BEFORE and AFTER: Reupholster a Mid-Century Modern Chair

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Someone asked me recently, “Serena, what’s your style?” and I didn’t how to respond. After some thought, I decided that “I have no idea” is synonymous with “eclectic.”

But even if I don’t have a particular style to which I gravitate, I have a clear affection for mid-century modern furniture makeovers, since I have done several mid-century modern dresser makeovers on this blog.

And now I’m adding to my collection with this Chromcraft vintage swivel office chair that I found at the thrift store for under $10.

It was in great condition, with the exception of the dirt stains on the cover.

At first, I thought I’d simply clean it up, but after closer inspection, I realized it needed more than that–it needed a total reupholstered makeover!


BEFORE and AFTER: Reupholster a mid-century modern chair - Chromcraft vintage MCM chair - Thrift Diving




BEFORE and AFTER: Reupholster a mid-century modern chair - Chromcraft vintage office chair - Thrift Diving


Let’s start with the materials I used:

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STEP 1: Remove the Old Fabric

This is the part I hated most about reupholstering this mid-century modern chair: removing the old fabric. It was dirty.

I tend to like holding onto the old fabric to use it as a template for the new fabric.

But you don’t have to.

I am taking a reupholster class and the teacher will teach me how to take accurate measurements without having to keep the hold pieces. But whatever works for you–whether saving the old pieces as a template, or measuring–is up to you!


BEFORE and AFTER: Reupholster a mid-century modern chair - Removing the old cushion - Thrift Diving


I discovered that the old cushion, while in one piece, was flaking off and disintegrating a bit underneath the fabric.

I thought about replacing it, but to do that would have been time-consuming (waiting for a replacement) and probably costly!

Whenever possible, use the old materials, but if they’re super disgusting, by all means–replace it!


BEFORE and AFTER: Reupholster a mid-century modern chair - Bottom of the chair - tufting - Thrift Diving


BEFORE and AFTER: Reupholster a mid-century modern chair - Chromcraft vintage chair cushion - Thrift Diving


So I sucked it up and decided I’d reuse the old cushion, as long as it didn’t have any mold, stinky-beyond-reasonable odors. LOL


BEFORE and AFTER: Reupholster a mid-century modern chair - Chromcraft vintage chair get the tufting bias removed - Thrift Diving


STEP 2: Paint the Body of the Mid-Century Modern Chair

This Chromcraft vintage office chair was so funny–once the cushions were removed, it looked like a car seat!

Does it not??

It’s probably the same type of plastic, too!


BEFORE and AFTER: Reupholster a mid-century modern chair - Chromcraft vintage MCM chair looks like a car seat - Thrift Diving


I cleaned it off and added a coat of Black Dog Salvage in the color “Galvanized.”


BEFORE and AFTER: Reupholster a mid-century modern chair - Chromcraft vintage MCM chair painted in Black Dog Salvage Galvanized furniture paint - Thrift Diving


I loved how smoothly this paint went on. I had picked it up at my local woodworking store.

RELATED: What’s the Best Paint For Furniture? (Read the PROs and CONs).


BEFORE and AFTER: Reupholster a mid-century modern chair - Chromcraft vintage MCM chair painted - Thrift Diving


STEP 3: Measure and Sew New Cushion Covers

Here’s where this project started turning into a heap of hot mess. LOL

So I took what I thought were good measurements, only to find that the seat cushion pieces I sewed together were too small.

There ya go when you’ve measurement incorrectly….


BEFORE and AFTER: Reupholster a mid-century modern chair - Chromcraft vintage MCM chair cover is measured before upholstered. - Thrift Diving


I wasn’t sure at first what fabric I wanted on this chair, but the Property Brothers’ fabrics at Hobby Lobby stood out to me.

I love me some blues and grays and greens.


Scott Living fabric at Hobby Lobby - Thrift Diving


I decided to go with the Scott Living Tarrazo Distance fabric.

But I knew it would be challenging because when upholstering, you’ve got to be a magician whenever matching up patterns; otherwise, you’ll have a hot mess of mismatched pattern. LOL

In all my years of self-taught sewing prowess, I have never attempted to match patterns, but I didn’t want this chair to look like a mish-mosh (is that a word??) of pattern.

Plus, what good is life if you’re not continuously pushing yourself to learn new skills??

So I took my time laying out nine pieces that all “matched” up as closely as I could.


BEFORE and AFTER: Reupholster a mid-century modern chair - Chromcraft vintage MCM chair required pattern matched. - Thrift Diving


I’ll also admit to you that I screwed up here, big time.

One of the cushions I didn’t measure properly and totally underestimated how large I would need this piece to be.

So guess who ended up having to match and cut 9 more pieces to fix her mistake?? (insert eye-roll here).


BEFORE and AFTER: Reupholster a mid-century modern chair - Chromcraft vintage MCM chair tufting with 9 squares of fabric. - Thrift Diving


But it gets worse, my friend.

Not only did I sew one of the two cushion covers too small, but I also accidentally stapled one of the covers onto the wrong cushion.

The easy solution would have been to simply remove the cover and place it correctly, but as you’ll see, I was using a stapler that was unforgiving with the staples. There was no removing it!

