Reupholstered Wood Frame Side Chair – Part 1

For anyone new to Flawed yet Functional, DIY and home projects are my happy place. It is therapeutic for me to paint a room. I get great satisfaction sewing a Roman shade for a window. Making wood beautiful with my own two hands is downright fun for me. It gives me great joy to make my home beautiful with my own elbow grease.

Doing and sharing these projects though are two very different things. It takes a lot of bravery to share home projects when I’m not a professional, an interior designer, or anything like that. I’m a reader and a life-long learner who likes to work with her hands. This post is me being brave. I’m not a trained in upholstery, but I like to learn and create beautiful things with my hands. I love Myquillyn’s tagline: It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. I couldn’t agree more. Let’s be brave together and re-upholster a chair!

Side Chair Before

Quite a few years ago, I purchased this wood side chair off Craigslist for the desk in my home office. The seat of the chair was ripped when I purchased it so the plan all along was to reupholster it at some point. Although I loved (and still do!) the mid-century modern lines of the chair, I wasn’t fond of the blond wood. After I removed all of the old upholstery, I gave it a couple coats of Minwax Special Walnut and a couple coats of polyurethane for durability.


Since I put this project off for years, I mean YEARS, and I’ve worked on this project in stages, I don’t have good photos of dismantling the chair and staining the frame.

The removal of the old upholstery and re-staining took place in early 2017, and then I let the cost of new foam for the seat allow me to procrastinate with finishing the chair. I’m really good at procrastination when I’m not feeling confident in a project. So there my chair sat for months and months while I “saved” to buy the foam and other materials for the seat of the chair.

I finally purchased the rest of the materials for the seat of the chair a couple weeks ago. The purchase only occurred because I happened to check the Jo-Ann’s coupons to find I had a 50% off one cut of fabric which included foam. Score! Guess how much it cost me? I should tell you I didn’t just buy foam. I bought the dust cover, burlap, burlap webbing, nail heads, AND the foam for $55. This chair has been sitting unfinished for over a year for just $55 (or over 7 years if you go back to the original purchase!).

I finished the chair back insert in the summer of 2017, and I failed to take any pictures to document it. So this is the starting point for finishing the chair seat. The seat of the chair only has the wooden frame, nothing else.

Reupholstered Side Chair StartI took pictures of how the chair was put together as I stripped off all the old upholstery. I followed the same pattern, method, and materials to build the new seat. I’m not an upholstery expert, so I don’t know if I’m doing this right, but I think it will turn out sturdy and comfortable. That is a good enough result for me for my first upholstery project!

Let’s jump into the project!

Trace the Shape of Chair onto the Foam

Before beginning to staple anything to the frame of the chair, get a pattern of the seat shape traced onto the foam. Lay the foam piece on the seat of the chair as snugly as possible without buckling the foam piece. Then trace around the inner side of the underside of the frame to mark the shape  to cut the foam.

Does that make sense? Kneel down and trace from the bottom of the chair. It is a little awkward, but it is a quick thing to do.

Reupholstered Side Chair Foam Fit

Cut the foam

Cut the outline you just traced using an electric knife or a serrated bread knife. Don’t try scissors or a flat knife, it will tear up the foam. If you have access to an electric knife, it will cut through the foam like butter. Please be careful not to cut yourself or your floor in the process!

Reupholstered Side Chair Cut Foam

Dry fit the foam

Before moving on to assembling the chair, put the foam into the frame of the chair to make sure it fits. Make additional adjustments as needed.

I kept my foam insert tight, but I did have a gap at the back of the chair. To fix this, I ended up cutting a thin piece of foam to fill in this gap before putting on the batting (see the Cut the Batting step below).

When I removed the original upholstery, there were large gaps between the foam and the seat frame, and these gaps were not filled with anything but air! So I don’t necessarily think every square inch of the frame needs to be filled with foam, but it seemed like the right thing to do, so I went for it.

Reupholstered Side Chair Dry Fit

Staple burlap to bottom of the chair

Now it’s time to start putting the chair back together. Start from the bottom up, except leaving the dust cover until the end just in case something needs to get removed.

Turn the chair “on its knees.” With the back facing you, tip it forward so the bottom is exposed. This makes the stapling of the burlap much easier. I used 9/16″ long staples (long!) because this layer is structural. It will partially hold the weight of the person sitting on the chair. I laid my roughly cut piece of burlap on the bottom of the chair then stapled in a north/south/east/west pattern to keep the burlap centered and taught. Continuing working around the chair bottom in this pattern (N/S/E/W) pulling the burlap taught as you go.

Chair Frame BeginReupholstered Side Chair Bottom BurlapI trimmed all the excess burlap, but an inch or so, around the chair bottom. Then I folded the burlap back over the staples (toward the middle of the chair) and stapled it again.

Reupholstered Side Chair Burlap FinishCut batting

To make a pattern for the batting, I simply laid my foam insert on top of the batting and used a permanent marker to trace around the foam leaving several inches clearance from the edge of the foam. I wanted to maintain the rough shape of the foam, but the extra inches were needed to tuck around the foam, between the foam and the frame of the seat of the chair.

