How to Paint Chair Upholstery!

Do you guys know about my weirdness with old upholstered furniture? Well, its not all old upholstered furniture but certain fabric patterns, new or old,  that absolutely totally freak me out!  There a list long of problems with having that issue but one that is quickly rising to the top of the list is the fact that many old chairs have the perfect bone and shape to allow me to reach modern, french farm house seating perfection for a fraction of store prices but I can’t bring myself to work on most of them. Isn’t that sad?  So, believe me when I tell you that this project was a labor of love for our family although the original pattern on this one was subtle! But Ya’ll this labor of love was certainly worth it!





This is where the chair started! I picked it up at the Re-Store for $30.


It had great bones, was a good shape, did not smell weird and had no stains. However the pattern was not working for me and because of the groves in the back of it, I did not want to take it on as a re-upholstery project. The next best thing was to paint it! I had learned about painting fabric years ago but I had never had the guts to try it myself! Believe me when I tell you that there is nothing to fear. This is a very easy project.

Ok, buds, here are the items you need for this project.

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1. Chalk Paint

2. spray bottle

3.Fabric Medium

4. Chalk Paint Brush

5. Clear Sealing Wax

6. Painter’s tape (if your chair has a wooden frame)

7. 220 Grit sand paper

You probaly already have most of these items. The fabric medium is probably the one you did not already have but let me tell you a secret. Are you listening? I did not actually use fabric medium for this particular chair and it is totally fine. I told you this project was easy! Here are the steps

Step 1. Tape off all wooden areas that you do not want to paint.

Step 2. Mix about 1 tablespoon of water to every cup of paint.

Step 3. Mix a bit of fabric medium in with this paint. This will help the paint be softer when it dries on the fabric. I did not do this step for this chair and the chair is doing awesome.

Step 4. Spray a section of the chair with water to dampen it before you paint over it. The section must be wet or the paint will not apply as smoothly and the finish may be blotchy. Paint in quick strokes back and forth making sure that you get in the grooves.

Keep working in sections until the first coat is done. Let it dry and work on a second coat. Repeat steps until you have your desired coating. I did 3 coats on my chair.

This is after 2 coats of paint.

And this is after all 3 coats but it has not dried yet!

TIP TO KEEP SEAT FROM CRACKING: Ok you guys, this is the part of painted chair upholstery that everyone dreads. I had heard some horror stories about seats that crack after the job was over and ya’ll there’s no going back once your chair starts to crack so you just have to make sure that you do everything in your power to keep it from happening. It’s like a leather chair, once it starts cracking, there is no going back.

This is what I did: During each coat of paint on the chair, I would press down in the middle of the seat with my fist and paint it like that. Once I got to where my hand was, I just removed my hand and paint over that spot. Also, after each coat dried to the touch, I would press on it hard with my hand in all sorts of spots to give the fabric a good work out to sort of stretch it out, to break it in, if you may. While I pushed on it, I sprayed some water on it.

Think about it: the reason seats end up cracking after paint is because after it’s painted, the paint just sits on the fabric when the upholstery is at its highest spot. When you go sit on it, the weight of your body caves it in which stretches the paint and causes it to crack.  When you paint it, you have to consider that and stretch it out (or down) as far as it will go to account for the stretching that will happen when it is finally sat on. I did this for both sides of this chair’s seat. This step is more necessary for chairs without a removable seat. This is because the fabric on those kinds of chairs is already tight on the chair and applying paint only makes it tighter and so the paint must be applied in a way that will account for stretching when you finally sit on it. I hope this helps.

Step 5: Lightly Sand in between in each with a 220 grit sand paper. This really did help the fabric to feel smoother. I highly recommend this step even if you only do it after the 3rd coat.

Step 6. Go over it with wax once the paint has dried. I used Minwax Sealing Wax!  I did the same thing with the wax for the seat as I did with the paint. It’s been about 6 months since I did this project and our seat is still going strong and we sit on it all the time.





So, what does painted upholstery feel like? This by far the most asked question that i get regarding this chair. Well, The best way that I can describe it is to say that it feels like leather. This obviously depends on the texture of your fabric. As you can see in the picture above, my chair’s fabric has grooves and I have never seen leather with grooves in it. have you?  Because of that it is not exactly like leather. However, as much as leather is a hard material that is water resistant but yet not uncomfortable to sit on, this is very much like that.



I love this little chair you guys! It sits in our bedroom now and the husband has claimed it for himself. This project was very easy. I think I got it done in one afternoon even though I spent some of that time exposing the wood of the chair for a more modern french farmhouse look. By the way, exposing wood is one of my very favorite things to do to the wood framing on upholstered chairs and I will do a post on that soon.

What do you think? have you ever painted a chair? Would you try something as crazy as that? Leave your comments below!

Many blessings,


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How to paint upholstery

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