Memories... Like Mom Made!

Memories... Like Mom Made!
Out of dark moments, flowers grow.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Lorelei's Nursery Makeover: Old Rocking Chair Re-do! From Drab to Fabulous for under $50!

One of the number one things I knew I wanted for Lorelei's nursery makeover was a new rocking chair. I wanted it to be a statement piece. Something that would draw your eye as soon as you enter the room, and have a couple surprises. But most importantly, I wanted it to be comfortable. And cheap. Definitely cheap. So I was thrilled when I came across a plain oak rocking chair on for $20. It was screaming for a makeover and because the wood wasn't polished or stained I knew it would save me a lot of work. I snatched it up on a Monday and it was in Lorelei's room, ready to rock, by Sunday at nap time. And my back was VERY thankful to have something comfortable to rest against for a change. The floor is not a nice place when trying to calm a fussy little girl!
One of my favorite things about this chair is the surprise element of the pink upholstery tacks on the back. I knew I wanted a pop of pink without actually painting the chair pink, so instead, I painted the upholstery tacks. I used Mambo Pink spray paint from Krylon and it added just the right touch.

The rest of the chair redo was pretty simple, but very tedious. It wasn't hard to figure out what to do once I got going, BUT it was very time consuming. It rained Monday and Tuesday, so I started painting Wednesday, finished painting on Thursday, and Friday and Saturday I spent working on the upholstery and new cushions. I hammered the tacks in Sunday after breakfast and by nap time Lorelei and I were rocking in her beautiful room. She was so excited she couldn't stop patting the cushions!

So first thing's first I painted the chair. Now... I had a moment of insanity where I actually thought I would just be able to wrap the new upholstery over the old cushions and tack them in and call it a day, so when I was painting, I didn't bother to remove the old upholstery first. I figured if anything it would just be quicker this way and yada yada yada. I really had no good reason for it, I just wanted to jump in to the painting...

DO NOT BE LIKE ME! This was silly. I mean seriously: what was I thinking!?!? TAKE OFF THE UPHOLSTERY FIRST! *Ahem*. Okay. Moving on.

So FIRST you remove the upholstery from your chair. I bought a handy little kit from Wal-Mart. (I have been advertising for good old Wally World a lot lately... they should definitely sponsor my blog or something... which is funny because normally I avoid Wal-Mart and large chains like it... but when you live in a place that doesn't even exist on a map... it is a necessary evil!).

Use the little tack puller thing to pop the old tacks out. Keep them if you want to reuse them, though you may have to bend and straighten a few (or all) of them. I decided I wanted the flat shiny simple ones that came in the package because I had plans for my tacks.

Rip the back off first, and then you should be able to expose the rest of the nails/staples/tacks to remove them. KEEP ALL OF YOUR PIECES! You will be using these pieces to trace your new fabric later, so do not throw them away! Also, take pictures or mental notes of how everything went on, that way you aren't doing some crazy brain buster trying to decode how it all fits together later after you have already forgotten all of this.

I didn't show you a picture of the stuffing I uncovered inside my chair... It was STRAW. Yup. The very nice lady I bought the chair from had warned me that they kept the original straw padding. I didn't think much of it, nodded and said "oh that is so cool!" and went on my merry way... Remember how I said it rained the first two days I had the chair? Well it got wet... And do you know how wet hay smells?


So... it was back to the craft store for me! I ended up going back and forth bewteen Jo-Ann and Hobby Lobby THREE times (getting both children out and back in each time) before I finally settled on the high density smart foam that Hobby Lobby carries.

 It is prepackaged and looked about large enough and with my coupon it was less than 30% of what I would have paid at Jo-Ann's for their green high density foam.

 I got a small 2x12x12 inch cushion for the back of the chair, and lucked in to a couple bags of batting at a garage sale for $2 and headed back home.

NOW would be a great time to paint your chair. AFTER you have taken all the pieces off and have your supplies you will need... Rough the whole thing up with sand paper. I didn't have to worry about stripping any paint so I just grabbed a fine grit because it was what I could easily find and because I didn't want it to be rough anywhere. If you are removing old paint, push up your sleeves and get ready to sweat because it is a time consuming job, but well worth the final results. Pay extra close attention to the runners the arms, since those spots will be getting the most abuse. Also make sure to really get in any curves or spindles because an electric sander won't really do the trick here and it is crucial that they are roughed up pretty thoroughly.

Wipe the whole thing down with a damp rag and let dry before painting.

Give it a couple good coats, letting dry in between. I used foam brushes because I love the clean up: finish and toss them in the trash! They are cheap enough that it doesn't matter if you go through a handful or not, and they don't leave hairs in your work like some paintbrushes do. I used a semi gloss latex paint in black. I would have preferred enamel (as per my mother's suggestions... heck this blog is called "Like MOM Made", and I still like to get her advice on a lot of what I do! Thanks, Mom!), but Wal-Mart doesn't carry enamel so I went with the closest thing they had.

Ok so your chair is painted, your upholstery is ripped off the chair, and you have your cushions and tacks waiting to be prepared.

