Friday, October 19, 2018

Re-Upholstered Parsons Chairs

What is it about Parsons chairs that I love so much? I don't really know- often they look a little too formal and stuffy, but when the fabric is just right, they can be SO cute! I love them as a set for a dining room and I also love them for an accent chair in a bedroom or dressing room. Home Goods and Marshalls have really cute ones all the time, but they cost upwards of $75-$150 each.

Although that price is reasonable for that type of chair, if you know me, you know I'm a total cheap skate and I would never spend that much unless they were absolutely the perfect color and style. Shopping online and in stores, I kept finding ones that were fine, but just not quite right. And if it's not quite right, I'm certainly not willing to pay that much. I started looking around for a second hand pair that I could re-upholster myself. I found a few sets that were ok, but still kind of high- around $50 per chair.

After looking around myself for a couple of weeks and coming up empty handed, I reached out to my mom and my friend Amy. Those two are second-hand shopping QUEENS. I let them know a few things I was looking for, and among the list was a set of 4 Parsons chairs. I couldn't believe it when literally the VERY NEXT DAY Amy messaged me to say that she was at her local Goodwill and had found 4 matching Parsons chairs for just $1 each. She sent me a picture:

$1 EACH?!??! I of course told her to buy them! She messaged me a minute later- turns out Goodwill had a special discount that day- all furniture was an additional 50% off. So I got my chairs for just $2! When she got them home, she sent me a few more pictures. They were a hideous brown and in terrible shape from the previous owner's cat treating them like scratching post, but I couldn't have cared less!

Off I went to the fabric store where I found a soft yellow print that was PERFECT. It was a buttery-yellow background with French script-style writing in a charcoal grey. LOVE. I'll explain in a future post how I came up with the color idea. It has to do with the dining table that will eventually go with these chairs, but that table deserves a post all its own. 

It took me a few weeks to find the time to actually work on this project, and about 11-12 hours total time to complete it. This was a far cry from the 15-minute make-over I gave my living room end tables. And if you don't have at least a basic understanding of sewing, I would recommend leaving it to the professionals. I had read a few tutorials online for how to reupholster this type of chair, but I was a bit nervous at the start, regardless. 

I began by taking one chair apart. Mine came apart into 4 pieces- the back of the chair with the two back legs attached, the seat, and the two front legs. Using a seam ripper, I carefully removed the original upholstery. The deconstruction process is actually the hardest part of reupholstery projects. 

If you attempt this type of project yourself, you'll find that the fabric is stapled onto the furniture, so you need to pull the staples out in order to remove the fabric. You can just cut it off, but since I wanted to use the original fabric as a pattern, I wanted to keep it as intact as possible. So, using a flat-head screwdriver and a pair of pliers, I painstakingly removed EVERY SINGLE STAPLE. 


It's really hard work- it's time consuming and it takes a little muscle. The method you use is to try to wedge the flat-head screw driver under the staple and wiggle it until the staple starts to come out. Then you take the pliers and after getting a good grip on the staple, you rock the pliers back and forth until the entire staple pops out. Sometimes the staple breaks. That's a bummer. Your hands will hurt. Your body will ache for hours after you're done. It is NOT easy or quick. 

Once you're able to remove the fabric, you can use the pieces as a pattern. Just to be safe, I made a mock-up cover using some scrap fabric I had lying around. The key is not only cutting the pattern out exactly, but also sewing the EXACT same seam allowance. That's probably the trickiest thing, but if you can do it, the fabric will be so smooth and taut and look so much more professional. After making the mock-up cover, I felt confident enough to cut into the real fabric. The pattern pieces were simple enough- the back of the chair was made up of a front, 2 back pieces and two side pieces. The seat was made of two sides and a topper. Easy enough to cut out and stitch together. 

I was able to machine sew almost the entire thing, with the exception of the back of the chair where the two back pieces came together. I hand-stitched that seam after putting the cover onto the chair. Once the fabric pieces were sewn together and put onto the chair pieces, I simply stapled the fabric exactly the same way it had been stapled originally. If you've ever upholstered anything you know how to do this- it's really simple. Start in the center, pulling the fabric really tight and work your way to the edge. It helps to pay attention to how your original chair was put together and just replicate it when you re-do it. After stapling the fabric onto the back and seat, it was a simple matter of putting the chair back together and voila! Done! 

I didn't take pictures documenting the process because there are plenty of great tutorials online for how to do this, so why bother when it's already out there for you. PLUS, every set of chairs is different, so meticulously documenting the intricacies of MY set is silly. Anyway, once I had one chair done and dusted, the other three finished relatively quickly by comparison. The first chair had to be meticulously deconstructed, being careful to keep the fabric intact. I also made the mock-up cover and then very slowly and carefully made the real cover. In total, I spent about 6 hours on the first chair alone. But the remaining three probably only took me about 4-6 hours total, which I spread out over several days. And the end result is awesome!

I recommend attempting a reupholstery project if you have the time and patience to do it right. Paying a professional to do what I did would have cost around $100 per chair, so it was most definitely worth the effort, in my opinion. 

Next time I'll tell you all about the table that these chairs go with- it's even better than the chairs, if you can believe it! 

Have an awesome day and thanks for reading!


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