When Painting Isn’t Necessarily A Good Thing.

When Painting Isn’t Necessarily A Good Thing.

I have no doubt that I will get some flack from this post.  But, you know me and my big Yorkshire mouth…sometimes it can’t be silenced. Plus, I’m in the middle of stripping two chairs…and I felt somewhat compelled to write this.  

So take a seat, let’s talk.


I love chairs. All sorts of delicious chairs.  Don’t think I’ve ever met a chair that I didn’t like.

And I love doing upholstery, often to the distress of my fingers.  There’s something very relaxing about the dulcet sound of the air compressor going in the background.  It soothes me.

But, in the past,  I’ve struggled being able to successfully recover the simplest of dining room chairs.  

The end job was fine good-enough actually the end job was often quite pitiful, if I’m being completely honest.  And so I always had this desire to learn the tricks; to make my chairs less pitiful.  And I know I’m not alone, because I’m seeing a trend that shows me that most people shy away from upholstery.  The trend that made me write this blog is people painting over the fabric on a chair, in lieu of doing a full upholstery job.

I get the draw: you want to save money, and time, and energy.  Totally get that part.  

But honestly, it makes me a little queasy.  It makes my eye twitch.  And I start becoming anxious.

I react to painted fabric is a physiological way.  And I do so because I’ve stripped down way too many chairs for my own good. And I know what lurks beneath the fabric.  And it’s not nice. And even if the chair looks clean, trust me it isn’t.  And I say this in truth, because I’ve raised three kids and a dog, and a husband and I know how much mess they have made.  I know that each one of them have left biological evidence of their being there. And I know that even though I’ve managed to clean the fabric, I won’t have necessarily been able to clean beneath the surface.  

I stripped a quite nice looking  antique chair once and I swear you would have thought it had been part of a crime scene, once the fabric had been removed.  

Painting fabric reminds me of putting a Band-Aid over a festering boil.  

Sure, it looks fine – but I know what’s underneath.  

But let’s say you can overlook the germ factor, without removing the fabric you have no idea how structurally sound the chair is without eyeballing it.  Case in point, my chaise lounge.

Yes, the fabric is disgusting – but it was so comfortable to sit on.  Unbelievably so.  When I stripped it down I found that the springs had been cut along one side.  Essentially, at some point in time, they would have worn through the fabric and come spewing out.  Plus adding a simple new piece of foam and Dacron can bring new life to an old chair. 

Plus, new fabric just looks better.

Personally, for me, it also comes down to aesthetics. Yes, you can paint fabric on a chair – but you still have to contend with the pattern of the fabric, because it will very likely still show through.  And yes, you can wax over the paint but then it leaves the fabric feeling ‘leathery’.  And listen, I’m a menopausal woman.  I do not want to sit on a waxed chair.  I will melt that Sucka before my second glass of wine.  And that is never a good look.  On anyone.  

Don’t do that to me.  It will test our friendship. Just let me enjoy the wine.

So, what am I advocating?  Well, it’s time to learn how to upholster.  It will ultimately save you money,  you will love how your ‘new’ chair looks and feels, and you will feel incredibly inspired and proud of your work. It’s a win-win.  No Band-Aid in sight.

During my quest to learn how to upholster, I stumbled upon this blog post by Interior Designer, Betsy Speert.  This post motivated me to find upholstery classes in my area.  Betsy does a fabulous job on taking the mystery out of upholstery.  She has a very easy ‘step-by-step’ approach; and the one thing that I especially love is that when she  messes up, she tells you.  I’m always weary of blogs that try to showcase what perfection looks like.  

Perfection has no place in my world.

If you can find adult education courses nearby, sign up!  I take classes at my local community college, and I highly recommend it.  It’s slightly addictive.  But don’t despair, if you can’t find any.  

There’s more options for you.  

Let’s take Youtube.

 There are a gazillion tutorials to watch.  I personally like this series from DIY Upholstery Supply.


 Youtube has a way of zapping away time.  Be warned.

Another absolute must is a good upholstery book.  (I’ve included affiliate links to get you directly to the Amazon pages).  I bought most of my products from there.  This book, I LOVE.  Author, Amanda Brown uses the same techniques as my instructor.  The plus side to this is I’m not having to learn a new approach.  

(There’s only so much my brain can hold).

This is my Upholstery Bible.  

Yes, I learn a lot in class – but I equally forget a lot that I’ve learned in class.  You dig? So it’s really beneficial to me to have something that I can pull out when I’m full of self-doubt and dread.
So, you have the blog, the tutorial video, the book…..now the tools.  Although I can use the tools at school, I also need a spare set for work done at home.  This is a great set of tools (Osborne is a highly respected company in the upholstery world).  A good pair of scissors will save your life.

 The only thing it doesn’t seem to have is my favorite kind of staple puller.  

And trust me, that is the tool you will be using the most! 

Yes, you can use a hand held staple gun.  But to get a professional polished look, it’s worth investing in a professional-grade staple gun, that requires an air compressor to power it through.  Getting the right tension in your fabric is crucial to achieving a nice smooth finish; professional staple guns use fine wire staples and it makes a BIG difference when securing fabric.  This is my ‘bad boy’. He’s Italian.  He’s Bello! I’ve had him about three years now, and although I’ve badly abused him, he’s still holding tight.  And at $133 it’s not super expensive.  
I think I’ve covered most areas.  I’m still learning, it’s an ongoing battle.  But I love it.  Once you learn the basics of upholstery you will start to see chairs in a new way.  
That is good.  
There is such a wealth of fabulous fabrics available these days, that it’s almost a crime not to use them.  Start small.  A side chair, an ottoman.  Go slow.  If you get frustrated, take a break.  Read the book, look at the tutorial again.
 Have wine.
Have faith that you can do this.  And you can!  Really!  
So put down the paint brush, we don’t need to be doing that.  And pick up a staple gun and start creating!  
You won’t be sorry!
{insert catchy ending phrase here}
Diane aka The Paint Factory
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