re-upholster antique french-style chair

Re-upholstering an Antique French-style chair

Dear Diary,

A Country style cottage make over has many facets.  Not only does colour schemes, fabric choices and styling  play a big part, but what furniture pieces to keep and what to get rid of, has a big impact in the decision-making.  The cottage that I am currently busy with, has many sentimental and good pieces so the obvious choice was to keep and restore them.  Its my favourite philosophy off-course and what I have been preaching in the past!  I will be sharing many of the projects of this cottage before the final reveal so herewith the first instalment of the re-upholstery an Antique French-style chair.  I will show you step by step how I do the re-upholstering.  It is really not difficult but would require some basic tools like a staple gun, staples, and a few hand tools. (my tools list is at the end of the post)  A little sewing is involved but not compulsory.


The little queen Anne inspired chair is very old, (my client believes near 100 years in fact!) and upon stripping the original fabric I saw the chair’s integrity is in tact, only the front end of the seat a little collapsed.  The springs and webbing was in good condition and only needed a little “fluffing up”.

The simplest way to remove the old fabric without any special upholstery tools, is by using a flat-head screwdriver and pliers to lift the old decorative tacks and staples.  The old fabric can be used as a pattern. (cut the new fabric generously to give you space to hold on to the fabric when pulling and stretching)

re-upholster antique french-style chair

I made a cut in the hessian on the front part of the seat, and under the original coconut fibre, inserted a big chunk of foam and filled the corners with wadding.  Once done, I covered the chair with a piece of cotton calico to secure the coconut fibre.

Proceed then to cover the chair with one or two layers of wadding, cutting into the wadding at the areas where it will have to go around arms, under the back-rest and front legs as shown below.

Use a thin ruler to help push the wadding through the seat and back rest area as it is very narrow.  Pulling it through to the back and staple it to the BOTTOM of the seat.

The same principle goes with putting the fabric on the seat.  Cut the fabric where the armrests are but NOT TO DEEP, and smaller than that of the piece of wood because when the fabric is stretched and tension applied, the cut parts will go even deeper into that specific area as shown here.

The fabric needs to be folded where it was cut;- inwards so it fits neatly and tightly around the armrest and front legs. Reminder: The fabric should be generously cut to allow you to have some grip on it when pulling. TIP:  Start at the front, pinning only a few staples down, the move ACROSS to the back area, stretching the fabric, pinning it again in a few places directly across the front area.  Now move to the left, do the same, and then across to the right and pin down again a few staples.  This way the fabric is pulled taut evenly and you make sure the pattern is centred on the chair.

Repeat the stretching process in this criss-cross fashion until you have most flat areas done and leaving the corners for last.  I opted for a pleated corner and this can simply be done by gathering the fabric by hand around the corner evenly and pinning it down.  Don’t worry about the staples, as you will be covering it with cord, piping, braid or decorative tacks later.

re-upholster antique french-style chair

The same procedure is done on the back-rest.  Wadding, then fabric and stretching and pinning in the same criss-cross fashion, making sure the fabric pattern is centred. (Remember to use the ruler to push the fabric through to the back of the chair.

The back-rest fabric is pinned on the UPPER part of the frame.

Again, the same procedure for the rear of the back-rest.  This time, the wadding and fabric goes all the way to the bottom of the chair. Remember to leave a little space for pinning the fabric, so do not staple to close to the frame.

re-upholster antique french-style chair

When a curved area has to be negotiated like the one above, then small cuts in the fabric has to be made to allow for the fabric to be eased in around the curve.  Do nut cut to deep as these cuts can tear easily if working with a medium weight fabric like this.  I folded the fabric inwards before pinning down and this will only work if the cuts are made around concave curves.

For this chair, I decided to modernise a little by making a double piping and not using cord or decorative tacks.  (This is the only sewing to be done for this chair, so you could skip this part and finish the chair with decorative rope instead. )  You will need a special piping foot to make double piping.  Fabric is cut a little wider than usual to allow two ropes (I used a 5mm cotton rope).  Roll the first piping into the fabric and then place the second piping down next to the first, folding the fabric back over both.  Stitch in the middle using the piping foot.

re-upholster antique french-style chair

Cut the excess of the fabric off close to the stitching line.

You could use a hot glue gun to glue the piping down, but I opted to staple the piping in the middle.  This part could be a little tricky, so if you don’t feel confident, spare yourself some stress and frustration and just glue it down! ;-)

re-upholster antique french-style chair

The piping goes all around the bottom and around the back rest of the chair.

And VOILLA!!! There she is,  little “Queeny” as I call her now.  Beautiful isn’t she? :-)


See, renew, repurpose, re-make, is the way to go.  This cottage and the owners still have their antiques and the sentimental pieces, just new, refreshed and plainly gorgeous!!  They are totally in love with “Queeny”!

re-upholster antique french-style chairThe re-upholstery an Antique French-style chair provided a fantastic way to use mix-and-match fabrics.  I opted for a red French toile (from Waverly) for the main seat and back area, a beautiful ticking for the back and lovely little check for the piping, all from, my favourite online fabric store at the moment, and yes, shipping super fast to Australia.

re-upholster antique french-style chair

This little chair has a new lease on life, looks pretty stunning and her owners adores her!

I hope you found this tutorial helpful and will give you courage to re-upholster your favourite or sentimental little chair!

Happy Stapling, till next time!



Article by Teresa

Australian Interior Designer / Decorator & Photographer. I share my style, my creativity and love for all things decor.

This Article Has 2 Comments
  1. Annette Teubes says:

    Jinne, dit is koningklik mooi……wens ek Kon deur jou oë die mooi agter die verwaarlosing raaksien

  2. Elma Koster says:

    Love it!!!!

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