How to Upcycle a Chair on a Budget

A few weeks ago at Savoo we gave you our top tips for a cheap home makeover. One of our favourite ideas was upcycling: refreshing old pieces of furniture into new and improved versions using creativity and a bit of DIY. Here we go into detail about how to upcycle a chair, including a step by step guide to distressing and upholstering.

Distressing a Chair


  • Before distressing your chair, unscrew the seat from the bottom so you are left with just the frame.
  • Choose two paint colours: a principle colour and an undercoat which will show through after you’ve distressed  your chair. The two colours should complement each other; at Savoo we love using a darker shade as an undercoat.
  • If your chair frame has flaky paint leftover from a previous life then sand it down to create a smooth surface to work with.
  • Choose the areas you want to distress and paint with the undercoat. It is best to choose places where scuffing would naturally occur- like corners and edges- to create an authentic look. Leave to dry.
  • Apply the top coat of paint to the whole chair and allow to dry.
  • Seal the paint by applying coat of soft clear wax with a lint-free cloth.
  • Use medium grade sandpaper to expose the undercoat in the area you want to distress.
  • Apply another layer of clear wax and leave it to dry overnight. Finish by buffing again with the lint-free cloth.

Upholstering a Chair


  • You should have already unscrewed the seat from the frame. Remove the existing upholstery from the seat using a pair of pliers.
  • Purchase fabric to complement your painted chair frame; aim for fabric that will hold up to daily use, although it doesn’t have to be specific upholstery fabric.
  • Position the seat face down on top of the back of the fabric, then trim so you have enough to fold over the edge of the seat.
  • Start folding the fabric over the back of the seat and stapling in place, leaving the corners free. Keep the fabric tight.
  • Pleat the corners using the following method (thanks to for the step by step guide).


  • Trim any excess cloth from the back of the seat, then turn over and spray with a stain protection spray.
  • Screw the seat back into your distressed frame, and voila! Instant new chair on a budget.

Top Tips when Upholstering

  • Choose a fabric that is thick enough to pull tight over your seat.
  • Rope in a friend to help you upholster your chair: one of you can pull the fabric tight whilst the other staples it in place.
  • Don’t spend a fortune on expensive fabric, because you might end up spending more than you would on a new chair!

Have you successfully made over a piece of furniture on a budget? Send us your photos, we would love to see them!

Related stores: B&Q | Wickes

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