The $60 Thrifted Vintage Chair Makeover

You know those projects that you start but never finish? Dude, what’s UP with that?! I have a gazillion of them lying around my house: half-dissected furniture…….sewing projects with threads hanging loose…..and knitted garments with knitting needles still attached!

Other than DIY ADHD, I can’t fully explain that phenomenon. (Does it happen to you, too??)

This year, however, let’s vow to FINISH. WHAT. WE. START!

….So I finallyΒ finished this vintage chair that I found at the thrift store (–ahem–) last year…………Yes, I saidΒ last year.)

Cost at the thrift store: $60

And voila, thanks to the support from!


Vintage Chair Makeover BEFORE99.jpg

Finally it’s DOOOONNNEEE! Woo hoo! One less piece of furniture in my messy garage!


Vintage chair99.jpg


Now I’ve got a cozy corner in my master bedroom, which still needs a lot of decorating. It’s been three years and all I’ve been able to do is remove wallpaper and paint the walls a pretty Sherwin Williams Rainwashed!

Vintage Chair Makeover4.jpg


It’s amazing how many things you learn when you do a project that you’ve never done before. Oh, the skillz you acquire!

And yes….there will be trial and error. This is just a sampling of the decorative tacks I wasted in trying to get them hammered in PROPERLY!

Bent Furniture Tacks.jpg

I’ve done a previous reupholstered chair ions ago when I started this blog (hahaha, looking at that post now makes me laugh at how ridiculously fuzzy my pictures!). But that chair was a piece of cake compared to nailing on 276 decorative tacks onto a vintage chair makeover when you’ve never done it before! EEK!

Vintage Chair Makeover AFTER.jpg

For long-term readers of this blog (lol, maybe five of you brave souls?? Shout out to y’all!), you’ll remember this chair from last year when I attempted to reupholster the chair with a butter knife… know, the “tool” that you resort to when you can’t find any realΒ tools? Yeah–that.

Vintage Chair Makeover 2.jpg

Vintage Chair Makeover 6.jpg

Inside of the chair….NOT pretty!

Vintage Chair Makeover 4.jpg


Which Fabric to Use?!

I think this is the most fun (and most difficult!) part of reupholstering a chair, too. It all depends on the look you’re going for. I really wanted something classic and pretty. It’s a very traditional-looking chair, so I didn’t want to go all modern and crazy on it. Plus, I knew I wanted it in my bedroom, and with the Rainwashed paint colors, I knew a white chair with tan fabric would look really nice!

Did you know that HGTV makes fabric now?! Click here to check out their line of fabrics. Actually, is a great place to buy fabrics online. The selection is awesome and I find their site cleaner to use than some other online fabric stores!

Here’s the HGTV fabric I chose, which was perfect!

HGTV Fabric


Always use the old pieces of fabric as a pattern, and be sure to add in seam allowances (jeez….that old fabric was HORRIBLE).

Use old fabric as pattern.jpg


276 Decorative Tacks Later……..

Yes, I hand-nailed 276 decorative tacks onto this chair…..and I am not ashamed to admit that not all of them are straight! But 1) the chair is in my bedroom, which doesn’t get any traffic or judging looks, and 2) who cares? I’m not perfect πŸ™‚

But I did almost decide to give up after getting started because it just wasn’t turning out how I had envisioned….But hey, how will you ever learn if you run from challenges? I told myself that DIY’ers never quit :). I started with the arm rests because they looked to be “easier” than the back and seat, though!

Vintage Chair Makeover 5.jpg

I had ordered a box of 1000 decorative tacks from OnlineFabricStore.Net. These are the ones I ordered. I loved the gold! And I have plenty of them left for another project!

online fabric store Decorative French Natural Nails

Β Oh no!…….C R O O K E D Decorative Tacks!

Aside from the obvious of using decorative tacks that come in strings so you can’t help but get it right, here’s how to keep decorative tacks straight:

Use a piece of paper (or a ruler) to make the distance between two tacks. Do your best to make each notch falls in the center of the decorative tack.

I tried to use a little tool that they’d found online to keep decorative tacks straight, but it didn’t work well for me. I found that by placing one at a time, and just using my makeshift spacer, it worked much better. I felt like I had more control over my tacks :).

Give it a whirl. After about the first 25, you actually start finding it easier to drive them in!

