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A New Look for and Old Chair: Painted Upholstery

23 March 2011

A New Look for and Old Chair: Painted Upholstery

Cassity asked me to guest blog and I was so excited. What a great blog to get to guest blog on! This was my FIRST time to be asked to guest blog.  I’m new to blogging.  I haven’t been blogging for a full month yet!  So, thank you, Cassity; Too kind.

My current ongoing project is my master bedroom.  I have documented the process on my blog from the conception of ideas to making it happen.  I’m in the final stages now – just waiting to make some art and get the final table.  Then, I’ll be ready to reveal!   As part of the process, I painted the upholstery on a chair!  Crazy, I know… but I do think this risk was worthwhile.   Follow me as I explain the process below!

How do you get a chair to go from drab to fab?

I recently painted an upholstered chair that I purchased.   Below are before and after photos.  Walk with me as I explain why I did this and how it was done.

IMG_4609   IMG_4793 (465x640)

Why would I do this?  Well, after I learned that recovering a wing back chair for my master bedroom would cost $500-700 total, I decided that just wasn’t in my budget.  So, how could I do this cheaper?

I REALLY wanted a chair like in my inspiration photo.   Not exactly like it, but the general
color and shape.

The wing back and the vibrant teal color were important elements of my master bedroom story board.


Then, I had an epiphany.  I remembered seeing a painted chair a while back.  So, I began to do a little research on painting upholstery.  After all, I could surely afford to buy a used chair and paint!

After a day or two of getting my ducks in a row as far as a plan was concerned, I purchased this chair on


It was in perfect condition.  Well built.  Great lines.

I began the painting process.  First on a pillow, but I’ll skip that part, as it went
well, and instead I’ll start with painting the actual chair.

Materials needed: 1 Quart of latex satin paint in the color of your choice

1 Spray bottle full of water

1 2 inch or smaller paint brush

Fabric medium (equal to the amount of paint that you use)

Acrylic craft paint in the color of your choice (should match the color of the Latex paint)

Sand paper in around a 180 grit


1.  Make sure the chair is wiped free of dust and debris.

2.  Mix 1:1 parts of latex paint and fabric medium.

IMG_4771 (640x629)

I used Ocean Soul by Valspar.

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Fabric medium keeps the fabric from getting too hard.

I wouldn’t use much paint – maybe 1/8 of the quart.  I mixed mine in an old cup.  A little
goes a long way in this phase.  This will be your base coat.

IMG_4699 (480x640)

3.  Water that down with 1/2 the amount of water as paint.  Stir.

4.  Remove all seat cushions that are not attached from the chair.

5.  Spritz (fine mist) the part of the chair you will start with first with water.  I started on
the seat cushion first.  Don’t be shy, you want the fabric damp.

IMG_4698 (480x640)

6.  Brush on the paint slowly blending the best you can.  Finish the area going with the
grain so the fabric lays in the right direction as it dries.

IMG_4693 (640x480)

7.  This should give you light coverage, almost like a stain.  It will also act as a primer.

8.  Do two coats this way.   Let the first one dry fully before beginning the second.

9.  Don’t worry, your arm won’t fall off.

10.  Sand any particularly rough parts.

IMG_4756 (480x640)

11.  Once the chair was dry, I spray painted the legs in a glossy white.



IMG_4762 (480x640)

11.  Now, it’s time for a final coat using the acrylic paint.  Mix it 1:1 with the fabric medium,
like you did with the latex paint.  I mixed this in a cup as well.  But, this time, be more
generous.  I’d do a full cup this size. (See below.)

Add just a few thimbles of water to dilute it a little.

IMG_4758 (640x548)

I had to mix my own color since the acrylic paints didn't come in the color I wanted.

Paint this layer much more generously.  This will be the layer that will cover the chair more
completely. Don’t glop it on, but be generous.  It should provide full coverage unlike the base

12.  It needed a little bling, so I added some nail head trim on the arms.  I got the spacing
right but folding a piece of paper and taping it so as to laminate it.

IMG_4767 (640x480)

Then, I simply hammered them in!  Nothing to it.

IMG_4779 (436x640)

13.  Congrats, you have a new chair!

IMG_4787 (441x640)

And, here is a sneak peek of it in my master bedroom!

IMG_4793 (465x640)

Is it crunchy or stiff? 

It started out as a velvet fabric.  It is not soft like velvet, but it is also not hard or sand papery.  It's like a stiffer rougher fabric.

Does the paint come off on clothing?

Not at all.  I tested it out and even wet it and sat on it.  No problem.


- A smoother fabric is likely easier to work with.

- The final acrylic paint layer is very important.

- Sand down any particularly rough spots.

- For a more leather-like finish, you could try a glossy paint or a wax finish.

Hope you enjoyed this step by step look into the process!  Hope it wasn't too bad for my second

Please let me know if you try this – I’d love to see photos!



Carolyn@SweetChaos March 23, 2011 at 7:10 AM  

What a clever idea! The chair looks great... just like your inspiration photo :)

- - Little Miss Martha - - March 23, 2011 at 7:24 AM  

I think I'm in love! This is definitely going on my to do list! I might try it with my favorite chair that my husband wants me to get rid of because it's pink and I haven't saved up for upholstery yet!! lol!

