Furniture Dilemmas | Marylisa’s French Chairs

by | Mar 3, 2020 | All Things Home, Furniture Makeovers, Tutorials, upholstery, upholstery makeovers | 20 comments

When Marylisa sent me a picture of her chairs, I knew I had just the posts, tutorials, and examples to share with her!  If you’ve followed me for a few years, you probably know how much I enjoy buying and reupholstering French-style chairs.  Well, I don’t really enjoy upholstery, but I enjoy the results and this style of chair is much easier to upholster because of the wood frame.  If you’re considering diving into the world of upholstery, this kind of chair is a good place to start.

So, here is what Marylisa’s chairs look like now…

The last photo shows an antique linen sheet draped over one of the chairs.  She purchased a few at an antique store to use on these chairs.  I won’t ever argue with antique linen!

These chairs are almost identical in style to the buffalo checked chairs in my kitchen eating area…

But I didn’t make a tutorial showing how I did those chairs, so I’ll have to piece together some other tutorials.  The French chair upholstery tutorial series is going to be most relevant and I even upholstered them in antique linen…

What you’ll need for this project…


Here are the steps to reupholster the chairs…

step one | strip the existing upholstery

HERE is a video tutorial showing how to strip the chairs.  In the case of a chair like this, you need to completely remove the back down to the wood frame.  Keep the padding and any support pieces, like cardboard.  Those can be reused.  THIS is my favorite tool for removing staples.  The padding can be left on the seat and arms, but make sure you get the frame clean along the edges where the new staples will be inserted.  It’s okay if there are a few staples here and there, but clumps of fabric and batting will prevent the new layer of fabric from laying nice and flat and may interfere with the new staples, too.

Once the chair has been stripped, this is a good time to take a look at the guts of the chair.  Is the padding in good shape?  Does the underside need some additional webbing?

step two | address the chair frame

This is the point where you want to do whatever it is you want to do to the chair frame (if anything.)  Maybe you just want to leave it alone!  In the case of Marylisa’s chairs, I think that would be fine.

But, if you want to paint it, revive a wood finish with Hemp Oil, or add a decorative wax, this would be the time.  HERE is a video tutorial on painting a chair frame and HERE is a tutorial on distressing and waxing the frames.

step three | select & cut the fabric

I have learned that it’s easier to cut all of the fabric at one time, not only so it’s done and at the ready, but so you make sure you have enough and can plan which piece goes where.  This is especially important when you’re working with vintage fabric and you can’t easily order more.  HERE is a tutorial on cutting the fabric.

For this style of chair, I love using a patterned fabric on the back or perhaps and antique grain sack with a graphic stencil or stripes.  It just adds a little “wow” when you see the back.  It’s sort of like a simple dress or a pretty blouse with an eye-catching detail on the back.

step four | upholstering the back

Since the chair was stripped to the frame, the webbing will need to be replaced.  This webbing reinforces the chair back, so it’s supportive.  HERE is a tutorial showing how to upholster the back of the chair.  Make sure you staple on the fabric that will be showing through the back of the chair before adding the webbing!  (The style of the chair below is a little different, but it’s a good example of using burlap and crisscrossing webbing for support.)


step five | upholstering the seat

THIS tutorial shows how to upholster the seat of the chair.  This will be covered up by the cushion, but it’s still worth doing with nice fabric.  I’ve seen the seats of chairs done in panels, so the nice fabric shows and a less expensive fabric is hidden under the cushion, but that’s a lot more sewing for what ends up being a pretty small piece of fabric!

step six | making a new seat cushion cover

HERE is a tutorial showing how to make a cover for the cushion.  I use a pin-fitting method just like I do when I’m making slipcovers.  It ensures a great fit and you don’t have to make templates.  HERE is a tutorial showing how to sew a zipper on a cushion cover, but you can make an envelope closure as I did in the cushion cover tutorial.  I do that most of the time, just because it’s quick and easy!

(Man, I loved those chairs!)

step seven | replacing the dust cover (if needed)

In THIS TUTORIAL, I show how to repair the bottom of a chair and replace the dust cover.


step eight | making & attaching the trim

If Marylisa wants to make her own double-welting trim, HERE is a tutorial showing how to do that.  She can also use a gimp trim or something else depending on the desired look.  My only concern about double welting would be the amount of fabric she has.  She may not have enough for that option and finding a perfect match in new linen might prove difficult.

If she wants to use a store-bought trim, I think a matte, cream gimp would be a nice option.

HERE is a tutorial showing how to apply the trim whether it’s store-bought or custom double-welting.

Whew!  Those are a lot of tutorials I had to track down, but I know this post will be helpful for people working on a similar chair.  I hope so, anyway!

Speaking of furniture makeovers, did you see Layla’s secretary makeover with MMS Milk Paint?  It turned out so good!  You can read the post HERE.


  1. Shannon

    Though I’ve read all the linked tutorials when they first came out, I love this post, furniture is why I first started following you and continued over the years. I’ve really missed that and have just skimmed more recent posts because they just don’t interest me, even considered unfollowing so as to not be wasting my time. But I’ll continue, especially if at least some of the content feels like why I started following you in the first place. Can’t wait to see future furniture and room dilemma makeovers.