Installing Decorative Tacks.jpg


Ditch the Butter Knife!

….or any other “makeshift” tools, for that matter. You’ll just hurt yourself, and make your DIY project harder than it needs to be. Ain’t no body got time for that! LOL

This is the tack hammerΒ I used, which is much lighter than a traditional hammer, and easier to drill them in.

Other than the tack hammer, I found a regular hammer helpful in removing tacks. You can always use a tack puller.


The Innards

One of the nastiest things about making over old thrift store chairs is the innards. You never know what you’ll find!! YUCK! But sometimes, you find some “gold” inside……in other words….good, solid materials that you should reuse if you can.

Yes, my friends…..that’s authentic horse hair!!!

According to my reader and ‘net buddy, Scott, upholstery shops sell a blend of hog and horse hair (and it’s expensive, too!!), which is used toΒ overlay springs to provide some padding and protection. So yeah, this definitely got reused!

Reupholster material.jpg

Before I added the stuffing, however, I used a light duty staple gunΒ to staple the fabric to the back:

Use batting to add extra cushioning.jpg

Then I stapled an extra layer of batting over the stuffing for more padding.

Use batting for extra softness.jpg

Oh, and to see more ugly “BEFORE” shots of this chair, go see last year’s post.

If You’re Not Sure How to Get Started….

If you’re new to chair makeovers, I put together this video to help get you started with 7 tips for easy chair makeovers:


Β The End Result?

I’m super stoked! I love how it turned out!


Vintage Chair Makeover 1.jpg




Vintage Chair Makeover6.jpg

The back of the chair. I forgot to mention that I also used Annie Sloan Old White for the chair body, and in the cut-outs of the bottom of the chair I used Annie Sloan Coco.

Vintage Chair Makeover_BACK.jpg

I picked up that little wooden bench from the thrift store, too, for a mere $7.00……. Oh, how I LOVE the thrift store! πŸ™‚

Materials Used

  • 1.5 – 2 yardsΒ HGTV Fabric from
  • Total of 276 Decorative tacks from (oh, don’t forget the ones I bombed!!! Okay, add in about 30 more tacks…)
  • 1 -2 yards of batting for added cushioning
  • Annie Sloan Chalk Paint “Old White” for the body
  • Annie Sloan Chalk Paint “Coco” for the cut-outs on bottom edge of chair

Tools Used


  • Chair – $60 from my favorite thrift store
  • Fabric – About $26
  • Tacks – About $7
  • Paint – Already had on-hand
  • TOTAL COST: About $93! Not bad for a super heavy, sturdy vintage chair!


Vintage Chair Makeover2.jpg



So what do you think?!

Vintage Chair Makeover Finally Done.jpg

Did you like this project? Why not just go ahead and PIN IT? πŸ™‚

Vintage Chair Makeover - Thrift Diving Blog

Feel free to check out my other chair projects before you leave! πŸ™‚

Do you have a chair makeover that you’ve been wanting to do? Tell me all about it in the comments section below!



Some supplies were sponsored by However, this post is strictly my own creativity, and all my crazy opinions are my own.


About the Author ()

Hey there, I'm Serena, a 38-year-old working mom of 3 young boys who can't get enough DIY! If you actually made it to the bottom of this post to read this, it means you're really enjoy my blog. That means SO much. If I can inspire just one person through my passion and energy for DIY, then I'm fulfilling my life's purpose. Thanks for joining me, and I hope you'll subscribe so we can keep in touch! ~Serena

Comments (91)

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Sites That Link to this Post

  1. Project Ideas for Old Chairs - My Repurposed Lifeβ„’ | February 18, 2016
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  9. 4 Repurposed Chairs to Help You Take 5 | Trendy Thrifty Now | February 20, 2014
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  21. Vintage Wing Back Chair: THRIFT SCORE! | | November 7, 2013
  22. Why I Used a Butter Knife to Reupholster a Thrift Store Chair (PART 1) | | November 7, 2013
  1. jean says:

    I am going back to your blogs and finding “stuff” that I missed, which is a few, but this is one of them! Girl, you got it going on…..You have done a wonderful job on this chair. I can’t wait for your next project. Believe me, I save em ALL!! jean…

  2. This is very good work on chair makeover. It looks very good to new from old design. I like you great job.

  3. Vicki says:

    Serena, You did an awesome job! I love it!

