Taking an IKEA Chair from Beige Blah to Colorful and Rich Wow with Reupholstery

IKEA tullsta reupholsteryI had two IKEA Tullsta chairs in their basic white canvas. I had previously recovered the lumbar pillows but a new couch in gray made the white look too stark (the previous couch I had slipcovered in white canvas). I had never reupholstered anything, but I had done a few slipcovers. The chairs had simple lines and I did not have to fix the padding, so I gave it a try.

A few tips on selecting the fabric:

Buy as heavy a fabric as you can afford. It will be easier to work with and thicker fabric will hide any imperfections in the furniture. Go with a pattern unless you’re a pro at reupholstering; it will hide any imperfections in your sewing and fitting. A smaller scale fabric will be easier to work with than a large pattern. Fit the scale of the pattern to the size of the furniture. Stay away from stripes unless you’re an expert at matching. That goes for patterns like plaids, that need to be matched.

Step 1: lay it out on paper

Reupholstery and slipcovers are basically made up of squares which you then place in reverse (right side down, like sewing) on the item you’re recovering. To determine how much fabric to buy, start by measuring each section of the piece. Measure at least twice to make sure you’re being accurate. Then make a layout with each piece on paper. I color-coded each square so I could keep the squares straight. There are often two of each piece (such as arms) so be sure to make as many of each square your piece requires. Move the squares around making sure that the grain of the fabric is in the same direction. If you don’t allow for grain, a fabric with stripes or a pattern may not match correctly.

fabric layout

Step 2: pin the fabric squares on the chair, then stitch

Pin the fabric on the chair wrong sides down, molding the squares’ shapes to the shape of the chair. I started with the fronts and then pinned the front of the arms. I then stitched the seams.

pinning on the fabric to the chair

Step 3: staple or nail the fabric

After fitting the backs and stitching them, I put on the front piece (each chair will be a little different here) and used small tacks to attach the fabric to the chair. I tried a staple gun, but the staples kept falling out. I found small tacks worked best for me, but if you’re comfortable with a staple gun, go for it! The important thing is to pull the fabric as tight as you can before nailing or stapling. My sewing made the fabric tight, but unlike slipcovers, you don’t want the reupholstery to be be removable. The tighter the fit, the less the fabric will sag.


The bottom front of the chair is tacked on at top and bottom (left). At center, the fabric is tacked to the seat. At left, the fabric is tacked to the bottom.

 Step 4: fit and sew the cushions

The last step is the cushions. I recycled the zippers from the old fabric and cut the side and top pieces and pinned them to the cushion. This was the easiest part and if you’ve ever sewed pillows, you will find this easy as well.


Step 5: finishing

I tried doing the lumbar pillows in the same paisley fabric as the chairs, but it was too boring. I needed something to liven it up, so I bought striped pillow covers at IKEA and and recut and sewed them to fit. It picks up all other colors in the room and the stripes are a nice counterpart to the traditional  paisley. See this post for tips on combining different fabric effectively.

I hope you found this project inspiring! Please visit our Pinterest board for inspiration on creative upholstery.

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