DIY Whitewashed & Reupholstered Chair

If there’s a piece of furniture on the side of the road, I’ll be the first one to pull over and see if it can be used (in any possible way) in my apartment. So you can imagine my joy when I found THIS gorgeous chair hanging out on the curb a few weeks ago:

Antique Chair

It’s in pretty good condition and has beautiful little details throughout – plus I needed a chair for my kitchen table, so this was perfect. The only issue I had was that it totally didn’t fit in with my decorating style, like, at all. My entire apartment has a feminine, antique feel, infused with light and airy colors and materials. This chair has the antique part down, but the other factors are total opposites. I decided to whitewash and reupholster it – and found out that this project was not as intimidating as it sounded!

What you need:

To whitewash: sandpaper, paintbrush, white paint, rag, bucket, water.

Whitewash Materials

You can get all these supplies at a hardware store. Make sure you use sandpaper that’s specifically made for wood – it should say so on the package. If you plan on using your chair outside, use exterior paint – mine will just be used indoors, so I used interior semi-gloss white paint.

To reupholster: fabric (I used a pillowcase!), upholstery nails, a screwdriver, scissors, pliers, and a hammer.

Reupholster Materials

What you do:

First you must sand, sand, sand. Most wood furniture is quite smooth to the touch. Sanding the wood will give the paint something to grip onto, so that it doesn’t just slide right off. Since I used a very old chair, the outer layer came off easily. If your chair is newer, it may take a little longer. You’ll know you’re finished sanding when the wood turns a slightly different color and feels rougher to the touch.

Sanding Wood Chair

Sanding Wood Chair

Next you must dust, dust, dust. Use a rag to wipe off any dust particles that accumulated while you were sanding.

Dusting Wood

Now it’s time to remove the fabric! Not all chairs are made like this one, but if your chair has upholstery nails, you can remove them with a screwdriver and pliers. You can discard the nails after you remove them, as they’ll probably be too bent to reuse.

Removing Upholestry Nails

Upholestry Nails

Remove the fabric and any padding that may be underneath it, but don’t discard – we’ll need to use these things later.

Removing Chair Seat

Removing Seat Fabric

Now it’s time to whitewash! Place your chair on a drop cloth (or newspapers or an old sheet) to make sure the paint doesn’t get anywhere it shouldn’t!

Chair on Drop Cloth

Pour some paint into your bucket. Pour in a little water and mix well. The more water you add, the more diluted your paint color will be, so if you want more of the wood color to show up beneath the paint, use more water (and vice versa).

Making Whitewash

Mixing Paint

And now for the fun part. Dip your paintbrush into your mixture and start painting! The whitewashing technique is “paint and wipe” – after you paint, use a rag to wipe off some of the color. This gives it that beautiful “washed” look, allowing some of the original wood to show through.


You don’t want the paint to dry before you get a chance to wipe, so it’s best to work in small sections for this part. The amount you paint on and the amount you wipe off are totally up to you!

Whitewashing Chair

When you’re finished, your chair will look something like this!

Whitewashed Chair

Whitewashed Chair

Allow the paint to dry before moving on. This may only take a few hours, but I waited a full day to be sure.

Next you’re going to cut your new fabric to the proper shape. Lay the original upholstery fabric on top of your new fabric, and position however you like. I left about an extra inch of the new fabric because I wanted it to hang off the front of the chair.


Now cut your fabric! It may be easier if you trace the shape onto your new fabric first (I didn’t do this).

Cutting Fabric

Now it’s time for the upholstery! If your chair had padding underneath the original fabric, use it! Place the padding on top of your seat and position the new fabric on top.

Chair Seat Padding

Chair Reupholstery

Secure the fabric with upholstery nails. Hold fabric in place, position a nail where you want it, and hammer into the wood. You can use the holes that are already in your chair as a guide for where to place your new nails.

Upholestry Nails

Hammering Nail

Crochet Chair Seat

I didn’t want the studs to appear on the front part of my chair, and I was lucky enough to be using a pillowcase (which means there were two layers of fabric), so I cut the fabric at the front, nailed that into place, and let the other layer hang over. This way, the nails were hidden!

Crochet Seat

And you’re all done!

New Old Chair

Chair Makeover

Sitting on New Chair

Now that I know how easy it is to whitewash, I’m pretty sure every single mirror I own is going to undergo a little makeover… I can’t wait.

A gigantic thanks goes out to my awesome friend Jon-Pierre for walking me through every single step of this process… and for hammering half of the nails into place. That part’s not as easy as it looks, ha!

Photos by FP Brigette and Jon-Pierre Vargas.

More DIY ideas for you!!


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11 years ago

That’s brilliant!
I love all your DIY’s

11 years ago

Thanks! I love this!! :-) PS when do we get a peak at the Sept catalog??? I’d love to know where it was shot!! :-)

11 years ago

Very pretty redecoration – shabby chic is the best style! :)

11 years ago

Wow, Looks like it was done by a toddler…

11 years ago

genius idea. i like it.

11 years ago


10 years ago

Never pull tacks out like that , as you will leave dents in the wood. Use a tack puller from the local hardware and lift tacks from an angle where you wont leave a mark. Just my 33 years in the trade “opinion”

10 years ago

I love this article. So many people just throw away old furniture and buy new without even thinking about doing this.

9 years ago

Chair after renovation looks wonderful. Now it has a second life :)

9 years ago

I have to say.. you ruined the beautiful chair =)

9 years ago

so lovely!

8 years ago

Nice article. The KISS principle always works best … so why do we always need to be reminded of that? … Just human nature. But I do think the “store front” metaphor is very apropos in keeping a client focused on their real needs. if you want to find the mahogany furniture or teak furniture from indonesia, you can visit my site to

8 years ago

This tutorial is so inspiring. It is so sad to throw away old furniture items, when you can transform them in a treasure. Nothing can match the old craftsmanship and the patina.

4 years ago

you did an amazing job beautifully completed i loved your work and also try at home too.