by Maria
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Reupholstering an old chair in leather

Use this trick to make your upholstering in leather look neat

For some people it seems to seem a bit odd, but I love buying second hand furniture that looks like it’s seen better days (or even better, rescuing really crappy-looking furniture from skips) and turning it into something new and cool.

There’s something about a furniture makeover project that feels better than if you’d just bought something. I think part of it is the effort you put in, which means you value it more, and also that it allows you to create your own unique piece. You become a designer for a little while.

When we talk about chair makeovers, they normally involve reupholstering, which is what I’m going to talk about today, about upholstering in leather, to be accurate.



As I said, I love turning ugly old pieces of furniture into new pretty things that fit my decor. I love giving them a second chance (I wonder what would Freud say) and it also feels very natural and easy for me. When I see an old piece of furniture, the transformation result immediately appears on my mind. In this case, when I saw this chair…

You can see here how messy my living room looked before I changed the decor. If you missed it, don’t forget to visit my small living room decor on a budget. Before the makeover it was just a mess! Unopened boxes, old furniture waiting their makeover… we lived in this chaos for months!

… I thought: this chair needs a new upholstering in leather, black leather. The old upholstery was terrible and also in very poor condicition but I loved the shape. A cheap version of those lovely mid century chairs I love so much:

Photo: Made in Persbo

Photo: Hateco

I had reupholstered other chairs before but it was my first time upholstering in leather. To make the upholstering with leather look perfect you need to use this little trick.



  • Materials needed:
  • Foam of at least 2″ thick
  • Wadding
  • Leather
  • Black fabric (thin canvas, for example)
  • Linen (optional)
  • Bronze pin studs.
  • ToolsRegulator to remove staples
  • Pliers
  • Stapler
  • Scissors
  • Cutter knife
Step 1. Removing the old fabric

Once I removed the old fabric and stuffing I noticed how damaged part of the structure was, which the seller had neglected to mention:/

Remove all the staples using the regulator and the pliers. Then remove the old fabric and the old stuffing. I always use new stuffing, even if the old one kinda looks alright. If you’re going to job, might as well so it properly, I say.

If it’s your first time, you’ll be surprised by the incredible amount of staples it takes to upholster even a small piece. It’s crazy. It also means that taking them all out it is a pain in the ass.

The color of the wood was terrible and the varnish was in poor condition, so I scraped it, stained it and varnished it again.

Step 2. Stuffing

Place the seat onto the foam and use a pen to draw the shape of the chair. There are specialized tools to cut the foam with but you can manage perfectly well with a normal cutter knife.

Cut a piece of wadding big enough to cover the whole seat. Better to cut too much than too little. Place it on a table, put the cut foam on top and the seat on top of it all. Put one staple on each of the four sides.

Wrap the wadding around the corners and staple it to the chair. Cut off the excess.

Step 3. Cut the leather

Cutting leather is very, very easy. Use the scissors and cut it like you would any other fabric. You’ll notice leather is a bit tougher, but not that much. Place the chair on the leather and cut the leather the same shape as the chair. Again, err on the side of too much fabric rather than too little.

Step 4. Moisten the leather

This is the trick that will make you leather upholstering look incredible. With time and use, leather strechtes quite a lot so you need to make it really tight when you upholster, or it’ll end up full of wrinkles. If you moisten the leather, it softens and it’s easier to stretch. Use a sponge to soak the leather.

Paso 5. Grapar la piel

Stretch the wet leather all you can and staple it to the chair, one staple on each side. Once the leather dries it will shrink so it’ll get even tighter.

Keep on stapling the leather to the chair, making sure you stretch the leather every time. Wrap the leather around the corners, just like when you wrap a present, and staple it several times. Cut the excess.

The wadding, the staples… it doesn’t look good, does it? Use a piece of black fabric to cover all the ‘mess’.

Step 6. Upholstering in linen

This is optional but I believe it’ll make your chair look even more beautiful. Linen and leather create such a beautiful timeless contrast… I absolutely love both materials and how they look together.

Aquí también se ve lo hecha polvo que estaba la silla en los extremos.

I upholstered the front of the chair with leather and the back with linen. Leather is way easier to clean, so you want your back rubbing against it and not the linen. Again, don’t forget to soak the leather so it will adapt to every curve you chair has. Once you’ve finished, there may be some wrinkles but when it dries those wrinkles will disappear.

To attach the material, or leather to the back of the chair, once again, we need to start in the middle and work our way out to the edges. Staple a good couple of inches of the bottom edge, in the middle, pull the material tight, fold it over the top edge and staple the material to the top edge directly above the couple of inches where you stapled on the bottom. Now, repeat this process, working outwards from the centre. Staple a couple of inches at the bottom, pull tight, staple the top edge directly above where you stapled below…and repeat.

Step 7. Put the chair together

That’s it, you’ve finished your chair. It looks beautiful, no?



This is how to reupholster a chair in leather. It’s one of the many ways to turn an old unattractive piece of furniture into a real beauty. Hopefully, this chair will stay with me for many years. Its classic style, materials and colors guarantee that it will always fit in with my decor, even as my style evolves.

If you’re into furniture renovation, check out my furniture makeover projects.

What do you think of leather upholstery?

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