Prudently Painted Vintage March 23, 2011 at 7:47 AM  

This is just gorgeous! I learned that you can paint fabric too, who knew?! Thanks for the inspiration :)

Jessica Lauren March 23, 2011 at 8:32 AM  

That is so cool! Thanks for sharing the tutorial! I would never have thought to paint a chair! It turned out beautiful; great job!
~* Jessica Lauren @ copy-cat-crafter.blogspot.com *~

Laree March 23, 2011 at 8:44 AM  


Too bad my wing back is completely worn through (as in you can see the stuffing coming out). This is such a great tutorial!

SheilaG March 23, 2011 at 8:54 AM  

Wow, amazing! I was just thinking a few days ago about that disastrous Trading Spaces show where they spray painted a sofa- it was horrendous, but I was wishing it could be done. And you've proven it can- thanks! Yours looks SO much better than Hildie's version! :)

Diapers and Divas March 23, 2011 at 9:25 AM  

O....M.....G!!! I've NEVER thought of doing this!! I've seen so many great chairs on Craigslist that io've past up because I don't want to spend the money to re-upholster!!! Thank you thank you thank you for this great idea!

banclothing March 23, 2011 at 9:31 AM  

I would have never guessed you painted the fabric... I thought you had apolstered the chair yourself.

Celeste Lux March 23, 2011 at 9:47 AM  

This is totally cool....I have a slipcover sofa and the slipcover is stained (kids)....I keep thinking that I'd like to die it, but don't think it would come out evenly. I'm wondering if this might not be a good idea for me---hmmmmm.

Ann Marie @ Twice Lovely March 23, 2011 at 9:49 AM  

I love this idea!! I'm definitely trying it out whenever I find just the right upholstered piece.

modern March 23, 2011 at 11:21 AM  

What a great project! I ran across it covered on Alice in Designland this morning. I seriously think this one is a contender for DIY of the year. This can save a person so much money. I also really like the pillow on the chair in the after pic.

brooke March 23, 2011 at 11:24 AM  

GREAT IDEA!! I wish I hadn't just given away my velvet chair. This would have been perfect for it!!

Judy March 23, 2011 at 1:30 PM  

When I saw the before and after I thought you reupholstered it. I can't believe you could paint fabric and it look this awesome. Great idea!!

Dawn Marie March 23, 2011 at 2:52 PM  

Fab! I can't wait to try it! I was concerned with the paint rubbing off on clothes so thanks for adding that part in! Let us know how well it holds up!

Dee in N.H. March 23, 2011 at 5:11 PM  

Amazing!!! I didn't know you could paint a chair and yours looks fabulous!

KimberlyJ March 23, 2011 at 6:45 PM  

You're welcome to park that chair right in my bedroom where it will match the gorgeous new pillows I bought. Great job, fabulous information!

Pamma March 23, 2011 at 7:48 PM  

Wow, this is so fabulous! I had no idea one could paint on fabric....I am so doing this....thanks, amazing

Olivia March 24, 2011 at 12:36 AM  

That's crazy! It's awesome that it worked so well. I'd love a teal armchair. :o) Great job!

hypheninteriors March 25, 2011 at 10:29 AM  

Cassity, thank you so so much for asking to feature my chair on your blog. It was amazing to have someone reach out like that. I really appreciate your time and enjoyed reading all of the comments! It means a lot!

Katie March 25, 2011 at 12:30 PM  

Question--your colors before and after were somewhat similar. Do you think it would be a problem to try this on very different colors? Say from Navy blue to orange?

hypheninteriors March 26, 2011 at 6:25 PM  

That's a good question, Katie. I'm not sure. I picked similar colors on purpose. I actually mention that in my tutorial on my blog (hypheninteriors). It's worth a shot, but I'm guessing it would be an issue. You may have to use more paint and it could be a bit stiffer... but if you don't mind that, it may be worth trying. I wish I could give more concrete advice, but I've never tried that myself.

Intelligence is Paramount March 27, 2011 at 8:46 PM  

This is such a fantastic project post! I hope to do the same someday. Could you tell me--do you use a fine grit sandpaper for the sanding? Is there any particular number you would suggest? Thank you!

hypheninteriors March 27, 2011 at 11:12 PM  

I used 180 grit. My blog has a tiny bit more info on the tutorial, in case that helps.

Michelle April 30, 2011 at 9:47 PM  

I'm curious how you would clean the chair after it's paint job. Just a damp cloth? Would steam cleaning cause the paint to come off? Lovely job!

Tracie May 17, 2011 at 8:04 AM  

I really love this idea . About a year ago I tried something similar . I put fabric dye in a spray bottle , obviously mixed with water .I sprayed the fabric with the dye . It changed the color from tan to a blueish tone . it looked fine but it did bleed onto clothes for a short time . if only i had known about this . it would have saved some clothes and many towels

Honey May 29, 2011 at 8:33 AM  

GREAT IDEA!!! I tried a spray paint that said it worked on fabric. Perhaps if you wanted to treat yourself to a full body exfoliation! ;) Luckily I did the bottom of the seat cushion.

I'll have to try this with the fabric medium. What a GREAT idea. SOO gonna do it!


Splendiferous Girls June 3, 2011 at 6:28 AM  

WOW!!!! WOW!!!...I love this chair...but oh how I would be so scared to try this..I would be afraid to wreck it..I have these great Italian chairs but don't know how to reupholster them, but this is an option, but it is a little intimidating..

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