  4. Nina says:

    I was frustrated beyond measure when I couldn’t figure out how I’m going to get the fabric to stay without stapling it an hiding staples under tacks (something I figured I might not be able to do with my amazing never-done-diy-skills). Now I understand. You fold the seam and tack. It makes perfect sense.

    Thank goodness my diy chairs are 5500+ miles away, I might want to rack up some experience before going into a project of this magnitude.

  5. Pamela Brazier says:

    Great job, I love your blog. Beautiful chair. I hope you saved all the old tacks, I just love the vintage look and I bet a little rub n buff will purtty those up for another project. I did a very small chair and I know those tacks can be frustrating.

  6. Beth McCurdy says:

    Thank you so much! I have a Haverty’s chair that I bought in 2000 that I want to redo. Now I know how. I love how you added the Coco ASCP color to the bottom of the chair. That added so much, in my opinion.

    • Hi Beth! I’m so glad you were inspired with ideas for your chair! πŸ™‚ I agree–I love the Coco on the bottom! I love adding those little details. It’s what makes refinishing furniture so much fun, rewarding, and creative! πŸ™‚ Thanks for commenting!

      • Beth McCurdy says:

        Serena, I hope that you don’t mind me asking you this…I’m working on this very old sort of stool/table that has an upholstered top with tacks/nails. It was handmade by my husband’s grandfather. I’m working on removing the trim, fabric and nails/tacks and realized that there is straw inside (like what you discovered!). I took a whiff and WOW, it really was stinky (the piece has been stored in an unfinished basement for 50 years) Should I just remove everything and re-stuff? I’m afraid the piece might really stink if I keep any of the filling inside. BTW, I’m excited about the project- it will go in my beach house after I paint and reupholster it!

      • Beth says:

        Thanks! I did remove and actually hose down the piece and clean. I used some essential oil in inside before re-stuffing it to help get rid of the strong odor. I’m on Instagram betheats2run but I have a separate Instagram acct that I just started called beth_christina_designs (just DIY/home decor)if you want to see the transformation. I found the most perfect beachy fabric remnant from Hancock Fabrics for super cheap. Thanks again for your advice. I love your blog!!!

  7. marti says:

    You are very cleaver.

  8. cassie says:

    serena, it is GORGEOUS, my friend! love the fabric choice!

  9. Sandra says:

    You did a lovely job.

  10. Cindy says:

    WOW Serena…she’s beautiful! The fabric, paint color, and all those tacks, it must be so rewarding considering all the time and effort it took!

  11. What a transformation! I love, love what you did with this chair!

  12. Sarah says:

    I, too, had a chair upholstery project that took almost a year. A pair of chairs, found at a salvage store, for $15 each. Ugly as sin. And I, of course, figured that $30 for two chairs was a fair price for me to teach myself to upholster furniture. It took a year because I’d work on them for a few days, then get so frustrated that I’d put them (unfinished) back in the basement for weeks, just so I wouldn’t have to look at my failures. Then I’d get bored, pull them out again, and start the cycle over. Believe it or not, in the end it was totally worth it! πŸ™‚

    Great job on your chair! It looks like a million bucks.

    • Hey Sarah!! That’s why we all have so many unfinished projects–just like you and those $15 chairs–because we get stuck and can’t figure out how to move forward. So it’s easier to just put them aside and move on to something easier. But you’re right–if we can stick it out, it’s totally worth it! Because even if it doesn’t turn out, it truly is a learning experience, and the next project won’t take nearly as long! πŸ™‚ Thanks for commenting, girl! Hope you’re doing well!! P.S. Ryobi sent me a compound miter saw! HA! I’m converting my garage into a workshop!!!

  13. Deb says:

    Oh my goodness, it’s beautiful! What vision you have to make that happen! The two color paint details are perfect with the fabric.Maybe the wait was worth it. DYI ADHD that should be a diagnosis … I totally got that.

    • Thanks, Deb! Funny, but I usually have very little vision for my projects. They just take shape as I am working on them! That’s the most fun part!! And yes…..DIY ADHD should be included in the new DSM V manual. HA!

