The Craigslist Chair (a re-do story)

This is the story of a $30 chair found on Craigslist.  A really long time ago.  For months it sat like this…

I had a very embarrassed boyfriend, confused as to why it was purchased for re-furbishing if it was going to sit in it’s original state.  It was dubbed “the grandma chair” to visitors.  It really was a grandma’s chair though… but not my grandma’s.

It sat because in my mind ‘this will be a really easy makeover. Just some new fabric and paint and voila.’  But upon various second glances, I realized this was not a task I could tackle alone.  Enter Super Mom, queen of all DIY.  I literally could not do it without her.
So let me preface by saying this is NOT easy.  But it is my favorite DIY to date and I feel so accomplished every time I sit in it.  So if you are prepared to tackle something hard, grab a buddy and get to it.  Just be prepared.

You will need: 
  • Staple Gun (ours is cheap and worked great)
  • Fabric (try to pick a sturdy fabric since you will be stapling it.)
  • New foam (depending on the state of the original foam. Ours was dunzo.)
  • Paint. (I started with spraypaint, then switched to high gloss paint & brush.)
  • Batting 
  • Rope Trim
  • Nailheads
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Regular Screwdriver

 We started by taking pictures of EVERY angle and EVERY step we took removing things — which was helpful in putting it all together later on.
We unscrewed the bottom part of the chair.  Easy enough.  My mom always starts by looking for screws that will help take the chair apart.

We then began to pull the trim of the back part out with our hands and a by digging a flathead screwdriver behind it.

Seriously, the color change bewilders me.  The bottom half is the original color, a chartreuse, and the above is what it became over the years. Yuck.

Once we removed the trim, it was pretty easy to pull out the back.  We tried our best to keep the original fabric in tact.  (We would later use it as a stencil for the new fabric).

We then sanded it down and primed it with spraypaint primer.  I did the first few coats of paint using white spraypaint, then switched to a paintbrush and high-gloss paint.  I would recommend paint and brush for furniture like this.

We were able to salvage the baseboard of the chair but bought new foam.  We wrapped batting around the new foam and stapled it to the board to hold & shape everything together.

We cut the fabric to size, stapled the middle pieces, and then went to work on the corners.  I’m sure there are different ways to do corners on upholstery, but we did it like so…

It’s kind of hard to explain, but I would play around until you get it to look like this.

We stapled the rope trim to the bottom half of the chair.

For the back part, we started by stapling the fabric that would be shown in the back.  We then added the foam and batting and stapled the fabric on the front.  (We used the old fabric to trace the new fabric to size).  We stapled the fabric inside little grooves in the chair to hide it from eye’s view.

We then added the rope trim which helped cover the staples.

The rope trim was held up by these nailheads which we had originally spaced 2 inches apart but went back and did 1 inch apart. 
After the back was done we were able to just slide the bottom half on.  You could re-screw it back on but for now it is so snug in there, I didn’t deem the screws necessary.

And here she is!!!  No longer “the grandma chair” but a black greek key and brass nailhead trim piece of glamor.

It’s home is upstairs in the “office” which is actually my makeup and hair station.  J uses it as an office though, so we’ll continue to call it that.

Zoey is quite fond.  She is suspicious though, as you can see, that this chair is the same chair as “the grandma chair”.
Have you tackled an upholstery job before?  I would love to hear your own stories and tips and tricks!


  1. Monday, October 8, 2012 / 2:05 pm

    You did a great job. I have tackled many upholstery jobs. I did an on- line class on my blog called upholstery 101.

  2. Monday, October 8, 2012 / 2:28 pm

    This is amazing! Total transformation. You have inspired me to tackle my similar "grandma" chairs… 🙂

  3. Monday, October 8, 2012 / 2:47 pm

    You make it look so easy! Fantastic transformation 🙂


  4. Monday, October 8, 2012 / 3:02 pm

    holy crap. this is ridiculously great! i love a good craiglist re-do.

  5. Monday, October 8, 2012 / 3:04 pm

    Wow, despite the difficulty you had to overcome, this turned out pretty freaking awesome!

    Amazing diy!And yay for super moms

  6. Monday, October 8, 2012 / 3:26 pm

    Wow I love it!

  7. Monday, October 8, 2012 / 4:58 pm

    Wow! Good for you, this looks great! I'm not sure I could have handled that on my own either but that's what Mom's are for!

  8. Monday, October 8, 2012 / 6:21 pm

    Great job! The chair looks awesome. I've picked up a few chairs that could use a reupholstering but I'm to scared too try so kudos 🙂

  9. Monday, October 8, 2012 / 11:06 pm

    Great job! Love it!

  10. Monday, October 8, 2012 / 11:48 pm

    great job! upholstery is so much harder than it seems and you totally tackled it!

  11. Tuesday, October 9, 2012 / 3:22 am

    Gorgeous makeover, so so so impressed!!!

  12. Wednesday, October 10, 2012 / 2:21 pm

    Your chair redo is just like mine! I even ended up finding it's long lost twin and now have 2 of them! The style of those chairs is just so classic! Once you add the paint and fresh fabric they look so chic! Your BF will learn that all those 'grandma' bargains you find will end up turning into furniture that looks pricey! Nice work 🙂

  13. Friday, October 19, 2012 / 5:36 am

    oh my goodness i LOVE this chair – amazing! i found 4 dining chairs on craigslist last year – kind of remind me of this…and i redid them all for my dining room – you can see them on my blog. i love your blog – am your newest follower, hope you'll visit my blog and follow back if you enjoy! xo


  14. Wednesday, December 19, 2012 / 4:17 am

    Great project! I love repurposing old furniture! I'm so happy I stumbled upon your site! I also have a DIY site. Maybe we can follow each other!

    This site is adorable!

    xo Sam

    DIY Huntress

  15. Friday, March 1, 2013 / 2:39 am

    "But not my grandma's" haha! Amazing transformation. love it.

  16. Monday, June 8, 2015 / 11:48 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing such an excellent tutorial! I see these kinds of chairs on Craigslist from time to time and now I might get one. Very nicely done….

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