Desk Chair Upholstery

Fabric: 1 1/2 yds in a fun cotton print
Cost: $15

I've been eager to try upholstery for quite a while, but I'm still a few DIY books and materials away from any serious projects. The closest I've gotten is my orange chair, which is a combination upholstery/slipcover project, and even that I'm itching to re-do once I move in August.

Desk chair upholstery, however, is a cheap and simple way to change up a room and try out some simple upholstery techniques without committing to a big project. And to match my new desk chair, which goes in my bedroom, I made pillow cases from the same fabric for the bed (see below).

The first step is to disassemble your desk chair the best you can. This will let you get at the backrest and chair cushion to measure them and attach your new fabric. If you're me, you'll start unscrewing everything you get your hands on, but you may want to take a more measured approach and just separate the backrest from the chair and the chair cushion from the wheels, if you can. My chair cushion didn't easily detach from the wheels, so I just flipped the chair upside down to work on it from there.

Once disassembled, measure each cushion's length and width. Use these measurements to cut rectangles from your fabric that will cover each cushion, leaving a few inches of margin just in case. Of course, most cushions have slightly rounded edges, but a rectangular piece of fabric can always be trimmed later.


As I found from browsing other online instructions, each desk chair is made slightly different, including how the fabric attaches to the chair. For mine, the fabric had a drawstring that had tightened it around the chair, which had then been stapled closed. To attach my fabric over the existing upholstery, I slid my stapler under the old fabric and stapled it to the new fabric. For places where I couldn't quite get my stapler in, I busted out the needle and thread and sewed a few seams to anchor the new fabric to the existing fabric.

There is, of course, a technique to stretching fabric over the chair cushion, which I borrowed from artists who stretch canvas over a frame. Start by stapling (or otherwise securing) the fabric in one place on one side, and then stretch it and secure it on the opposite side of the cushion. Move to the third side, and then the fourth side, stretching as you go. Continue this, stretching and stapling opposite points on the chair. At right is a diagram (just follow the numbers), but it was hard for me to staple so I didn't do quite as many points.

After stapling, you may trim the excess fabric, or do what I did and tuck it under the chair. My backrest had a sort of cover, so I just tucked the fabric in and put the cover back on.

Check it out at BurdaStyle!


I used the excess fabric to make some simple corded pillow cases with zippers.  To make them, I sewed piping in between two pieces of scrap fabric, adding a zipper on one end to get the pillow in and out.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the instructions and photos. I have a Freecycled desk chair that had met with a source of heat. Said heat promptly ate/shrank/melted the upholstery fabric. It works OK, but looks pathetic. Your method should give it a sense of self-respect. (this is SO important for furniture. lol) Cordially, Nehmah

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