Victorian Chair Makeover- A Distressed but Elegant DIY Project

Our Victorian Chair Makeover features distressed elegance and is by far my favourite upholstery project as of yet. Best of all it was instrumental in my finding my love for farmhouse decor.

Hello and welcome to The Old Summers Home. Today I want to share one of my favourite upholstery projects, one that I did just for me. This is my Victorian Chair DIY Makeover which is distressed yet elegant. This vintage chair reupholstery project surpassed all my expectations. It is the first time I have ever done a project like this for myself. And I just let my creative juices flow. This quite possibly may have been the project that opened up farmhouse style into my life. I had no idea how much I could love lace and roughed up edges until this project!

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Choosing the right chair

When you are planning on putting a lot of time and effort into reupholstering a chair there are some things you need to consider. You need to ensure it has a great backbone to work with. Make sure the frame is relatively strong and no signs of rotting or water damage. Check how the filling feels, will it need to be replaced or can it be salvaged? Are any pieces or parts missing that can not be replaced?

Vistorian Chair before makeover. It was in amazing shape still besides the discoloured and stained fabric and some ding marks into the wood.

You also need to consider your level of skill when deciding on the perfect chair for your DIY makeover. If a chair is missing a leg and you have no woodworking skill that presents a problem. I’m not sure I would be any good at carving myself a chair leg to match this project. I have done upholstery in the past and am self-taught. Therefore you should also remember that you can learn anything if you put your mind to it. There is always going to be a first project to start on and learn from.

The chair I used for this project was very strong and sturdy. The filling was nice and thick as well. The wood had quite a few dings in it however that would not be easily sanded out. The fabric was discoloured and stained but still in quite an impressive shape.

Choosing materials for the Victorian Chair Makeover

I had this chair for almost two years before I finally found the time to knock it off my to-do list. When I first found the chair I went to Fabricland and choose a few upholstery fabrics that I loved. I chose different colours and textiles and patterns. At the time I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do with the chair, however, I knew I wanted it to be elegant. I decided to go with a teal damask pattern that was both elegant and bold. Then I searched through my bins of lace and beads from my dressmaking supplies. I picked out a few options for the lace and some bead strings and pearls I loved.

Stripping the Victorian Chair

The first step in this project was to remove all of the material from the chair. Noting how it was put together so it can be reassembled easily. This chair had many decorative nails in it and quite a few broke while removing them. Decorative upholstery nails are quite costly. After pricing the cost to replace them, I decided to take another route to meet my budget.

A bit amusing but I removed the back of the Victorian Chair two years ago and then the entire project sat on hold until last fall.

Once the decorative nails were removed I began to remove the one million staples that held the fabric in place.

My favourite tools for stripping

If you have been struggling to remove staples from your projects these are my favourite tools to use:

Staple Puller

Staple puller– This tool allows you to slip under the staple and pry up upwards. It is quite effective at removing them. However, you need to take care not to damage your wood when prying. The link above is a nice one from Amazon that is nice and slim.

My favourite one is a Mastercraft puller from Canadian Tire, however, mine broke and when I brought it in for replacement they had switched to a newer version. The newer version is a bit thicker and not quite as easy to slide under but is great for tough staples.

Staple Grabber AKA Nail Holder

Staple Grabber- this tool allows you to cinch onto the staple and pull upwards to remove the staple. I really love how this tool works. The only setback is that if the staple is sunk into the wood it may be a bit difficult to grab. Therefore I like to use both of these tools to work together to get the staples out. First, pry up, then use the puller to take out those hard to get staples.

My two favourite tools for upholstery that I utilized for the Victorian Chair Makeover

After searching and searching to find exactly what this tool is called and where you can find it I’m rather disappointed to say it has been discontinued.

There is a bit of a funny story behind this tool. My husband used to be solely a roofer and as most roofers, he often had a few black fingernails. One year for Christmas, his grandmother bought him this tool, from Home Hardware and it is, in fact, a nail holder. She said that this way he wouldn’t hurt his fingers so much. God rest her soul, I’m not sure this nail holder has ever been used for its intended use haha. But it has become my absolute favourite. So if you are at a garage sale and stumble across one of these be sure to pick it up.

I would like to thank our Spiritwood Home Hardware for helping me get to the bottom of my nail puller mystery. This has been the search of my life trying to find this product. I hope they bring it back someday so that I can pick up a spare. If they do, I will be sure to let you all know!

