I might be angering some die-hard upholstery experts out there when I say this, but I’m a firm believer in thinking outside the box when it comes to choosing fabrics. Clothing, rugs, industrial materials and even recycled non-textiles can be used to make an amazingly awesome upholstered chair. I love this chair from Katie Steuernagle for this reason. Her creative use of a Mexican embroidered dress to gussy up this old Louis chair is right up my alley. It’s clever, and while it might not be the most durable fabric ever — really, who cares? It looks great and only cost $25. Great work, Katie! — Kate
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Time: The whole project took exactly one year of sitting in the garage, two days of stripping toxic, orange, dusty old upholstery, two days of sanding and staining, two days of draping the dress around the chair too scared to cut it, and one afternoon of stapling the dress to the new wood base and foam I cut. I’d say a week of actual work.
Cost: The chair cost $5 at a garage sale. The dress was $25 on eBay. They seem to range from around $20 to around $70. Probably another $10 on MDF, canvas and foam.
Basic Steps: I stripped the old upholstery, and nothing was salvageable except for the wood frame and the thin plywood seat back, so I cut a new seat base out of MDF with a keyhole saw. Then I cut a piece of high-density foam in the same shape. The dress fabric is a bit thin, so I upholstered the whole chair in white canvas, then covered the canvas with the dress.
I’d say try to find a dress in an XL, so you have plenty of fabric to work with. Spend some time draping it around the chair, so you can decide where you want the embroidery to line up. Then cut. It’s scary to take the scissors to the dress, but the shape is boxy, so I wasn’t too sentimental about taking it apart. Some dresses are made with heavier cotton and some are thinner like this one was, so if you end up with a thin one, a layer of canvas underneath keeps it all tight and looking nice and opaque. — Katie