Which meant I ended up having to re-sew one of the cushion covers for second time. Arrrrgggh!

Just watch here in the video. So frustrating!!



STEP 4: Cover the Cushion With Batting and Fabric

Anyhow, in the midst of all that “wrong cover” chaos, I covered the cushions with a layer of batting.

This step wasn’t necessary, but honestly, I was turned off by this nasty cushion (that resembled cornbread–HA!) and I wanted the batting to be another layer of protection against the old cushion.


BEFORE and AFTER: Reupholster a mid-century modern chair - Chromcraft vintage MCM chair cushion covered with batting first. - Thrift Diving


I laid it over the cushion and used my scissors to poke holes where the tufting tape would go through.



With my cover lying face down, and the layer of batting underneath, I pulled the tufting tape through.

If you recall from the old cover, you can see the tufting tape at the seams where the 9 pieces of fabric were sewn together.

When I sewed the new covers, I also sewed on the new tape.



Because the back of the seat and bottom were a hard plastic, I needed to pull out my RYOBI crown stapler in order to get staples through it.

I don’t (yet) own an upholstery gun, and while this crown stapler can be used for upholstery, I wouldn’t recommend it only because these staples are impossible to remove once they go through the wood or plastic (this was the reason I couldn’t remove the accidentally stapled cover). I would recommend the crown stapler for projects you know you won’t need to be moving the staples, not projects like this.

At this point, I couldn’t mess up anymore because there was no way of removing these staples!

I pulled the tape taut and secured them with the crown staples.



I flipped the cushion over and started pulling the sides and corners, smoothing it out.



I used the same stapler to secure the fabric. Again, I had to get it right or else I would be screwed since I couldn’t remove the staples from the hard plastic if I messed up and needed to reposition anything! Yikes! The stress….



STEP 5: Replace the Cushions

Thankfully, even with the blunder of putting the wrong sewn pieces on the wrong cushion, I was able to slide the reupholstered cushions back on. It looked pretty good despite having to re-do one of the cushion covers.

That’s DIY for ya!



STEP 6: Lightly Sand the Chrome Base

The chrome chair base was a bit rusty, so I took some 800-grit sandpaper (which is suuuuper fine) and sanded out the discoloration without scratching up the metal.



A Final Look!

And while I do love the look of the black and gray (I’m sure it was a hot chair in its day!), I wanted a new look for my chair.

Thrift Store Pete said he would have reupholstered the mid-century modern chair in vinyl, which would have looked nice, but that’s a bit too manly for me.

I wanted a pretty chair instead.










I like that I can still see the texture of the chair through the Black Dog Salvage Galvanized furniture paint!



At first, I didn’t care for the chair, actually.

I felt the gray paint was too monochrome with the gray in the fabric. But after some thought, I decided that I liked it.

Although, I would still love if the chair were re-painted white so that the fabric stands out more.

Overall, though, I do like the chair!

I’ll likely be using it when I finally get my basement area converted into a larger sewing/crafting space for me!

So what do you think?? 🙂



Wingback Chair Makeover – PART 1

The next reupholster job I’m working on is this wingback chair from the thrift store that was $60 and heavy as sin!

See in Part 1 how I start tearing down the chair, section by section!

Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel so you don’t miss Part 2!


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  1. Candyce Blodgett says:

    Most of all you showed us how NOT TO GIVE UP! Love that!! And look what you have to show for it! Great work!!

    1. Thanks, Candyce! Even though this project is taking a long time (I really only work on it in class), it’s very satisfying and I’m enjoying each stage of the process! Correct–don’t give up! Just because something takes long than 30 minutes doesn’t mean we can’t do it. We just have to do it in chunks! šŸ™‚ Thanks for following along!

  2. Despite the “challenges” you turned out a beautiful project! Personally, I think I like the gray color better than I would white. And now we know some of the pitfalls to watch for as well! So appreciate your sharing your goof ups. along with the successful parts. I always learn something from your projects. I have 4 dining room chairs with white seats that collect dirt like a magnet. In time I want to change out the fabric. They are simple, flat seats but will be good practice.

    I’ve been horribly slow, but am gearing up to make some very simple lined curtain panels after Christmas. They will just be shirred on a rod at the outside edges with sheers in the center. I want the brackets to be on the studs which are right at the edge of the window. But I also want the curtain panel to be outside the window so I have maximum light which means the rod has to extend beyond the window and bracket. Because of the narrow space between the window and the corner, plus a bookshelf covering part of that space, I’ve spent extra time trying to figure out how to put the rod up. The brackets are about an inch wide which also means there will be a gap between sheer and panel unless I curve the rod pocket channel outward or make some kind of tab that will extend out to cover that gap. Still figuring that out.

    I’ll take pictures of what I do so I can share them later on. I was especially interested in your comments about measuring, matching the proper pieces and redoing your mistakes because I know it will be easy to flub up what I want to do. So, deep breath, measure carefully (several times), proceed slowly and be prepared to pull a Serena! I tell myself, if Serena can do it, so can I! Maybe not as well, but a finished project is better than no project! Thank you for being so encouraging and telling it like it is!

    Wishing you and your family a wonderful, relaxing Thanksgiving.

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