The Victorian Chair stripped to its bones. Left the batting on because it was attached securely and in great shape.

Back to the Victorian Chair Makeover

Once all of the staples are removed it is time to give the chair a good sanding. I used a palm sander to get the larger flat areas free of its sheen. For the more rounded detailed areas, it is easier to use a sheet of sandpaper working through the details and curves.

Once the sanding is complete, blow it off with an air compressor and wipe it down with a damp cloth.

Refinishing the Victorian Chair Wood

After much contemplating I decided I wanted to paint the chair white. I used Rust-Oleum Chalked paint in Linen White and with a brush, I painted on a coat of paint watching carefully for any drips before they could dry. Boy oh, boy did I ever have brush strokes and to do this day I’m not sure why. I have used this paint with this same brush many times but never had an outcome quite like this.

Using chalk pain i refinished the Victorian Chair in Lined White by Chalked and .  distressed it to allow the dark undertones of the wood to show through.

I gave it a sand with a sheet of sandpaper in my hand no sanding block or palm sander. While I was sanding to remove my brush strokes the deep wood started to peek through in a few spots. I was falling in love with it. Once the brush strokes are sanded smooth apply a second coat of chalk paint. No longer as concerned with brush strokes. Now I had a new plan in my head.

Once dry, I again sanded it smooth and distressed it. By focusing on areas that would normally see the most wear it looks more natural. The distressed white against the dark wood adds such a rustic farmhouse feel to this project that it is mesmerizing. I’m now forever sold on shabby chic.

Cutting the fabric

Cut all pieces out by tracing the removed fabric onto your desired fabric. I like to add about 1/2 inch maybe a bit more before cutting so I’m not short any fabric. You can always trim excess fabric once it’s in place.

While cutting I tried to ensure I placed the old pieces well with the pattern. So that the fabric pattern would flow in the same direction.

Upholstering the chair

Use the right tools for the Job

For this project, I used a special nail gun that has a fine tip and makes upholstery easy. I had borrowed this one but would like to purchase my own someday in case I decide to upholstery around the house again. You will also need an air compressor and hose too.

This one pictured below shows the type that works best for upholstery. It has a narrower head to get into tight crevices and hide the staples.

Applying the fabric to the back

I started with the back of the chair. Most of my experience with upholstery is boats and other recreational seats. Therefore my experience is mostly a lot of vinyl with stretch to it. Upholstery fabric does not quite have that same amount of stretch to it. I soon realized I had to be a bit more careful than I normally would when stretching it nice and tight. Because of this, I tacked my top center, bottom center and both side centers before stretching too much more.

The back fabric stretched and stapled into place for the makeover. You can see the distressing I did with sanding well in this photograph.

I went ahead and stapled the back layer of fabric fully out. I’m quite impressed with how it took form and didn’t require any extra tweaking. Then I put the batting back against the now stapled fabric and aligned the front of the backrest. I added a couple of staples to hold the thick batting up while I worked on the front piece.

Again I tacked the top and bottom center as well as side centers. I worked my way from the center top to each side while adjusting all around as I went. Ensuring I wasn’t pulling in one direction more than another.

Back is attached to the Victorian Chair. It is nice and taut but not overstretched.

Bottom seat and armrests

For the bottom seat of our Victorian Chair, the armrests made it a bit tricky to go around. But I just practiced folding until I came up with something I liked and then stapled everything in place. The shape is sort of a folded under U-shape.

Te seat and armrests are now attached to my victorian chair project.

Last, of all, were the two armrests and matching the fabric pattern for both. When cutting these pieces try to make them unison. Ironically the two smallest pieces on this project were the most challenging to attach. I perhaps should have cut them larger, to begin with.

Once all the fabric is in place it is time to trim the edges where there is any excess fabric. You can use a pair of scissors or an Exact-o knife to trim your fabric. Do not cut too close to the staples. Allow enough fabric to remain, 1/4 inch should suffice.

Adding some elegance to the Victorian Chair Makeover

I decided to go with a pretty lace in a corresponding colour rather than a decorative binding edge. Then I applied it with hot glue all around the back seat armrests and base of the chair. Virtually every edge with staples is concealed with lace. I had purchased this lace a couple of years ago from Spiritwood Martodams Family Retail and I finally had the opportunity to put it to use.

Lace I chose for adding some elegance to the chair.

Next I applied some decorative beading trim to the front base and back base to add some more bling.

