How hard is it to reupholster an antique office chair?

Actually, not very.

I did this for the very first time recently and all it took was some thought-out planning and staples. Lots and lots of staples.

Deconstruction of the old chair

This is more important than I had originally thought. I wanted to use the old coverings as a pattern for the new fabric I bought. This means taking out the old staples one by one using an old screwdriver and some pliers. I took MANY photos to document the process which is vital for the reverse engineering that comes later.

What staple gun to use?

Not all staple guns are suitable for the job. I have a ‘heavy duty’ one I use for house work and the staples are simply too thick to seat properly in the old dry oak the seat and back of the chair were made out of.  What is needed is a light duty staple gun (example here) with the shortest staples you can get away with (I used 1/4″ because even the 5/16″ ones were too long to seat properly).


My wife and I cut the new fabric and foam using the templates. Each chair is probably very different, so here are some general thoughts on the process:

  • We chose plain fabric as this was our first time, that way it didn’t matter if we failed to keep the pieces dead-straight.
  • Wash and dry the fabric before you start.
  • Keep the deconstruction photos on hand for reference.
  • Staple all the fabric corners on, then the sides. It should look like ‘hospital corners’ on a bed.
  • The fabric needs to be pulled as tight as possible – it can only get looser with time.
  • Don’t worry about anything: staples can always be removed if things don’t go to plan.


It took a bit of time to do, but we successfully brought a well-made vintage chair back to life. The hardest part was getting the nerve to pull the old fabric off.

One thought on “How hard is it to reupholster an antique office chair?

  1. It is a great idea to reupholster an antique office chair… I always believed that we can not reupholster the chair and it is very hard to do that work, but after reading this article even i want to try once…
    Good article…

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