Draw Batting Pattern

Put the foam into the chair and tuck the batting around it.

It is at this step I decided to fill in the small gap left between the back edge of the chair frame and the foam I originally cut. Based on how the chair was originally put together, I’m sure this gap was ok from a functional perspective, but I like everything to be as perfect as possible, so I filled this small gap with a scrap of foam.

Reupholstered Side Chair Foam + BattingAttach Jute Webbing

Next comes a tight weave of jute webbing. I attached this by securing the back side of the chair with four strips of webbing. Then I attached three strips of jute webbing to the left side of the chair. Then wove them together before fastening the opposite sides.

Jute Webbing WeaveThese next steps required both my husband and I. I did not buy the proper tool for this step nor enough jute webbing to be able to use the tool. My solution is as follows:

  1. Attach the back and left side of the chair webbing and weave the ends together. First staple 5 staggered staples into each strip ( _ – _ – _ ) then fold the end back over the staggered staples and secure it with three more staples ( _ _ _ ).
  2. Have your super strong husband pull each piece taught while you staple 5 staples into the finishing end of the strip.
  3. Staple again in a staggered pattern ( _ – _ – _ ).
  4. Repeat steps 2-3 until all jute webbing strips are taut and stapled to the chair.
  5. Fold over the ends of each strip and staple three more times ( _ _ _ ).
  6. Trim excess jute webbing.

Jute Webbing Trim

The finished webbing should look like this:

Jute Webbing FinishedThose jute strips are TIGHT. Both my husband and I sat on it, and it barely gives. Looking back at the old webbing when I stripped the chair, the webbing was loose and buckled. This should make the chair much more sturdy and comfortable!

Since I’m not an upholstery expert, more of a learn-as-I-go kind of girl, why is the foam in the middle of the seat frame? Does the jute webbing defeat its purpose entirely? I couldn’t find a tutorial of my exact type of chair so I really don’t know the proper way to approach this upholstery project. Thoughts?

I must confess that I cannot believe how quickly this portion of the chair came together. Why did I procrastinate this long? We’ve had this sturdy piece of furniture, that I really love, sitting useless, half-finished in our basement for so long! I’m so glad I took the plunge to finish it now! I can be brave, and you can too!

This completes the weight-bearing portions of the seat of the chair: burlap, foam, batting, and lastly the jute webbing. With a pneumatic stapler, this comes together very quickly! If I can do scary things you can too! Stop procrastinating and start doing!

Up next: the soft and comfy part of the chair!

What are you procrastinating on lately? What scares you about starting a project? Do you find those scary items are actually no big deal once you start to tackle the project?

Wood Frame Chair Upholstery


Dovetailed Wood Trays

Or should the title read “Wood Trays with Dovetails?” Can “dovetail” be a verb? If you know, enlighten me!

Our Christmas gift to ourselves was a dovetail jig! The primary purpose was to finish our buffet which has three drawers in the middle of it. We roughly followed these plans by Ana White, but ours will look much different. We changed just about every aspect of it except that it is a long buffet with three drawers in the middle with doors/shelves on either side.

I can’t wait to show you that project! It’s been a long time in the making! In fact, we started it last January…January 2017. We’re one year in! Yikes!

We’ve learned so much about woodworking in that year though and have acquired many tools and such to complete the buffet. I’ll be showing it soon, hopefully!

The wood project today is three wood trays to hold various odds and ends in one of our kitchen cabinets. The bottom shelf of this cabinet gets crammed with this and that, things that have no real home (like the toilet paper! Ha, actually we use this for wiping noses, too cheap to buy Kleenex in this house!). It holds our vitamins, my diabetes testing supplies, the boy’s candy, and tea.

disorganized cabinetTruthfully, Dan was just looking for an area in our home that could use wood boxes. He needed to practice with the dovetail jig before tackling the buffet drawers. It is quite the machine and takes a lot of skill and practice. Even though the jig’s purpose is to make dovetailing easier, it still takes quite a bit of knowledge, planning, and careful cutting!

So Dan built three beautiful boxes to fit side-by-side in this cabinet. They are just deep enough to fit inside the face frame and wide enough to fill the shelf width with a little wiggle room in between the boxes.

raw wood trayThis is a dovetail joint, for those of you who don’t know! It is the cutouts that fit a corner of a wood box together. It is an extremely strong joint that fits together snugly. There are no nails or screws used, only a bit of wood glue. If you are looking for quality wood furniture, dovetail joints for any drawers is something to look for.

raw wood dovetailSolid wood must be used to make dovetails because plywood will splinter. How do we know this??? Of course we had to try to dovetail plywood. We have a lot on hand, and we are ones who tend to need to learn for ourselves. Our conclusion: maybe it could be done, but so much care needs to go into it, it is easier to just use solid wood, just like all the experts say. Now you know.

Dan used poplar to build these boxes, and I thought it might be fun to stain them then use the varnish oil I’ve used in other projects.

This was not the greatest decision. I thought the wood grain would pop through the stain, but it didn’t. Instead, the stain amplified every little hair of grain, resulting in a very rustic looking box.

