blue-cane chairSeveral years ago, when I was trying to pull together my mismatched living room (a couple apartments ago) I found a cane back barrel-style chair for just $25 on Craigslist. It was 9am on a Saturday and I was so excited about it that I chugged my coffee, threw on some jeans, and drove up to a north Seattle suburb to pick it up. I had every intention of making it a makeover project, but just never got around to it.

Well, I’m proud to say I finally did it. If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen a few snippets of the process, but if you’d like the full story, continue past the jump.


Here’s the photo I took that first day once I had lugged the chair up to my apartment the day I bought it. I had so many ideas but couldn’t pick a lane. A couple years (and apartments) later I moved into my current space, the Capitol Hill studio, and although my apartment was full of things I loved, it was a grouping of mismatched items, some new, some from previous apartments, and that old cane back chair that I sat in nearly everyday but had yet to do anything with.


This is where it sat in my living room for the first year and a half I lived here. This winter break, right after Christmas, but before New Years, I finally got to work.


By no means is this a tutorial, and I would highly recommend signing up for a local upholstery class if you’re interested in taking on such projects. I took one a few years ago at Pacific Fabrics in north Seattle and I have been able to take my knowledge and build it with each new project.

First, I stripped the old fabric (and about 40 years worth of dust bunnies) and sanded the chair with a 220 grit block to prep it for priming. I also cut out the center portion of the cane backing because it had a lot of unfixable damage from years of wear and tear. I decided to add a cushion back for more comfort and style. After a ton of pinning, per usual, I finally decided to keep the chair neutral by painting it white and concentrating on simple bi-color graphic prints in grey and white. I found the beautiful fabric at JoAnn’s and fell in love. Luckily it was on sale.


After priming it looked like this, so I cleaned up the drips and painted it white using Behr Ultra in Creamy White from Home Depot. It’s exactly what the name suggests, a soft, creamy white that worked well with other items in my home.

cane chair progress


Once painted, I upholstered the seat, making sure to nestle the staples into the groove around the perimeter leaving room to glue in the welting (cording trim). Next, I stapled on the arm rests using the same technique. I learned upholstery on a compressed air staple gun (something on my home decor tool wishlist) but I did this entire project using a manual staple gun. Although it took a little longer it totally worked.


Once the seat and arm rests were on I had a PBR stapled in the outside back. After that I was excited to get the welting going so I sewed it up and started hot gluing it into the grooves in the wooden frame of the chair. You might be thinking, “Hot glue???” but upholstery is a lot of smoke and mirrors and you’ll learn how little sewing is involved if you take a class like the one I took.


Here’s a close-up of the finished welting along the lower perimeter. I’m so proud of it! I went with a pretty fat cord because I wanted to make it easy to cover up every staple underneath. It worked like a charm.


Next was the tricky welting around the arm rests, but it turned out pretty great, too! I did this part very carefully and slowly to make sure it was even all the way around and covered up all of the staples in the grooves.


At that point it was time to finish up the inside back. I didn’t take too many photos of this part, but it included stapling in some support  straps, cutting the foam backing to fit the area that was previously cane material, layering it with batting, and stapling it all in with the inside back fabric. Finally I finished off the chair with welting around the inside back to cover up the staples. Finally finished! I have many hours of Real Housewives to thank for getting me through every detail and a beautiful chair makeover to show for it. I’m so proud I finally completed this project an I love how it turned out. If you are considering a similar project and have any specific questions about mine, please let me know!