says:

    I just found your blog and think we are kindred souls. The material is just out and out stunning. My upstairs bathroom has been orange and purple for a long long time. I wouldn’t change it for spit. I love that color combination. I can’t wait to read more posts in your blog. It is a rainy day in NYS so I just might sit here for a couple hours and go through them. Nice to meet you and your family.

  12. Casey says:

    I was just talking about the pieces in the bargain bins at fabric stores, but patchwork sounds super cool….wheels are turning!

  13. Melody says:

    Hi- I am planning to recover my seats with laminated cotton and I’m wondering how it’s been holding up on yours now that it has been more than a year. Any cracking or peeling?

  14. Whitney says:

    You had me at this quote: “I am a great dreamer and an even better project starter. However the Project Completion Gene is missing from my DNA.” Kindred spirit. 🙂

    I’m also requesting a follow-up on the fabric holding up over time. I got a sample of a laminated cotton that I love, but I’m not sure if I should stiffen it with another layer. I was hoping to just cover over the vinyl we have (which is in good condition, but plain black), but I thought the two slick layers might shift too much. Any pointers?

    Thank you!


  15. Rachel Wolf says:

    They held up great! And Im amused at the line you pulled out from that post because… I only recovered for of the eight chairs. (Snort.) But they are still rocking with just one layer of laminated cotton over quilt batting and some recycled plywood.

    Have fun!

  16. Ahman says:

    Hi,Leslie. I came across this kind of late but I feel you should never, ever
    get rid of ancient postcards-especially if they are from your own folks. In this fast electronic age our grand children must know about their heritage.
    I would mount them all in rows sandwiched between acrylic panels and stand
    it upright where both sides can be seen. I saw something like that in an art
    exhibition.It looked fantastic.I hope it will give you an idea. Nostalgia is good!! Good luck.Ahman.

  17. Miriam Allison says:

    These chairs look amazing. I love the flowers. Actually I have 3 chairs for renovating,too. You inspired me and I am going to do them this week. Thank you for sharing your photos.

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