After doing some research, we discovered that stain is only used to make “bad” wood look good (like pine) while clear coats are used to make “good” wood look all the better. Again, that’s what we’re here for, to help you not make our mistakes! Don’t stain good wood!

Here are the products I used to finish the boxes. Again, don’t stain the wood like I did! Unless this rustic look is what you’re going for, then by all means, stain away!

wood tray finishing products

Because I like to see my work progress, I took pictures each step of the way from raw wood through three coats of varnish.

tray finish progressionNotice how every little hair of grain is showing? I would have preferred just the major lines show through, but overall, I still like how the boxes look. They are just more rustic than I intended.

After sorting though all the stuff in the cabinet (and throwing some really old stuff away!), here she is with the new boxes!

organized cabinetHaha, not that much of a change, huh?

It’s hard to tell, but I did pair down the things that we weren’t using or were expired and grouped like items together.


organized vitaminsDiabetes Supplies (and hand cream and Dixie cups, apparently! One can only be so organized! Oh and that isn’t bubbles! It’s my sharps container to dispose of my lancets properly.):

diabetes testing suppliesCandy and Tea:

tea and treatsHere’s another little before and after with all three boxes together:

Wood traysThey’re such pretty little boxes! Aren’t they?

They may find a home elsewhere in the house eventually because they are too pretty to hide in a cabinet all their life!

This was a fun little practice project for us! When you tackle a DIY project do you do a smaller, test run one first? Do you go full speed ahead into the big one? We’ve done it both ways! I’d love to hear your tales below!


Poplar Schoolroom Table

She’s finished! The new, larger table for our schoolroom that I mentioned in the schoolroom reveal post.

In her beautiful, raw, unfinished glory:

Unfinished Birch Table

And now after 5 coats of Varnish Oil:

Finished Preschool Table

Can you believe how the oil made the colors and grain pop?!

Dan built and designed the table himself. I am so proud of him! It turned out SO beautiful! I cannot take any credit for the craftsmanship, it was all him. I only applied the finishing oil.

He made the tabletop out of poplar 1×6 planks, and the legs and apron are made out of pine 2×4’s. He would have used poplar for the whole thing, but he thinks he’ll need to make new legs as they boys grow, so he opted for the cheaper pine.

The pine legs are definitely not as beautiful as the poplar top. I may paint the legs further down the line. I’m going to keep it as is for now and let it grow on me.

I used Tried & True Varnish Oil to finish the table. It was originally purchased to finish our wood cutting boards, and I love how it brings out the grain and beauty of the wood without the plastic-y layer that polyurethane leaves. I am slightly concerned about not having that protective barrier on a child’s table. If it doesn’t hold up very well, I can just sand it and stain or paint it. I’ll update if it doesn’t hold up to 2 and 4 year old abuse. 🙂

Wood Oil

The coats are applied VERY thin so this itty bitty can goes a long way. The first coat goes on pretty splotchy, but that evens out with each progressive coat. I applied a very thin layer using a piece of cheesecloth, then after letting it sit for 5 minutes, I went back over the wood with a dry, clean cheesecloth to pick up any excess oil. After that dried, I buffed it with a #0000 steel wool pad and then with another clean, dry cheese cloth to bring out the shine.

Varnish Oil Coats

I’m not 100% sure I applied my coats thin enough. There is a slight tackiness to the tabletop. I’m going to buff it again and hope that takes any residue off.

The reason why we built this new table is our Ikea LACK table was too short for the chairs I purchased. I had researched how high a table should be based on chair height (This pdf  is very helpful.), and I knew the LACK was an inch or so shorter than recommended. I just didn’t realize how much difference an inch can make! The boys struggled to get their legs under the table, and when they did, they were stuck, usually falling over to try to get out from under the table.

Knowing that, we tried to be careful when planning the dimensions of this table. The school chairs are 13″ tall, so the height of the table should be about 21″. Ours is 22 1/2″ tall. We had some confusion about how incorporate the height of the apron. We ended up adding 1″ so that their legs wouldn’t be pinched by the apron. Their legs definitely aren’t pinched, but the overall height is a touch tall.

The tabletop dimensions are 21″ deep by 46″ long. We wanted enough space for the boys to sit on opposite sides of the table but offset so they don’t bump each other with their books/paper/whatnot. Bumping into each other’s work is problem #1 with the LACK table. The tightness of the depth of the table causes arguments on a daily basis.

Here it is in our new and improved schoolroom:

School room birch table

There is now plenty of room for the boys and their work. They both gave it a test coloring run as soon as they saw it set up. She’s beautiful and functional!

Finished Birch Table

We chose poplar for the tabletop because we love the color variation in the wood grain. The Varnish Oil really helps to draw out the color change too. So pretty!

Birch TabletopAlthough I wasn’t planning to do school the afternoon I set it up, Jackson was so excited that we threw in a quick lesson during naptime. We’ve also had many more impromptu coloring sessions just to use this new table!

Any furniture builders out there? Thoughts on varnish oil vs. polyurethane? Do you like the look of wood or would you prefer a painted table top?