  2. Maria

    I have been reading your blog for years and your talent is just amazing. How you take a piece of furniture that some would just trash and you make it into a statement. Thanks so much for sharing it all!!!!

  3. Dodie

    Hi Marian! I love those chairs too! I bought them from you at your last show at Lucketts. They are flanked by my fireplace where I enjoy my morning coffee. Tried to insert a photo but I flunked! Oh well! I have so many lovely things that I have purchased from your shows, clearly they are my favorite things!

  4. Anna

    This is such a valuable post! I am reupholstering a chair as well and I it is wonderful to have all these links in one place!
    The chairs are so gorgeous. I love looking at the examples for inspiration.

  5. Addie

    Just wondering……have you ever had bugs come out of old upholstered furniture???? ….ewe
    And are there any measures one should be taking? They could come out of wood things too.

    • Marian Parsons

      No, I have never had that! I’ve found some random spiders, etc. on furniture, but it was always wood pieces that came out of barns, etc. I’ve never had a piece that was infested, though.

    • Maxime

      Hi Addie. I’ve had nasty creatures come out of furniture, both wood and fabric. Chemical treatment is an option, but one I don’t like. For fabric inhabitants, wrap the article in black plastic and leave it to bake in the sun for a week or so. I’ve worried about distortion, but never had any. For the wood dwellers freezing is best. For big articles the best solution is a friendly local chef who’ll kindly lend space in their restaurant freezer for a few days. Sometimes I’ve needed to use both options! Hope this helps. Maxime

  6. Cheri Dietzman

    You write the best tutorials! I have more confidence in recovering some pieces in my home thanks to you!

  7. Sherry Hicks

    I am so thrilled you posted this with links I knew you had a lot of good tutorials as I have followed for a long time I have to say I missed all the furniture and show posts getting ready for shows etc I think this is brilliant consulting and showing makeovers I am excited to read more like these and I have a chair that needs exactly this post and tutorials! Thank you! I have a 3 piece set of 1890 pieces that I may attempt eventually doing a chair first may get me over my fear!

  8. Kimberly

    Thank you so much Marian for taking the time to track all of those videos to post here for us, it will be nice to have them all in one place when I start my chairs. I have a question I’m getting ready to paint old bedroom set in all white but it’s been quit awhile since I’ve done such a large all white project so I have forgot what’s the best to make sure it doesn’t yellow?? Please help me, I know you will know exactly what I need to do it’s all pine wood that golden orangey color now. Thank you so much for everything you do here for us. I have you’re books and just admire you so much.

  9. Judy

    Such lovely photos and directions! I see you writing about Lucketts….I don’t know what that is (flea market? antique show?) and am wondering where it is? Also I met you once at Junk Bonanza in Shakopee, MN. Will you be there this spring?

  10. Nancy

    I discovered Miss Mustard Seed on YouTube after I impulsively brought home a beautiful carved chair in need of major attention. Your tutorials are wonderful. More chairs have followed, and I have begun painting furniture. Those are my favorite topics, and I hope you will do more.

  11. Virginia

    Have you every used open cane webbing on the back of a chair? I took an upholstery class where I worked on a Louis XV chair. I didn’t finish the entire chair yet. I really want to use cane on the back of the chair. Curious to know if there are any easy ways to do this.

  12. Margarita W.

    This message is for Virginia who is looking for a way to easily cane her chair. Here in Los Angeles there are a couple of companies which sell “Cane” in yardage, in different patterns. Perhaps you could google “wicker”, “caning” . Hope this helps.

    Marianne: Beautiful upholstery job thank you for sharing, I always wanted to try my hand at upholstering at least once. Now if I could only find an inexpensive French chair in Los Angeles!

  13. Stacy

    So very helpful!!!
    I have a ton of furniture to repair and reupholster, stain, paint, etc.
    This series of posts are GOLD for me (not that I don’t love almost all your posts, alas, some I only like a lot! Jk.)
    I have numerous pieces which need major help. I will send you a few, and appreciate your expertise!
    Best, from your almost-twin in Niagara, Ontario (right down to the music degree).

  14. MaryLisa

    Thank you so much Marian for not only featuring my chair( it was a wedding gift to my parents from the New York Gallery) but also giving such detailed tutorials. I do have more than one sheet that I purchased at the time so I should be able to manage the trim. Your attention to detail will make my experience seem possible. I will keep you posted.

  15. mary m

    So nice to see your tutorial. I did a chair and a half slipcover per your instructions. came out perfectly. thank you for this tutorial.

    • Marian Parsons

      Awesome! I’m so glad to hear!

  16. Anne Marie

    I love the diversity of your blogs! I always have a takeaway from each, even if its not in my immediate crafting/recipe/decorating….etc plans. Yours is my favorite blog from years ago and still is today. I am so inspired by each of your posts and your photography draws me in every time.

  17. Joy T

    Wonderful informative post, as always! Thanks for doing what you do! 💕


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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