Fabric covered dining chairs - after

Fabric covered dining chairs - before

I found these chairs curbside with a “free” sign taped to them. They have a nice shape but suffer from two problems: a shoddy paint job and cracked seats. I knew I could fix both issues. I wasn’t settled on the how part until I saw what Melissa did to her tables at ikea hacker. Perfect solution for these two chairs. The fabric serves as decoration and camouflage.

How to reclaim old dining chairs with fabric and paint



  • screwdriver
  • paint brushes
  • drop cloth
  • hand or electric sander
  • fabric shears
  • ballpoint pen


1. (If your seats aren’t cracked, you can skip step #1 – 4.) Remove the seats with a screwdiver.


2. Apply a generous coat of wood glue at the break.


3. Adhere the two pieces together, clamp, and wipe off the excess glue with a paper towel. I used nylon backpacking straps as a clamp. Let dry for a couple hours.


4. With the straps still on, drill pilot holes and screw two mending braces on the underside of each seat for reinforcement. Let the glue continue to dry overnight.


5. Sand down the lumpy imperfections in the paint. (These chairs really needed to be stripped first, but I didn’t have the desire to pay for—nor breathe—the chemicals required to do so. Besides, the black paint will hide imperfections.) Wipe clean with a damp paper towel. Paint the chair frames, taking care not to paint the back where the fabric will be placed. Let dry overnight.


6. Lightly sand the seats, then place upside down on top of the fabric. Trace the seat with a ballpoint pen onto the backside of the fabric.


7. Cut it out, taking care not to fray the edges.


8. Apply a layer of artist’s medium, then lay the fabric on top and smooth it down. Trim the excess fabric, if necessary.


9. Apply 3-4 coats of artist’s medium over the fabric, letting it dry a couple of hours between coats. Be sure to generously coat all the fabric edges to prevent fraying.


10. If the back of the chair is too curved to trace (like these), just cut a piece roughly to size. Then repeat step #8 and 9.


11. While the medium is drying, apply a second coat of paint to the chair frames. Using a smaller paint brush for precision, paint the edges of the seat as well. (Actually, it’s much easier to paint the edges first, then apply the fabric and medium after the paint is dry.) Let dry, then apply a second coat.

Reclaimed dining chairs

12. When the paint and artist’s medium are dry, reassemble the chairs.