Decorative beading added to trim back and front base of Victorian Chair

Lastly, I added a few pearl beads to the center of the back and to each armrest. Then I finished off the front leg corners with a wrap of pearl beads as well.

The decorative trim and pearl beading on front of Victorian chair completes this makeover.

My rustic Victorian Chair is elegant and distressed

Every time I look at this Victorian chair makeover I feel so proud of pulling off such an amazing distressed and elegant work of art. This chair says a lot about the style that I love and I truly think this is the first time I really gave farmhouse and distressing a try.

Unfortunately, this beautiful chair hasn’t quite found it’s own place in our home just yet. Perhaps when we renovate the bedroom it could finally have its own spot.

Victorian Chair makeover side view snap shot with our old cat photobombing haha.
My kitty photobombing the Victorian Chair Makeover Snap shots haha! He wants to be seen by the world;)

If you have any questions or need any advice please always feel free to drop a comment or email me. We love to help and we love to hear your ideas too!

Update from my last post!

Not to take away from our Victorian Chair makeover but I must share with you…

In last weeks Nanaimo Bar Blog post I hinted to Josh in it about these beautiful farmhouse measuring cups and spoons that I have been drooling over on Amazon. Well, I have the best Hubby, not only does he read my blog posts but I received my own beautiful set this week. Thank you so much, Josh, love you to the moon and back! Oh my goodness, it is absolutely perfect. It matches my home decor so well I feel like it must be made just for me hahaha.

My gorgeous Mason Jar Set courtesy of my husband. This set works so amazing with my farmhouse decor.

These are a great deal on Amazon and come in a few different colours too. Of course for my Kitchen, I love the Aqua Blue shade. It even matches my wall colour in my mudroom. Totally made just for me hahaha.

Here is a link to purchase your very own Mason Jar Set, this set includes Measuring cups, Measuring Spoons and the Spoon Rest. There are many other pieces you can add to this set as well, like canisters, salt and pepper shakers, utensil holders etc. Be sure to check them out, they are absolutely gorgeous and perfect for your farmhouse kitchen!

The Flip Stir Whisk tutorial is an easy way to add custom decor to your kitchen. Not only does this look great it is simple to make and serves a purpose keeping you organized!

I would love for you to check out my Flip Stir Whisk utensil set. If you love Mason Jars and want an easy customizable DIY project, then this one is perfect for you!

Thanks so much for joining us today! I hope you enjoyed this Victorian Chair Makeover Project as much as I did. If you love our ideas and our style we would love to have you sign up for our weekly newsletter! If you sign up here you can receive our favourite cleaning recipes for FREE!

Until next time;

Jenn Summers

The Old Summers Home

18 thoughts on “Victorian Chair Makeover- A Distressed but Elegant DIY Project

  1. [email protected] says:

    I love the fabric you chose!! I’ve been wanting to upholster a set of six wooden chairs my in laws are getting rid of but I just had no idea on how to get started, as I’ve never worked on such a project before. This is a great post and very helpful! Question: the chairs I’m looking to use have ratan backings that are ripped, what would recommend doing with that? Rip it out and then use something else for the backing? Thanks!

  2. Kristina says:

    Jenn, your chair is beautiful! You are so very talented. I love the color too! You gave really good, clear directions on how to do this as well and ideas for tools. Thanks so much for sharing, it inspires me to one day maybe refurbish some furniture!

  3. Tamara says:

    Yasss awesomeness. I found some chairs like this at the flea market and now I can transform them into a French country style dream. 😍 awesome post.

  4. Rachael says:

    This is gorgeous Jenn! I must admit, upholstery is one of those things that I have not been brave enough to DIY, or perhaps I haven’t found the right piece. You have inspired me to give it a try (when I find the right piece, of course).
    And Josh sounds like a winner – well done him on secretly getting you the mason set. And it goes perfectly!

    • Jenn Summers says:

      That is so great to hear Rachel! I really love that you will give a try and hope you find the perfect piece very soon. Josh definitely gets brownie points hahaha. You’re right it’s perfect! Thanks for coming today!

  5. Vox says:

    Wow! I really admire your skill and artistry! Anybody that knows me realizes that any craft that lasts longer than a day will lose my focus, so I am in awe with large projects like this. Thanks for inspiring me to think bigger!

    • Jenn Summers says:

      Thanks so much, this project actually did not take long at all, sanding and painting a couple of hours because of drying time and the upholstery a few hours the next day. I hope you find a large project that you love!

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