How To Paint And Upholster A Chair: Part 2

Well, we can check cheerful desk chairs off of our wish list for the office. They make me beam:

You can read all about how I prepped, primed, & painted them here. And now for the quick upholstery deets. I had some leftover fabric from the dining room curtains on hand so I laid it over the detached seats and centered one of the grellow thingies (that’s a technical term) and trimmed the fabric around the cushion, leaving enough that I could easily pull and staple to the backside. Update: Here’s an affiliate link to the same fabric on amazon for anyone looking for it. 

Making sure it was staying centered, I carefully turned it over and shot four staples into it while pulling it nice and tight (I have a basic manual staple gun for around $20 from Home Depot). Those staples went in at noon, three o’clock, six o’clock, and nine o’clock.

That way I could flip it back over and ensure things still looked straight and that the fabric was pulled tight enough (if it wasn’t, it would just be four staples to pop out instead of a dozen). After confirming the pattern still looked nice and straight from the front, I flipped it back over and spaced out about six staples per side (while pulling the fabric tight along the way).

When it came to the corners, I just treat those like wrapping a present. It’s hard to describe in words that don’t make it sound like a super complicated ten step process (it’s not) but I basically just fold the fabric into little triangles like the side of a present and staple them until they look good from the front. The front is all that matters – so the back can look all weird like this:

As long as you turn it over and things look great, you’re golden.

So I just did the same thing with the next cushion (lining up the grellow thingies in the same way so it would look like Cushion #1’s twin). About 30 staples later that cushion was done too.

The entire upholstery project probably took me thirty minutes from start to finish. Maybe 45 because I kept pausing to watch Housewives of Beverly Hills. Oh and the reason I just went over the fabric that was there was because we didn’t have any cushion/fabric related issues (other than the fact that we didn’t like the fabric). So it wasn’t like we had odor problems or a flat lifeless cushion to deal with (which would have involved removing the fabric and the cushion and getting new foam from a place like JoAnn Fabric).

Then of course the hard part was waiting for my spray painted chairs to fully cure so they were nice and hard and ready for every day use abuse. I gave them two sunny days outside (which also helps speed up off-gassing since spray paint can be stinky until it’s fully cured)…

… and a third day in the sunroom (with the windows cracked and the fan going to continue to allow them to completely dry before bringing them inside). Then late last night I danced a giddy little chair-time jig and slipped the newly dressed cushions onto those so-fresh-and-so-green chairs (securing them with the same four screws that I removed from the underside to free them here). The result was nothing short of magic. But the cool kind involving levitation and mind-reading. Nothing weird like a bad card trick or a double sided quarter.

This photo’s coloring is probably the most true to life (below). They look so great with the white cabinets and the dark wood counters.

Yeah, we’re kind of obsessed. We love how the more intense greeny-yellow in the chairs’ paint & fabric relates to the soft pop of color in the stencil. Instead of taking away or competing with the stencil, they just seem to bring out the grellow pop on the wall- so they enhance/add to it (if that makes sense). Although I’m not sure how well it’ll come across in pics (colors seem to vary by monitor). In person the pairing is pretty darn amazing.

Since the stencil is so subtle and the chairs are so bold, they sort of layer in together – so it’s not chaotic and weird (which would probably happen if the stencil were more high contrast or the chairs were more washed out). The key is to keep things at different levels (ex: bold pillows on a more subtle tone on tone rug or sofa). Since if everything textile, accessory, and furnishing were fighting to be the star it might get kinda… Lady Gaga. Not that there’s anything wrong with that if it’s what you’re going for.

The best view of all is through the dining room. Me-ow. And I love that the table runner is easily switched if I feel like cutting the green… but for now I dig it. Can’t wait to add some large scale art above each chair for some much needed height in the office (but nothing too crazy to compete with the chair + stencil combo).

But now, back to the close ups.

Our office just got a whole lot happier. And we did too. Picture me serving up a nice cheesy grin.

These $35 secondhand babies have certainly come a long way. Here they are right after we bought them from a local secondhand store:

And since we already had the fabric on hand, our makeover total was just $18 (the cost of three cans of Ivy Leaf spray paint from Michael’s). But if you wanted to add the initial cost of the chairs ($35 a pop) and the fabric ($12.99 for a yard, which was all I needed for both seats) it comes to a nice even $50 (and fifty cents) per chair. Which makes me all sorts of hyper since similar chairs (like these and these) are in the $200-$250 range. And don’t look now, but this guy is $694 on ebay. Woah nellie.

