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Before and After: Cane Chairs

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Before and After: Cane Chairs

Before and After: Cane Chairs



I didn’t think I could show my face until I had finished them. Why did it take so long? A combination of a four-month-old who just beat colic, and this chair not being the easiest to reupholster. But check out these beauties… I’m in love!


Hilarious how so many of us have these chairs. One reader had already redone her chair. Let me start by saying that this is not a project for the faint of heart. It did take some muscle and some patience, but look how cute! Totally worth it. Also note that I’m not a pro. Not even a semi-pro. I’ve only done mild upholstery jobs, so I just made this up as I went along, and it went something like this:

1. Remove the screws underneath the seat to release the cushion (My brother’s tip is to take pictures as you disassemble the chair in case you need to go back for reference when you’re ready to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.)

2. Remove all of the staples and fabric. (I used needle nose pliers because it’s what I had, but my brother recommends an upholstery staple remover) Save this fabric because you’ll need it as a pattern to cut out your new fabric.

3. Sand your chair so the paint can stick well.

4. At least 2 coats of spray paint. My ultimate FAVORITE spray paint of all time – and will never stray – is Rust-oleum Painter’s Touch. No they didn’t pay me to say this, and they wouldn’t have to. I love this stuff like I love Cheerios for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The applicator tip is big like a can of hairspray so you don’t get carpal tunnel from spraying, and the coverage is by far better than any other brand. You can get away with less coats. The reason I chose spray paint for these chairs is because there are no brush marks, the caning on the sides would have been a disaster to paint with a brush, and it’s quicker. You can do a few coats within 15 minutes of each other. Note: I started with matte finish, but didn’t like how it felt so the top coat on these chairs is semi-gloss. Much better.

5. On to the cusions. A bazillion staples need to be removed, and you need to try to salvage the fabric as much as you can so you can make a pattern out of it.

6. My chairs had the original upholstery with the buttoning, so all of these buttons needed to be removed, again I used the needle nosed pliers.

7. The cushions were a little worn and needed some extra quilt batting to beef them up, and since I wasn’t going to do the buttoning, I filled the holes like Heather did to smooth it out. (Good thinkin’ Heather)

8. Used the old fabric to cut out the new fabric, plus a little extra. I wanted to be able to pull and tug on the fabric and then trim later. My fabric was directional and I bought 3 yards for both chairs and it was PLENTY. Probably would have been okay with 2 1/4 for both chairs. (btw- fabric was $5/yard at Home Fabrics in Pleasant Hill, CA)


9. The back piece facing out goes on first. I centered my directional fabric and stapled it tightly in the center working my way out. Pull hard and get that fabric tight. I used a PowerShot heavy duty staple gun and it worked great. Definitely an air compressor and nail gun would have been even better, but I didn’t have one – and they scare me. You can rent one and get even better results.

10. I had to make sure my fabric was straight before I nailed the whole thing down.

11. LOTSA staples.

12. Removed buttoning, filled holes and added a few layers of batting to the back cushion


13. Staple, staple, staple.

14. Trim the excess. This is where your piping will go.

15. Okay, this is where I got janky. I used the original piping from the chair because, lucky me, it matched my new fabric. As far as online tutorials go, I fail because I haven’t taught you how to make your own piping, BUT, looking at it, it doesn’t look too tough to recreate. the tough part is attaching it to the chair so you don’t see the staples. This is where the air compressor would have been great, but would have taken great precision, and since those things scare the bejeebies outta me, I glued. Yes, in the spirit of “I’m not a pro, let’s wing it,” I glued the trim. Wood glue. Seems to be holding up nicely. If I didn’t have the original piping I would do one of three things, recover the piping with a sewing machine. If you take it apart you’ll see how it’s constructed quite easily. Or I’d buy cording and glue two widths of it, or what Heather did was use nailhead trim. I’ve had a hard time getting nailhead to sit straight, but she looks like she got it down.

16. Last row of piping on the chair base and replace the cushion.

31 Comments On This Topic
  1. Amy said: July 28, 2010 at 9:33 am

    Love them! Thanks for the step-by-step. Upholstery has always been a mystery to me. And I spy a picture of Ally asleep in the bathroom sink!

  2. Holly of So Chic Decor said: July 28, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Love how they turned out…very stylish!

    http://sochicdecor.blogspot.com

  3. Heather Thoming said: July 28, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! They turned out wonderful! I love the fabric! Great job!! Do you think that’s enough exclamation points?

  4. abby said: July 28, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    You’re chairs look great Brooke!

  5. Becky@OrganizingMadeFun said: July 28, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Next time I see one of these chairs at a garage sale or thrift shop…I’m going to definitely think about getting it and doing this! So, great!

  6. Emily said: July 28, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    I have a chair just like that waiting to be upholstered. Thanks for the inspiration!

  7. Laura@JourneyChic said: July 29, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    They turned out really well! I like that you kept them a little bit retro with the fun fabric.

  8. Jenn from Much to My Delight said: July 29, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    Good lawd–most blogs just post the finished product and it all looks so easy. That process looks HARD! Good for you; the work paid off. Look great!!

