Redoing a GoodWill Chair

A few years back I found out that I love to redo furniture.  My parents had this semi old coffee table that they were thinking of getting rid of because the entire top was scratch up unbelievably thanks to certain animals in the house.  The stain on the table was also a yellowish color.  It wasn’t in the best shape, so they wanted something new.  At the time I was now living in a small studio apartment and knew that eventually I would be moving into a two bedroom when my sister started college.  So I asked if I could redo the coffee table, because even though it looked in bad shape it was still made of nice material.  So I spent a few weeks (it was a large, heavy coffee table and the only place I was able to sand was out on my parents’ driveway during the hottest week of the summer) sanding down the table until it looked like new wood and then stained it a beautiful walnut.  It came out so nice, my parents kept it and I got a different coffee table from them.

But if you’re up for the task (because sometimes it can become tedious), redoing furniture can save you a lot of money and in the end up have a unique piece of furniture that can’t be found in over priced furniture stores or laminate city superstores.  If you don’t already have the furniture to refinish, best places to look are thrift stores, Craigslist, or yard sales.  Be patient. Sometimes it takes a long time to find something worthwhile.

I found this old wood chair at Goodwill one day when I randomly was walking through the store for $5 and had to get it.  At the time I really wanted an upholstered chair in my bedroom for things like reading (or, in reality, a place for my cats to sleep that wasn’t my pillow).

An old chair from Goodwill that cost me $5

An old chair from Goodwill that cost me $5

First things first, I unscrewed the bottom cushion from the chair and went to unscrew the backrest.  However, I had a bit of an issue, the screws for the backrest were inside the cushion.  I was planning on reupholstering the chair so I used a utility knife to rip through the fabric to the inside.  After I pulled all the cushioning off I was able to unscrew the backrest.

As you can see from the picture, the wood on the chair was pretty beat up and there wasn’t much polyurethane or varnish covering any of the wood.  I used 120 grit sandpaper to even out spots that still were a bit glossy.  After I sanded off any remaining gloss, I upped the sandpaper grit two more times until I did a third sanding with 220 following by a quick over with the finest steel wool.

The stain I chose to use was a dark walnut.  Unless you are able to sand all the way down to the unstained wood or the previous stain was incredibly light, choose a darker stain when refinishing so that the darker stain covers any imperfections from the previous stain.  I wiped on two coats of the stain using an old wipe cotton t-shirt following the instructions on the can.  Then I wiped on three total coats of water-based polyurethane.  After each of the first two coats dried, I sanded the chair with steel wool to even out any bubbles and leave the chair smooth.

Refinishing the chair was the easy part. Reupholstering the chair ended up being a bit of an issue. Issue one: all of the cushioning fell apart if you applied even the smallest amount of pressure.

The left overs of the backrest and the cushion.

The left overs of the backrest and the cushion.

Joann’s sells cushion foam by the yard and also sells 16 square inch high density foam of different thicknesses.  I was able to by two squares of 2 inch thickness cheaply.  Joann’s was having one of their coupon commotions so I was able to use a 50% off coupon on both pieces.  (Joann’s has an awesome phone app that will instantly load all new coupons, which is useful if like me you always forget to print out the coupon from your email or leave the mailed coupons on your counter.) My Joann’s also has a great clearance selection so I was able to pick up two yards of home decor fabric for $5/yard.

After cutting out the foam to fit the wood base of the chair set, I wrapped it in batting and whipped stitched the batting closed.  And long story short, I made a cover for the cushion.  I used the tutorial by “Pretty Handy Girl” at . Except I didn’t need to make a bottom for the cushion.

After making the top cover for the cushion, I placed the foam into it and then put the wood base on.  I didn’t want my cats to find exposed batting, so I cut out a piece of muslin to place on top of the wood base.  Now, I just pulled the home decor fabric tight around the edges, folded it slightly under to make a clean edge and then used upholstery tacks to nail it on.

For the backrest, I replaced the wood frame and then wrapped batting as many times as I could around it.  I used my stapling gun to tack the batting in place.  There was a dip on the bottom part of the frame that was meant to hide staples, so I stapled there.  Next, I just wrapped the fabric around and stapled it in place.  I’m not sure if this is really how it should be done, but it was impossible for me to closely staple the edges, so all my staples pulling the fabric tight were visible.

Not what I wanted.  Solution?

I had left over piped, so I trimmed the piping up and stapled it onto the chair at one place and then used fabric glue, the strongest I could find, to glue the piping around the edges.  Some staples were still visible in that dip on the bottom, so I ended up gluing a few sections of piping around.

My newly refinished chair that has found a home in the corner of my bedroom.

My newly refinished chair that has found a home in the corner of my bedroom.

My cats love the chair as well.

My cats love the chair as well.

Cost Breakdown:

Chair – $5

Foam cushions – $15

Home decor fabric – $10

Sandpaper, stain, polyurethane, upholstery tacks, piping, fabric glue – Leftovers from previous projects

Total Cost: $20

2 thoughts on “Redoing a GoodWill Chair

    • Thanks! I think the best part is being able to style it exactly as you want and not have to settle on a particular pattern or color that isn’t completely to your liking.

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