before & after: chairs, chairs, chairs!

Grace may have moved from chairs to lamps as a new design obsession — definitely a wise move for space-efficiency purposes —but for whatever reason, I am still firmly stuck in the chair world. I admit, it’s a problem. All I have to do is see a beautiful new chair, like this gorgeous rocking chair makeover from Melissa, and I’m on the hunt for a rocker of my own.

Melissa inherited this lovely rocker from her grandmother, and I think she has done a wonderful job reviving the piece while still maintaining its old elegance. The Thomas Paul fabric is the perfect scale for the chair, and the result is a beautiful, modern take on an heirloom piece. Great work, Melissa! — Kate

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

CLICK HERE for Heather and Sarah’s chair transformations after the jump!

We don’t usually see chair “makeunders” like this piece from Heather, but it is making me wish we had more. The idea to remove the cushion from the back to reveal a more ornamental wood shape was genius, and I love the combination of the patchy, sanded woodwork with the crisp, high-contrast cushion. I’ve never considered taking a sander to a piece with such abandon, but I must admit that Heather’s beautiful results are very compelling. Amazing job, Heather!

We had so many great chair projects come in, we couldn’t resist giving you a triple play today. Looking at the “before” of this set of dining chairs, you can certainly tell that they have potential. But I couldn’t have guessed how wonderful they would look with the addition of upholstery, and I’m so glad Sarah has opened my eyes to the potential of chairs like these. She’s made amazing changes, and all of them so smart — the mismatched abstract patterns look fantastic, and they instantly make the set seem both more comfortable and more luxurious.

When Sarah submitted these, she mentioned that it was the happy accident of stumbling upon our Before & After column and searching through the entire backlog of posts that inspired her to begin refurbishing furniture and start a side business. We are so thrilled that she found inspiration in the column, and I am truly amazed at how chic and well crafted her projects are already — I hope to see a lot more of your amazing projects come our way, Sarah! Thanks for sharing!


Where can I get that green, bird fabric?! I’ve never tackled a chair with springs before. Inpiring!


These are all three amazing! I thought I would comment and say that the rocker is my favorite, but now I really can’t decide. More chairs!!


chairs! chairs! chairs! chairs! ch-chairs! chairs! chairs! chairs! ch-chairs! chairs! chairs! chairs! ch-chairs! everybody!

Jamie B

These are so perfect. I love them all. We need a tutorial on how to do this or where did you guys learn?


Love the springs falling out of the bottom of the rocking chair. lol

Btw on that one (rocking chair) is that a double self-pipping, and glued on?


These are all great, but that rocking chair “after” pic made me swoon! Love!


I love the chairs by Sarah! Can you do a tutorial on how to do this?! LOVE!!! Please post her website so we can see more :)


I absolutely loooooooove Sarah’s transformation. I totally agree.. you can see that the chairs have good bones but what she’s done with them is totally sublime. :)


Will never tire of chair makeovers!

I also was hoping to see more about Sarah’s (killer) chairs. The backs weren’t originally upholstered, so was wondering how she did it and made it look so great.


I want to know where Sarah got the great abstract fabrics!


I have a few chairs that are deeply in need of a makeover. These are fabulous examples.


I love all the chairs. However I love Heather’s the most. So simple but yet so stylish.


I love the rocking chair redo. I would have passed over a chair like that but I love the after version. (And the springs in the before picture: drama! Love it.)


the thomaspaul Aviary fabric (the green print on the rocker) is usually to the trade only, but you can get it by the yard from Velocity Art and if you are not a designer.


Hi guys, thank you so much for the lovely comments on the chairs I did! Yes, Lucy is right, the fabric is from Cloth Fabric in Sydney, and I am working on a website as we speak. I have a couple of things listed on Etsy (look up re-loveit) and I’m working on more chairs now! Thanks again and watch this space! (thanks heaps Kate!!!)


Wow! What a great job with the chairs. Melissa gives hope to all chairs found on Craigslist, doesn’t she? The fabric with the birds pattern is terrific. I’m going to pop over to that website…


Love it all but the before and after dinning chairs are my absolute favorite.

jaclyn @ thelateafternoon

love chair reupholstering projects! i’ve been on the search for some old chairs to re-do (SF always has great finds on the street!)…these chairs are so inspiring – my favorite is the rocker!


