Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Wednesday Perk: DIY Upholstering An Ikea Dining Chair

***Update: This project has been entered into the East Coast Creative "Creating with the Stars" Contest, please show some support and go here and click on entry number 200!***

So if you've been following this little blog then you will remember that I have been in the process of making over my home office space.  You will also remember that one of the projects on my list for this task was to take an old Ikea dining room chair and add upholstery to turn it into my new desk chair.  Now I want you pay close attention that sentence you just read, notice I am not saying  "re-upholster."  No that would just be too easy wouldn't it?  Yes I for some crazy reason took it upon myself to add upholstery to a previously simple wooden chair.  Don't get me wrong, re-upholstering a piece of furniture is no quick and easy feat, however at least with that you have the original work to follow as a guide for how to do it, not to mention about a bazillion tutorials on the internet to help you. 

I'm going to do my best to explain how I completed this project, but forgive me if certain steps are unclear, it really was kind of a trial and error process that thankfully turned out with a decent end product.  So, let's begin.

This is how the chair started out.  Just your simple, wooden Ikea dining room chair.

One thing the many re-upholstering tutorials I read helped me with was determining what materials I would need.  Above you see furniture foam, which can be found at Joann's, I purchased 1 1/2 yards; batting, I bough two 34 X 45 in packs but I only used one; upholstery tacks, found at Home Depot; staple gun with staples, also found at Home Depot; and fabric for the covering, thoughtfully given to me by M.

As I laid out my materials to start figuring out how I should begin I discovered that I had not previously really inspected my fabric, and unfortunately there was a large deformity in the print.  See the wide white stripe above, that is not part of the print.  Even worse was when I discovered the the fabric on either side of the deformity was not wide enough to cover the chair when the foam and batting were added in.  So, what's a girl to do.  I cut the fabric down one side of the white stripe and broke out my sewing machine and sewed the two side back together putting the white stripe in the seam.  

This left me with one large piece of fabric, and no white stripe deformity.  Of course as you can see above I was unable to match the print together on both sides of the fabric.  I realized after the fact that I really should have cut down the center of the white stripe and then used the white as my seam allowance, this would have been the best chance to match the print for a seamless effect.  Ultimately though, I personally don't find the seam that noticeable on the chair.

Next I laid the foam over the seat of the chair to determine how big a piece I would need for this part.  I determined at this point that the foam I had chosen wasn't as thick as I would have liked so I decided to use two pieces on top of each other.  I could have broken out the tape measure to figure out the size I needed to cut the foam, but being the somewhat haphazard person I am I just laid it out over the seat, marked it with a sharpie and cut it, so it wasn't perfect but it worked.  I should also explain that yes, detaching the seat from the chair would have made all of this much easier, however that wasn't possible.  If you have ever purchased Ikea furniture before you might be familiar with the problem of bolts and screws loosening with use, which are simple enough to tighten but my husband and I got tired of this process.  We eventually determined that using wood glue along with the screws and bolts virtually eliminates this problem and we have since added wood glue to every Ikea piece we own.  Thus, the seat is on that chair for good.

After cutting the foam for the seat, I laid the batting over the seat to again determine how big the piece would need to be.  In this process I had to factor in needing enough excess to fold under the sides for stapling.  I also had to figure out where to cut to allow for the front legs and the sides of the chair back.

Once I determined how the batting would need to be cut I laid it out over the fabric and followed the same cuts.

Here's the foam, batting, and fabric all laid out over the seat of the chair.  At this point I also had to figure out where the fabric for the chair back would need to be cut to allow it to attach to the back of the seat, but also be hidden in the end.  I ended up cutting a flap to insert between the two chair back poles.  The flap folded over the back of the seat along with a flap I had cut for the seat fabric.

Hopefully this picture gives you a slightly better idea, and once all of the flaps were folded over the back I stapled them in place.

This picture actually probably better shows what I'm talking about with the flaps.  Once I had these parts stapled in place I wrapped the foam around the chair back and secured with staples.  I actually had to do this in pieces because of the cutting I had already done for the seat.  I now realize I really should have purchased at least another half yard of the foam, possibly even another full yard.  I did have enough foam to cover the back, but I definitely did not have enough to do a double layer like I had done with the seat.

So at this point I apologize, I have no more pictures of the process until the finished state.  I needed both hands and full concentration for the rest of it.  Basically it involved folding the batting and fabric over the foam and wrapping it around the basic shape of the chair.  Once I had a part wrapped the way I would pull it as tight as possible and secure with staples.  For the back of the chair however, I used upholstery tacks to secure the fabric since there was no way to secure the fabric in an unseen way.  I did have to use a hammer to adequately secure the tacks.

So now for the finished product!!

Sorry this picture is slightly blurry, but you can see how I really did just wrap, pull tight, and secure.  For the seat the fabric is folded under and stapled to the bottom of the seat.  I will say wrapping the fabric around the front corners to account for the legs was not easy.  That was probably the most trial and error portion of this whole project.  

Here is the back of the chair where you can see how I secured with the upholstery tacks.  You can also see how I wrapped the fabric up and under the seat back, again this is secured with staples to the underneath of the seat.

And here she is in action!  Oh yes, this chair is definitely a girl.  Also, notice anything different about the desk area?  Could it possibly be clutter free!?  Let's step back and take a wider look at the whole space... 

Amazing isn't it!?  Clutter free and cork board and artwork hung on the wall!  If you're curious about the artwork, the green print is a typographic map of my hometown from Hoot Design Co. (owned by a high school classmate), the snail photograph is by Mike Newton Photography (another high school classmate). And the four picture collage is actually old photos of my grandmother.

I still don't consider the office space completely done, there are a few small details to add yet.  However, I think the bulk of work is finally done!

The chair isn't necessarily perfect, but i have to say I'm still pretty happy with the outcome for my first try with this type of DIY.

Have any of you taken on a first time DIY project lately?  How did it turn out?


  1. Wow! What a transformation. Great job! I found you via google while looking for chair back covers.

  2. Thank you! It really wasn't too difficult and it allowed me to get exactly what I wanted which is always great.

  3. Thanks for this -- I'm upholstering my two Ikea bar stools and this is really helpful. Question: what size thickness did you use for your foam? I see that you mention that you doubled up. Also, is it comfortable or do you wish you'd used more padding?