  9. Brook said: July 29, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    I am so inspired! You do beautiful work. I am currently trying to work up the will to refinish my bedroom dresser, and this gorgeous post has definitely helped!

  10. Heather S. said: July 30, 2010 at 8:06 am

    They look great! Thanks for the shout-out in your post…recovering this chair was one of my favorite projects.

  11. April said: July 31, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    Looks fabulous! Finally got my internet back…I’ll be in touch! :)

  12. bink & boo said: August 2, 2010 at 10:19 am

    OK, you have inspired me. I have a chair very similar to this, and I am going to try to refinish it myself. My husband will think I am crazy…heck I think I am crazy, but that’s neither her nor there.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  13. Amelia said: August 2, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Ah that’s AMAZING!! I don’t know if I’m quite this brave yet…

  14. Rebecca said: August 4, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Brooke! They look amazing! Nice work.

    I hope your munchkin is feeling better.

  15. Katie said: August 6, 2010 at 7:30 am

    Hi Brooke! East coast reader here :) I have no idea how I found your site but I have it bookmarked and I love it. Random questions.. first I love the chairs (of course) but I am in the market for a new rug and am wondering where you picked up that brown rug in your FR?!

  16. ohbrooke said: August 6, 2010 at 8:36 am
  17. Lara said: August 17, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    I love that spray paint! No joke we used it to paint our dining room table, chairs and hutch. I love it! Now I need to recover with fabric. Where did you get your fabric from? I need to get a good deal since I have 6 chairs to do. Of course it has to beautiful fabric also!

  18. ohbrooke said: August 17, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    @Lara – Home Fabrics in Pleasant Hill! Nicki found it – GREAT deals. I splurged with $5/yard fabric. So cute!

  19. Lara said: August 17, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Wow thats a steal. I have wanted to check ithat place out. It just sounds so far away. I have never been to Pleasant Hill. Maybe if I get a babysitter it will be fun! Thanks for the info.. love the chairs!

  20. Katie said: August 22, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Beautiful makeover! This post caught my eye when you mentioned where the fabric store is. I used to live in Walnut Creek, while my husband went to UC Berkeley for his PhD in Chemistry. I miss that area so much! We used to go to the Borders in downtown PH all the time and there was a scrapbook store nearby I used to like. Ah, brings back memories of my carefree prechild days!

  21. Astrid said: September 3, 2010 at 8:16 am

    They look fantastic! I swear, I’ve got a footstool in our nursery that matches the original chairs exactly… we call it ‘WUF’, the World’s Ugliest Footstool. Thanks so much for making upholstery look manageable… even with a baby! :)

  22. Oona said: September 29, 2010 at 7:17 am

    They looks amazing Brooke! Just perfect for your space.

  23. Corinna said: September 29, 2010 at 8:14 am

    wonderful! thanks for taking the time for a step-by-step; upholstery is one of those crafts I’ve always wanted to try, but just haven’t carved out the time to do so!

  24. Laurie at house to your Home said: September 29, 2010 at 10:53 am

    So glad I stumbled across this project, thanks for the how to, of course I have 2 of these chairs waiting to be finished, you’re right everyone has these chairs!! Yours turned out great!!

  25. Suzanne said: September 29, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Those are great.. Thanks for the tutorial..well done!!!

  26. Kristina Carter said: March 14, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    great tutorial! i just bought a chair like this today and am definitely going to follow this!! thanks!!

  27. Kristen said: March 22, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    They look so great! You actually bought these chairs from me :-) They belonged to my brother and my sister-in-law actually but I sold the chairs for them…I noted your website when we emailed and wanted to check back to see what you would do with them. So cute! I showed my sister-in-law your finished product and she said she’ll take them back now ;-) lol

  28. Jessica said: April 21, 2011 at 6:57 am

    Thank you so much for this post! I recently purchased a chair very similar to yours for only $15 and thought it would be fun to get it refurbished by a pro…..for $500 bucks! I think not.

    This tutorial has inspired me to give it a try myself. If it doesn’t work out I’m only $15 plus materials in the hole.

    Thanks so much!

  29. Some past projects… « Dex and Design said: August 20, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    [...] first upholstery project, I think it came out pretty nice! I followed a tutorial over at Oh Brooke here. After! not too [...]

  30. lindsay living – a personal style blog — lindsay living said: July 6, 2012 at 6:05 am

    [...] another chair, but am hoping my skills will translate to this chair as well. I totally fell for Brooke’s updated cane chair on her blog, Oh Brooke. (Although she wrote her final post on June 15th, I’m happy to still [...]

  31. Doreen said: January 20, 2013 at 11:40 am

    Hi, I live in the UK and like everyone else have two of these beautiful little chairs – IDENTICAL to yours! I have done upholstery before but was very nervous about PAINTING them as I wasn’t sure what effect it would have on the lovely French Cane. However having seen your blog/tutorial and your finished chairs, which look AMAZING, I am going to give it a go. We have the same paint in the UK so I am feeling pretty confident. Thanks for your help and wish me luck!


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