  14. Anna Ibarra says:

    OH, that came out nice. I love the whole makeover, the color, the print fabric. Just spot on! You did good girl! πŸ™‚

  15. Christina Kendall says:

    LOVE this! So beautiful – I have been wanting to try my hand at reupholstering furniture but haven’t yet been quite brave enough. This is definitely great inspiration! I LOVE LOVE LOVE thrift stores and if I had the time I would re-do old furniture and dΓ©cor all day long! πŸ™‚

    • Oh, Christina, just jump right in and try it! I was nervous when I started this chair, too. I was afraid of those dag-on decorative tacks. LOL. But you know, once you start, you’ll figure it out! And don’t expect it to be perfect. The more you do, the better you’ll be. I had some flaws in this chair, as well. Thanks for my dear HUBBY for pointing them out to me when I asked him, “So what do you think of this chair now?” lol. Just try it and you’ll surprise yourself with how good you’ve done! πŸ™‚ Good luck!

  16. Amy Marshall says:

    It looks awesome! That fabric was a great choice and the chair itself has such pretty lines. Thanks for sharing!

    Have a great weekend,
    Amy @ Home Sweet Thrifty Home

  17. Scott says:

    LOL, I got a shout out! HA!

    Although staring at the filler there, that makes me think that’s not horse hair but probably raffia. Raffia is the stuff you sometimes will find glassware packaged in (it looks like curly straw). That usually helps date the piece to the 1950’s or 60’s. Horse and boar hair were more prevalent in the 1800’s and early 1900’s when horses were more plentiful.

    Looks great though! And I’d take your tack spacer idea a little further. Use a narrow file or thin saw blade (even a good utility knife) to make notches in a piece of thick cardboard or hardboard. Slip two or three tacks into each groove (depends how many grooves you cut and how curvy the piece is), line them up and hammer away! It helps line them up while keeping fingers free from swinging hammers.

    • You most definitely got a shout out, Scott! You’ll, like, my FIRST READER almost?? πŸ™‚ Gotta show you some luv, dude! πŸ™‚ Okay, so maybe it’s raffia. Whatever is it, it works well! No need to replace it! You always teach me “something” about “something.” Love that!

      And yes, that’s the tack spacer I tried, but for some reason, it just wasn’t working well for me. I found that just placing them individually, it helped keep them pretty straight once I got the hang of it. The first section was a HOT MESS! lol

      Hey, thanks for commenting! Hope things are well with you. Hit me up on Gmail! πŸ™‚

      • Meryl says:

        Oh yes, OK Scott answered my question. I’m from the 50’s/60’s. The chair def has a familiar look to it!!

  18. AmyinSC says:

    Beautifl and inspiring! Gave me the idea to try this on a chair. May even use this same fabric with my SW Sea Salt bedroom. THANKS!!!

  19. Shanetha says:

    Gorgeous!!!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE THIS CHAIR!!!

  20. Love it – great job – You have really taken this chair from thrift store blah to designer style.
    I get overwhelmed trying to choose fabrics for projects – I end up buying 4 or 5 different patterns because I love them all πŸ˜€
    Oh, and I am overloaded with half done and prospective projects… I am determined to spend the next 12 months really focused on clearing the backlog.

    • Same here, Tracey. I have TONS of backlog of projects, and I’m about to start listing them out, and spending time organizing them from “Most Important” to “Least Important” and try to start knocking some out. πŸ™‚ And I hear you on the fabric! I wish we could just make ONE choice, because it gets expensive buying fabric you end up not using!

  21. Debra says:

    EXCELLENT !!!!!!!!!!!!! You did an amazing job

  22. Teresa says:

    Great job! What a beautiful makeover! I have an old chair with a lot of character, just waiting for me decide if I should paint or stain it and what kind of fabric will look best. Hopefully I will have that Aaahah! moment and choose the right colors that bring it back to life!

  23. Lorna says:

    WOW! What a SPECTACULAR job you did. It’s gorgeous. You are SO talented! I want this chair. πŸ™‚

  24. Pam D. says:

    What do you mean a butter knife is not a tool? Learn something new every blog,lol. Love this chair,you do awesome work and WHY would anyone complain? Dumb and rude. Can’t wait to see the next dive project.

  25. Nikki Thomas says:

    Wow! What a great job. I recently restyled my office chair, but it’s not as detailed as this one. Thank you for the tips, you gave me the confidence to work on another old chair I have….it has the same details as yours.