Oh and just to keep it random, I snapped another pic of the stencil. Because it makes me happy, and it’s so hard to capture. Elusive little guy. Of course the pop of color looks yellow in this pic, but it’s a lighter shade of the chair in real life.

Have you painted or upholstered any chairs of late? Do you have extra fabric laying around that you’re itching to use? Do you have the same magic hierarchy as I do (with levitation and mind reading at the top and bad card tricks and double sided coin gags at the bottom)?

Psst- Check out the first half of this chair makeover here.

Psssst- We just announced this week’s giveaway winners. Click here to see if you’re one of them.


  1. Alisa says

    Love these chairs! They’re so happy! Are they super comfortable? I would love to do something similar in my home office, but I sit in my desk chair for 9 hours a day. I’m afraid I may be doomed to the ugly ergonomic desk chair til the end of time!

    • says

      Oh yes, we didn’t originally buy them for the office (we were thinking sunroom) but after sitting in them they won us over- so comfy and good for long days spent typing!


  2. says

    Love love love the colors! And I love the even though they are seperate spaces, the two rooms have some unity which makes them flow together so nicely! Great job!

  3. Barb says

    I haven’t commented in a while but this is the BEST!!! OMG!!! The chairs are so wonderful and rich looking. Love them. This room is fast becoming my favorite room. It is B.R.I.L.L.I.A.N.T!!!!

    Bravo to you and such a great eye for style, color, and design. You are simply the BEST, Sherry!!


  4. Darcy says

    OHH BOY! They look so soo freakin’ amazing!! I still can’t get over that stencil, I am soo in love with it. And now with the chairs in the room, it just makes the little grellow’s pop!!! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!!!

    Seriously, how are you going to get any work done?? I would just be sitting there, staring at my stenciled walls, petting the pretty chairs!!! LOL!

  5. says

    Love love love. You’ve totallly made me re-think my sewing room colour scheme. Which is good because painting begins this weekend!

  6. says

    Nice job! I’m in the middle of some chair seats myself. I hope they turn out as well as yours did!

    I have to say though that (maybe I’m really slow) but it just now clicked with me that “grellow” was green+yellow. When you first mentioned it, for whatever reason, I was thinking grey+yellow — and was really confused when the color looked green on my screen! Doh!

    • says

      Haha, oops- should have pointed that out more clearly! It’s like when I say “ORB” and forget to mention it’s oil-rubbed bronze- I have this weird shorthand with myself. Haha.


  7. says

    Do you ever worry about bedbugs when bringing in used furniture? That is something I’m paranoid about after a friend got some from furniture. Love the chairs! Great job :)

    • says

      John had them in NY (and it was such a huge drama- he hated life) so we’re crazy about checking for signs of them and leaving furniture outside overnight (in the winter this kills them) or sealed in the sunroom and checking them once again before bringing things into the house. Thankfully bedbugs and their droppings are visible to the naked eye, so just checking seams and cracks of furniture and fabric can turn them up if they’re there.


  8. Nat says

    Oh my goodness! To be honest, I kind of expected you to paint it that color because it made perfect sense and knowing how much you love this color. Fabulous chairs, soo you (and soo johnatan adler;-). I’ve decided that for my new house once I am done purchaing main items like sofas I will DIY accents myself just because it brings soul into the house! You guys should have a show on HGTV, like both of you, and do on TV what you do at home. It will be a natural progression for you to fill that hole on HGTV, i.e. lack of a show that would relate to young families. I mean who can afford Candice or Color Splash makeover realy? The challenge is to realistically squish months long decision/DIY process into a 30 min show. Oh and I wish you still did the mood boards just for fun and just because ;-)

  9. says

    Interesting choice! Being a bit more of a minimalist, I would have gone for a solid colour seat cover, maybe a lighter, greyish version of the lamp colour. But I enjoy the experimentation you guys have got going.

    I think there’s a typo – (but nothing too crazy to complete with the chair + stencil combo) – should read ‘…compete..’?

  10. Paula says

    Oh! I see. They’re more “grrrr” than “ello”. I love it. If you guys decide to go a shade darker below the chair rail, then the whole thing will just be “meow”!

  11. says

    I actually did just do a chair – with wonderful, bright red script fabric. I have a thing for chairs – and I am like you in that I want them to be “happy”. Great job.

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