Remember how I said that I had plans for the tacks? Well as I was ripping the old upholstery off of the chair, I found a cardboard insert (which is actually important as you will need a new one for your chair too), and popped a bunch of the plain tacks into it... Mainly because I didn't have spare cardboard laying around.. so improvise if you must!

Not quite pushed in all the way so I can reach the sides of the tack easily.

Then I shot them with a fabulous pink spray paint. The same pink that is in almost every other project in her room. Give them a couple good coats and let dry thoroughly, then coat again. Be careful with them because they will scratch. Feel free to clear coat them just to be safe.

Remember our cushions and batting? Next we will get our cushions all ready to be covered.

I started with the back of the chair. I took the 12x12 cushion and wrapped it in quilt batting. I wrapped and wrapped and wrapped and then tried fitting it in the back of the chair to see how it fit. It was a little too square and needed to be more rectangular so I unwrapped it, then rewrapped it with the bulk of the strips going horizontally, rather than alternating horizontally and vertically. You can adjust your batting any way you need to. I also suggest having some fiber fill or stuffing of some kind on hand as well so you can fill in any gaps when you are actually recovering the chair.

Now the seat of the chair was the real hard part. The smart foam I bought was the PERFECT size for the seat of the chair, with just enough lap over to cut down into the perfect shape. I laid the foam on to the chair where it would be going (and I had to work to get it in there since it is a little too big), and made marks in every place where I would have to cut away some of the cushion. I used a measuring tape and measured each point before making marks so that I could be certain I was making the right mark. Since it is symmetrical, I would make the mark on one side then measure the exact same amount in on the other side and mark it there. Then I would flip it over and make the same mark on the underneath side and draw a line from the top down to the bottom.

I marked all the way underneath the chair.

And on the sides, then flipped it over and made the same marks again so that I would have a clear picture of what I needed to cut away.

When I got to the curvy part I made a mark as close to the BASE of the spindle as I could. I didn't want to cut away too much and leave a gap. Remember, you can always cut more but you can't uncut something!

Speaking of cutting, I tried EVERY method known to man to cut this stuff. I tried a hack saw, a hand saw, a box cutter, a pocket knife, kitchen shears, my rotary cutter (I was desperate!)... EVERYTHING. This stuff is SERIOUS. It means business! Well finally, in a moment of pure desperation and mania (I have a lot of these moments when I am being creative... they are usually the big money moments!) I grabbed my ever sharp knife that I have had for years but rarely use because it isn't in a block set like my every day kitchen knives I have sitting out on the counter, and decided to see how it would work. IT WORKED PERFECTLY! I needed a little more pressure on the foam though, and since my boyfriend was away on business I knew I would have to figure it out on my own.

So I used Duct tape.

I just taped that sucker all over, taping off the parts i wanted to cut to make it easier for me to know where I was cutting and to keep the scraps from shredding on me as I was cutting, which would have been a mess and would have made it very difficult to get the smaller pieces cut.

When I was finished I was left with the front spindles to cut. I put it back in the chair and made sure the rest of the cushion lined up properly, then I drew my cutting lines again. This time I had a much better idea of what to cut.

I forgot to take a picture of the Duct tape part but this time I taped off what I was NOT cutting away, since the area I was to be cutting was so small.

After I finished cutting the spindles out, I popped it back in the chair and sat down and took a break! PHEW!

It is worth mentioning that though I ripped the cushions out of this chair, I did keep the original webbing basket weave on the underneath of the chair. I did not take any pictures and do not have any references for this part, but if the bottom is entirely out of your chair, you will need to reinforce it. I would suggest using a strong cloth, scraps even, and making strips that are the length and width of your chair and about 3-4" wide. Then lay them across the bottom of the chair (where the cushion will be resting) and nail them in. Then nail strips at the back of the base of the chair and weave them through the horizontal strips. Nail them in the front base of the chair when you are finished weaving. I hope that helps!

Next you need to start cutting out the pieces for your upholstery. I laid my fabric out, unfolded, right side up on my cutting mat. I found this gorgeous upholstery at... Wal-Mart. I am actually VERY proud of this find. This was only $6.97 A YARD and it is stunning! I saved easily $20 over what I would have paid for a similar print at a fabric store. They have a limited selection but it is definitely worth checking out.

Lay your original upholstery piece on top of your new fabric and line it up a few inches from the end. It will probably be folded and smashed in certain areas so smooth and flatten it as much as you can. I gave myself about 2" margins all the way around. I knew I wanted to stuff my cushions a little fuller than the old ones and I also wanted to be able to hem the edges with a decent seam allowance.

Cut around the entire piece, using a ruler as a guide to keep your edges uniform. My original upholstery wasn't a perfect square and the fabric kind of curved in at places where I didn't think it necessarily needed to, so I didn't follow it perfectly. Most importantly I just made sure I had AT LEAST 2" all the way around the edge of the original fabric. This would help save me later if I had made a mistake.