    • Yay, Nikki! Yeah, I tend to put a lot of detail into my projects. In fact, hubby tells me all the time, “I don’t know why you’re doing that detail, because no one is going to even notice!” I guess he’s wrong! πŸ™‚ But the more detail the long it takes. And sometimes you just don’t have that long to hang around on one project. I need to learn to cut my projects shorter, or learn how to be more efficient!!! LOL

  26. Sarah says:

    Love it!!!!

  27. Noreen says:

    Really nice!

  28. susan says:

    Wow! Looks amazing! How many hours did this project take you to complete? The detail is great…I lack patience and just want to get things done and often cut corners or don’t take on projects due to their intensity.

    • Hmmm…..I’m not even sure. Last year is when I removed the old fabric and tacks on the chair. I didn’t have the right tools, so it took probably 1.5 hours? Then it sat for a year. This time around, it took maybe 4 hours, start to finish? I worked on it in spurts here and there. Could be that it took a bit less, maybe? I should start timing myself!!!!

  29. Danneel Mitchell says:

    Love it!!!!

  30. Tammy C says:

    Love it Serena!!! GORGEOUS. The horse hair creaped me out but the end result is amazing. Your blog has inspired me. I am now addicted to several blogs which are based on thrift store purchases.

    • That horse hair IS pretty nasty when you first see it! I thought it was STRAW at first. I was actually going to throw it away! Once I researched a little more, I see how expensive it is. Always keep that horse hair if it’s in good condition!!

  31. Kris Whitted says:

    OMG LOVE! I am so looking for a chair like this now!

  32. Nicole says:

    Amazing……I love it and I’m inspired. Thank you!!

  33. NICOLE says:


  34. Hi Serena,

    Have you been peeking in my garage? Right now I have two chairs that have been painted, but need new foam and fabric, 3 stacking tables/stools I found in the garbage the other day which have been sanded, but that’s all, a table and two matching mirrors I don’t know what to do with, another mirror waiting to be refinished and then an old wooden spool from wire that I’m going to turn into a coffee table. There are probably more things in there, but this is all I can remember!!

    LOVE the chair and the fabric is perfect!!


    • LOL…..yes, I’m convinced that us DIY’ers have THE worse (and best!) garages–full of mess, but TREASURE, in there! All I can say is take it one piece at a time. It’s slow-moving when you’ve got so much to work on, but just pick one at a time, and knock it out without feeling overwhelmed at all the other stuff you have waiting on your “TO-DO” list πŸ™‚ Good luck! And thanks for commenting!

  35. Madelyn says:

    Lovely makeover. Did you know that one can buy strips of upholstery nails where one only has to nail every 4 th nail.
    They come in all of the finishes, too. For the ones you want to space I.e. the arm just nail as you want it spaced.

    • Yep! I knew there was a strip of nails but I didn’t know they were every 4th nail! Ahhhh….could have saved tons of time. LOL. But I like the idea of doing it the “hard” way. It’s a skill I can now add to my repertoire! I will try it next time, however. Thanks for commenting! πŸ™‚

  36. Denise says:

    You have inspired me to try my chair that has been sitting in the garage for 4+ years.

  37. SueSchneid22 says:

    Serena- you did an awesome job on that chair! The best possible combinations of color, style and scale. Excellent! I read a few posts ago that you came up to Chartreuse in Frederick, right? I live here in FC and do love going there. I admire that you “make” time for that. I think I am too old and can barely stay awake at work as it is. πŸ˜‰ I enjoy your thrift adventures, your projects and your blog. Keep up the good work!

    • Hi Sue! Wow, you’re in FC, huh? I’m originally from WC over to the west, so it’s a shame I go through FC every couple weeks on my way “home” and I have never stopped off at those places! I have to make time for those things, because it’s what I love, and if I can’t do what I love, I may as well shrivel up and die. HA! πŸ™‚ Thanks for your great comment!!!

  38. Kimberly D says:

    Your chair turned out gorgeous! WTG! I LOVE it!!

  39. Renee says:

    Great job!

  40. Elaine Watts says:

    You can buy tack strip, approximately every six or so tacks a tack goes in. Very straight, nice looking and saves a lot of time. I use to upholster.


  41. tara pittman says:

    You did an amazing job!

  42. Dionne Dean says:

    Wow wow and WOW! That is amazing! I need to learn to look at old pieces like you do! GREAT job!

  43. Cindy says:

    Girl! I LOVE this! Pinned. xo

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