How to Refinish and Reupholster a Wood Chair for the Ballerina

This post and the photos within it may contain Amazon or other affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

Nothing makes me happier than a good find and better still if it’s free. That is exactly the deal I got with this chair -FREE! I happened to be walking the dog one day and a neighbor a street over had put this antique chair at the curb. I decided if it was still there on the walk back that I’d carry it home.

I thought it odd that this particular neighbor had put this old treasure at the curb because they have a garage full of stuff and they hold a garage sale every year. But, maybe they didn’t see the potential like I did.

DIY Furniture Makeover How to Refinish and Reupholster a Chair
Get tips and tricks for refinishing and reupholstering a wood chair.
To show exactly how much potential an ‘old’ piece of furniture has, this was the tag on the bottom of the chair seat:

Sibley, Lindsay & Curr Company was a Rochester, New York based department store chain. Founded in 1868 and eventually being known as just Sibley’s, the company closed in 1990. I have many fond memories as a child going to Sibley’s downtown. It was the store of its’ time.


The first step you will want to take (especially if the furniture is really old) is to strip and/or clean it. On this furniture project, I used liquid TSP cleaner because it gets all the years of grease and grim off the wood.

Whether you use TSP cleaner or a wood stripper, for safety reasons, always be sure to follow the instructions carefully.

The second step is to sand. Note that when you sand wood, you are essentially removing the existing finish. So, before you sand your project, it helps to know if you plan to restain the wood or just paint the wood. Depending on your desired end result you will either: (1) sand with a fine grit paper to just smooth the surface or; (2) sand with a heavier grit paper to actually remove some or all of the existing finish.

You can hand-sand or use an electric sander. One note of caution if you use a hand sander, it may leave marks on the wood (such as, if you use a circular sander). If this happens, just use fine sand paper and lightly sand out the marks.

For this project, I just lightly sanded the chair because I had planned on priming and painting the chair white.

TIP: The lower the sandpaper number, the heavier the grit; the higher the number, the finer the grit.

Before moving onto the third step, you should wipe the wood down with a slightly damp cloth to remove any fine wood dust. Now your project is ready for either staining or painting. On my chair project, I used Rust-Oleum 2x Ultra Cover Paint plus Primer in gloss white. I had to use extra paint on the carved rose to really get in all the nooks of the carving.


The picture above is the wood chair with just one coat of the paint. As you can see, because I didn’t sand off the old finish the stain is pretty strong in color. But, nothing that 2-1/2 cans of 2x paint plus primer can’t handle!

On this furniture project, the one thing I did not get pictures of (not quite sure how that happened!) was how I changed out the fabric on the seat. But, it was pretty easy really. You would take off the old seat, pull off the fabric and lastly, add new padding and fabric. Typically, you would use a heavy duty stapler to attach the fabric to the wood board of the seat pan.

On this chair, I had to have my husband cut out a new seat pan because the old one was pretty beat up and looked water-logged.


I was quite pleased with the end result as the color matched perfectly to my daughters bedroom set. As well, the chair fit perfectly with her bedroom theme, colors and now style. I’m also pretty confident that she’ll want me to change it in a few years (or less) as she grows and desires a different look. When that time comes, I’ll be sure to get pictures of changing out the fabric!

Happy Crafting!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *