Dining Room Chair Makeover from Worn to Wow!

WRITER | JULIE FORD
PHOTO| PAW PAW UPHOLSTERY

Growing tired of your dining room seating? There are endless ways to update it before deciding it needs to go, and a visit to the local upholsterer is a good place to start.

The table is fine, but the chairs aren’t – that’s the dilemma. If the chairs have “good bones,” then a revamping of the cushions may be all they need. “Good bones are usually found when your chair is made of hardwood – oak, maple, or walnut,” explains Christine King, owner of Paw Paw Upholstery in Kalamazoo. “A lot of new furniture is made with pine, and you’ll have to rebuild the chair if joints have separated.”

One of the simplest updates is to reupholster a wraparound seat cushion, and with more than 300 fabric books to look through, selecting a new fabric may be the hardest part. “We do encourage people to try to do it themselves – it’s a good starting point if you want to try your hand at upholstery, and a lot of people are DIYers.”

But first, think about how the chairs are used. Fabrics such as chenille, outdoor, and 100-percent polyester are good choices for young families, where spills are inevitable. Luxurious and hard-to-clean silks, linens, and cotton velvets are typically used in a formal dining room or not at all.

Some ideas for updating existing chairs:

  • Add a band and welt cord in the same or contrasting fabric to add structure to the seat cushion, or reupholster your chair and add this detail.
  • Add slipcovers to the side chairs with fabric that energizes the room and contrasts with the host chairs.
  • Take simple wood chairs and add upholstered seat and back cushions for a total transformation.
  • Use decorative painting techniques to modify the chairs from stain to color.

If buying new chairs:

  • It is very important to have the measurements of the existing chairs and table at hand while shopping. New chairs will need to be similar in size to the original chairs to ensure they fit the table and seat guests comfortably.
  • Play with color, theme, and styles: bohemian, seaside, rustic, neutral, elegant, floral, Southwest, leather, modern, safari, Farmhouse, or Traditional.
  • Look for plain, sturdy hardwood chairs that can be customized to achieve the desired

Mix up the look:

  • Place chairs on one side of the table and a bench on the other.
  • Use an upholstered host, armchair, or captain’s chair at each end of a rectangular table, with coordinating side chairs.
  • Toss out the notion that every chair needs to match.
  • Add wicker chairs as host chairs with painted wood side chairs.
  • Use bold jewel tones like fuchsia, teal, crimson, vermilion, or peacock.

A highly styled dining room set can be updated with myriad fabric selections, but the simplest tables allow for endless updating options. A few ideas include:

  • Vintage chairs from a particular era
  • Rustic chairs in real or faux hide
  • Art deco chairs with angular shapes
  • Cottage chairs in wicker or wood, painted or natural
  • Traditional chairs with interesting backs from ladder to lyre or scrolled

Sure, buying new chairs is an option, but the physical fit can be challenging, and the styles that do fit may be limited. Instead, glean ideas from magazines and websites, take photos of the existing dining room set, and contact a local upholsterer. The creativity and fun of creating a new look with an old set might inspire new ideas in every room.