All of these reinventions are ravishing – what splendid work!

mary k

wow! those chairs transformations look amazing! i am so inspired by this column. i hope to submit some of my own before and afters to you soon!


Hello…I love all the chairs..especially the makeunder and the fabulous fabric in the dining chair one.
but in the end, I also really like that stump in the rocking chair makeover…I am wondering where do people find such nice stumps? I am serious! I need two!


These chairs are all fantastic. Espcecially love the Black and White, very distressed. People are so creative and I love it they share! I have an obsession with chairs too. They are so fun to makeover.

Farmgirl Susan

LOVE the fabric on Melissa’s chair – especially those perfectly placed (and perfectly darling) birds. What a fun ‘new’ heirloom. And those dining chairs are just awesome. Thanks for the creative inspiration. :)


Oh my. That rocking chair is spectacular. What a great way to keep such a beautiful heirloom, well, beautiful!

Ashley P

Melissa, I inherited the same exact rocker from my aunt and reupholstered it just like you did. It’s exactly the same, just a different stain! The before is in this post:
And here is the after:

I love what you did with it. So cool to see the same chair with a different look. I will always cherish this chair and can’t wait to give it to my kids when they become parents.


WOW! I adore the chair under-makeover. It’s crispy and bold! I’m crazy for a chair to makeover this instant!!!!!

Ashley B

Ohmigads!!! I have 4 (!) of the second chair (the before version), with the EXACT SAME green fabric on them, and the dining room table that goes with them. I inherited the set from my grandparents… sadly the dining room table has a veneer top but wood legs… anyway I’ve been going mental for months trying to figure out what I could do with it, and seeing it as an “after” gives me tons of inspiration. All three chairs look fantastic!


This is perfect timing. I am 2/3 through reupholstering a chair a lot like the rocker & I wasn’t sure about my fabric. Now I KNOW it isn’t what I want and I am going to get something big, bold, and graphic just like this. The chenille I have will be a nice fabric for something else, somewhere else. But this chair needs fabric more like what that rocker has.


Thank goodness for this post! I have two chairs I’ve been needing to reupholster for three years. I’ve liked a few fabrics but haven’t found anything I LOVE, until now. I’ve already ordered the fabric Melissa used above in blue and yellow. I can’t wait to finally check this off my to do list!

heidi walkush

Love Sarah’s chairs! I have a few of the exact chairs from my Mom (late 60s? I believe.) Have been wanting to tackle them myself-have a question about the chair backs…how did you get fabric so nicely and tightly fitting on the wooden back? Please share…mine are waiting in my cold basement for just the right fix!!!!!


Hello, I’m from France and I’m faithfull to Before and after posts.
I love Sarah’s chairs and my dream is to find a set of such chairs !
Congratulations Sarah and thank you Design Sponge ! (sorry for my sad english…)


I LOVE Heather’s chair! I love the direction she ran the stripes.


And it’s Sharon in Chicago with the win today!! Just in time before I left for my errands, I’m going to Calico Corners today to get me some bird fabric :)


I think Sarah’s chairs are just great! How can I get her to do some for me or can I buy hers


To heidi walkush, the backs of the chairs need to be carefully pulled off the fronts, I pried them apart with a couple of screwdrivers and hammer, but be careful not to go too gungho and split the backing piece, they are hell to replace! There usually is piping too around the top piece and for a really professional finish, you are best to redo the piping… Good Luck!


To Lockhart – the chairs are for sale on Etsy! Look up re-loveit and they should pop up!

Stoney Creek Shops

These are all great before & afters! I am especially thrilled with the first set though, that chair is gorgeous! The fabric is perfect and the antique mahogany frame! Very inspiring!


Could not love the the black and white chair more. The distressing is perfect in every way against the clean stripes. WELL done!


Ooh I love them! Especially the first one <3
Didn't know I had a cousin who is so creative!

love , celina :)


I know this was posted over two years ago, but I stumbled upon this a few days ago. I am completely obsessed with the fabric that Sarah used- the website that was she got it from doesn’t work (anymore?). I have searche and searched for the name or designer and have had no luck! Does anyone have any info (other than its from cloth fabric)? I would really appreciate it!