Upholstered! Sad and Saggy Armchair

A simple premise: “new” does not always = “awesome” where furniture is concerned. A simple illustration: this chair.

Pier 1 Liliana Chair brought in for reupholstery
Pier 1 Liliana chairThis is clearly not an old chair, nor is it a cheap chair (at least not in terms of retail pricing). In fact, you can buy this exact chair right now from its Pier1.com listing for $400. Yet, when I was hired to give this chair a makeover, the fabric was sagging, wrinkled, and quite frankly a little sad. It needed help!

Which is exactly why I brought in this team of experts to assist with the project.Chihuahuas help with furniture repair

The chair’s owner had a really clear picture of what she wanted–a design based on a Pottery Barn chair that included linen, button tufting, nailhead trim. Any fabric would have been a huge improvement, but these choices really helped give the finished product a crisp and classic look.

It also gave me a fun excuse to play with my tufting needles.
Diamond tufting chair back -- button tufted chair
Button tufted armchair
A view of the back all tied up. Adding some fabric when knotting the button twine helps add greater stability.
Securing buttons with button twine

And a somewhat less fun but still very worthwhile excuse to whack some stuff with a mallet. This baby required over 200 nailhead tacks, all applied individually.
Nailhead trim

In the end, I was happy with the outcome and–more importantly!–so was its owner.
 Pier 1 Liliana chair gets a Pottery Barn makeover

5 yards of fabric + 6 boxes of nailhead + 7 newly covered buttons = a chair transformed from lackluster to lovely!

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VINE & LACE

27 comments

  1. Lovely job here! I’m trying to become confident enough to upholster some new bench seating in my kitchen. I don’t want floppy pillows, I want tufted cushions that are in place. Thanks for your inspiration.

  2. Great work! I’d love to know more about how you did the tufting. I am prepping my second big upholstery project but first with serious tufting and could use some guidance. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi there! Sorry for the delayed response–for some reason your comment got sent to spam. :/ Here are some of the things that helped me:

      1) When you measure for button placement, mark the space first with fabric chalk, and then stick a straight pin in as a placeholder. The pin helps you visualize whether the placement is level and evenly spaced. When you apply the button, remove the pin as you stick your tufting needle directly into that spot.

      2) If someone is around to lend you a hand, it can help to have them look at the front of the piece while you pull and tie the button twine. They can help you make sure the buttons are all pulled to the same depth.

      3) Watch a few YouTube tutorials about tying buttons. Standard practice is to use a slip knot to tighten the twine, but all they had at my local craft store was waxed button twine, so that’s what I got, and waxed twined is too sticky to be tightened with a slip knot. The grip was amazing, but I couldn’t adjust the length or tightness of the button once it was tied without cutting it and starting over.

      In my opinion, getting the placement just right was one of the hardest parts, so definitely plan well for that, especially if you are using a lot of buttons!

      Good luck! Let me know if you have any other questions!

    1. I agree! I was kind of nervous about the diamond tufting–I wasn’t sure if I could get the buttons deep enough and the pleats well enough defined. I believe professional upholsterers use a hole bit to drill out small pieces of foam when they do deep tufting, and I don’t have one of those. The owner really wanted it, though, and it was her vision that really made the chair in the end!

      1. The one method I have seen is to cut a groove in the foam. I recently re-used some foam from a tufted chair. If you are curious, there is a photo of the foam in my latest blog post (Mission Chair).

      2. Ah-ha! Good thinking! Your chair turned out amazing! Love the reversible cushion. And love the tulip base table next to the chair. And you also have the most adorable baby and dog–what a happy life!

    1. LOL! Thanks, PJ! I have to say, it is HARD work! I’m totally in awe of people who do it professionally. As a newbie, it can involve a lot of false starts and re-work. It’s pretty cool when it turns out, though. 🙂

  3. You did an outstanding job! I’m going to attempt to recover a chair and I also like the canvas type material that it looks like you used. What is the material and where was it purchased? Thanks for your help.

    1. Hi Maryann, thank you so much! The material on this chair is an upholstery grade linen, but I think canvas would also work! I found the fabric at F&M Fabrics, a wholesaler in Springfield, Missouri, where I live. If you have a local fabric retailer in your town, I definitely recommend checking there before chains like Hobby Lobby, JoAnn, etc–I have had luck finding more reasonable deals in smaller stores. I also know someone who ordered from Fabric.com, so you also have the option of finding some places online where you can order a swatch before you make a decision. Hope that helps! Good luck with your project!

  4. Looks smart the new makeover, gives it a classic look but I feel that those nails are prominent, so the chair does not look perfect but yes its better than the earlier heavy saggy, wrinkled gradma look chair. Nice!!

  5. I just saw your chair on Apartment Therapy and it’s incredible how you reupholstered the chair. It looks so good! I never would have thought that would be possible without years of prior experience.

  6. Okay, a weird, longshot question- did you happen to save the old, saggy fabric? I need some for a repair, and it is this pattern that my wife really likes.

    1. Hi Kevin! Aww man, no I’m sorry to say it went in the trash. If I’d have known it could have been of use to somebody I definitely would have kept some in my stash. Good luck, I hope you’re able to track some down!

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