Reinventing a Chair

1:00 PM

It was probably about a year ago when Kyle came home from work hauling this old chair in the back of the car.  He'd apparently seen it sitting on the side of the street, rejected and forlorn and thought to himself, "Hey, this thing has potential!" It's solid wood, of good construction with a cane backing that's in great shape, sort of a wing-back effect and it sat low to the ground which made it unique. Despite its traditional elements, it seemed entirely possible to modernize this dark, dreary thing into something modern and fresh.

We both agreed it could be really cool if it were painted a funky color, given a new cushion and covered with a unique pattern.  Preferably, something unexpected.

I'm a little embarrassed to say this poor chair sat untouched in a corner of our living room for almost a year.
I did go so far as to buy a piece of 4 inch foam from Jo-Ann's to make a seat cushion. This little piece of foam sat perched on the chair for as long as the chair remained untouched. It got lots of use from my children as a pillow or landing pad.


Let me insert here my shock at how expensive that foam stuff is.  I totally lucked out and happened to be given a 50% off coupon by the cashier as I was checking out. Otherwise, my cushion would have been $45!! How crazy is that?! 

I will add here that while Kyle and I have rescued pieces of furniture from the street and repainted them, we've never tackled a chair that didn't have a cushion. I knew it would require some thought. I had never attempted to cut, shape or otherwise cover anything before. Much less sewn a cushion cover. 

The first step was to find a fabric we really liked, something unique, modern, funky and that could stand up to being sat upon. I ended up stumbling upon a yard of fabric on an etsy site that was only $10! It was a cotton with canvas backing - and as it turns out, a very sturdy fabric with which to cover our cushion. It was a risk buying a yard of this type of fabric online, but I figured if it didn't work, all I'd lost was $10, and I could always frame a square of it.  

Here's the fabric! It contained bright colors, a funky design and was also a color we didn't really have loads of in our house. I have purples/hot pinks in rugs, as well as a hot pink console table, so I knew it could work.

Then came the task of choosing a paint color.  I was using my Design*Sponge book to help me figure out how to make a cushion (although I ended up getting my specific plan from the internet), and I cocked my head one day and held the book up to the fabric. I liked the color of the book and the way it matched imperfectly with the fabric. It would be brighter than the fabric, an unexpected pop of color in our living room and, I don't know, I just knew it would work.

I found a comparable color at Sherwin-Williams and this past weekend, Kyle sanded, primed and painted the chair! So it was now up to me to finish the cushion.

This was trickier than I thought it would be.  I figured out the best plan would be a box cushion cover.  Which first required that I cut the cushion to the right shape. I imagine this is pretty easy when you're simply replacing a cushion and you can cut the new cushion from a template of the old one. But when you don't have a prior cushion, just the chair itself, it takes some creativity.  

We used a piece of poster board and laid it on the chairseat, bending up the sides at the points it seemed logical a cushion would sit.  Then we cut the poster board along those lines and laid the foam on top of that.  After tracing the cushion shape onto the foam, I was advised by Design*Sponge to use an electric knife to cut out the shape. Didn't have one, so I slowly used a serrated kitchen knife to cut out my shape.  It was not as neat-edged as an electric knife would have made it, but it worked.  I also didn't cover my foam in Dacron. I supposed I could go back and do this, but I just didn't at this point.

Once I had my foam cut, to make the cushion, I found some basic instructions on the internet for how to make a box cushion cover and loosely followed it. I tend to need a basic guide and then I can ad lib from there. My instructions were to cut a top and bottom section (factoring in a 2 inch seam allowance) and then to cut a third piece of fabric that was the length of the total perimeter of the foam piece.  My problem here was that I didn't have enough fabric to cut one long strip.  I had to use 2 pieces of fabric and then sew them together so the seam would match up to one of the corners.

Then I slowly and carefully sewed the "width" strip to the top and bottom.  Since my fabric was really thick, I used a sewing machine needle designed for sewing through leather. This worked perfectly. I ran into the most trouble once I got three sides put together. I initially thought I would hand-sew the fourth side, but boy, after attempting a few stitches through that tough fabric, I quickly revised my plan.

I decided it would be better to sew on some velcro and have the sides held tightly together that way. Plus, it gave me the option of changing the cushion cover if I ever needed to, without ripping out seams. 

Here's my velcro solution.

I was immensely pleased with how it turned out! The colors pop! The cushion looks really good (to my great surprise and relief)!


And due to the way the seat is, the cushion is able to sort of tuck into the edges, hiding the lip where the velcro holds it together

The finished product!

A closer shot...

The chair in our living room. 

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  1. It looks great Ashley--love the fabric!

  2. That is adorable! Don't you just love a free find that you can use like that! You are doing some serious nesting, Ashley :)