After I cut everything out I sewed the edges under using a 1/2" hem.

Here are all my pieces and tools and beautiful chair that is ready to be recovered! As you can see, I covered my base cushion in batting as well. I like how this helps give it a smoother, more plush look. If I had more batting, I would have given it another layer. I love cushy things!

See my puppy? He was very eager to help with this project. I think his officially title would have been "Quality Control Specialist Dog": he kept laying on the upholstery...

For my tools I have a rubber mallet, a regular hammer (not pictured), and my tack kit. I also used a staple gun and it was a life saver!

Start with the base of the chair. Spread your upholstery piece over the cushion, smoothing out the top and pulling all the points down around the spindles and boards of the chair. 

Pay extra close attention to the front and the spindles. I pull my piece down extra hard here so it would become wedged in between the cushion and the spindle.

Flip the chair over so the back is up and pull the back edge of the upholstery as tight as you can. Make sure the front part of the chair is laying on the upholstery so you don't end up pulling the whole thing off and hitting yourself in the head. ;). It happens...

Pull as tight as you can and, using a staple gun, staple the fabric to the underneath of the chair. The wooden part, of course. Not the cushion... though I am sure I don't need to tell you that!

Continue around the back of the chair, alternating left and right as you work out from the middle. Keep your tension even as you are pulling and stapling other wise it will look odd and uneven.

When you get to a corner, carefully tuck in the stray edges and fold it in such a way that you will have a straight flush edge against the back board. 

When you pull this down to staple it, pull VERY tight. The corners need to be extra tight to help hold its shape and to give it that rounded plush cushion shape that I love so much!

This is after I have finish the back and reached the front. Like you did in the back, start in the front middle and work your way out, alternating left and right as you go. This will help make sure you stay perfectly even.

Do the same in the front as you did for the back corners: fold the edge perfectly straight against the front spindle, pull extra tight and staple in place.

I didn't take pictures of the process of putting the front of the chair back on, but it is very similar to the base of the chair. Line it up first, then staple and fold in edges as you go. The good part about the front of the chair back is that all the stray edges will wrap around to the back of the chair which will be hidden by the back panel, so if it isn't total perfect, no one but you will know!

After you have it stapled in place, take your back panel piece and line it up with the top of the chair. Fold it in about an inch or two from the top, then flip it over the front of the chair so that the right side of the fabric is facing down and touching the top bar of the back of the chair. Staple this in place in the middle at a couple places.

Using a cereal box or posterboard or any kind of stiff cardstock or cardboard (you want it stiff but not overly thick), cut out an outline of the back of the chair. You want to make sure it overlaps the edges of the wood but doesn't go all the way to the edge. 

Slide it UNDER the little flap of fabric at the top and then staple in place all the way around. I have it pictured wrong here. Do as I say, not as I do!

Put a lot of pressure on the cardboard as you staple so it really helps hold your stuffing in and give you a nice straight chair back. I used some fiber fill to stuff the front the chair extra full before I fully stapled this piece on.

Then flip your fabric back over the cardboard and start putting your tacks in. Start at the top middle, working your way out alternating between left and right. You will be folding in the edge as you go.

To hammer your tacks in without damaging the paint, use the rubber mallet to push the tack in far enough to stand on its own. If you bought a tack kit, it has a little tack holder with a magnet: don't use it if you painted your tacks. It will scratch. Instead, you can use the tack remover as a holder by using the teeth to steady the tack while you VERY LIGHTLY tap it with the rubber mallet. It doesn't take a ton of force, but it can get bent easily so go lightly.

If it goes in TOO easily, you will have to move it to the left or the right of that spot. You don't want it to go back in an original hole because it won't stay. If you do that, it will pop right back out which can be a serious hazard if you have little ones around!

After it is standing on its own and is straight up and down (if it is crooked, pull it out and try again), lay a cloth or towel over the tack and tap it with a regular hammer. Really tap it HARD. Once you are sure it is straight, you should be able to give it a couple nice straight whacks to sink it in there. Repeat with the next tack, measuring evenly in between. 

I measured 2" between my tacks. 

When I got to the end, I measured out 2" and placed the tack as close as I could get to that mark.

Fold the corners in like a mitered corner on a quilt or blanket (or think hospital corners if you ever made your bed that way as a kid. I know I did! I liked to hide stuff in the "pockets"). Push the edges back inside the panel so all you can see is a nice 90 degree corner.

Once you have gone all the way around, this is what you will have!

Isn't it gorgeous? I just stared at it for a few minutes, I was so pleased. It turned out exactly like I had hoped.

Don't you just love that pop of color?

I know I do!

From the front. I plan on adding some more pink tacks to the front but by some stroke of luck I painted almost exactly the right number for the back. Once I threw out the ones I accidentally bent, I didn't have any left to do the front. When I have some time I will paint some more and spruce the front up a little bit. I am thinking along the very bottom edges, all the way around...

In Lorelei's room with her gorgeous Ombre Rosette Pillow.

Well there you have it. A gorgeous chair for a gorgeous little girl! I really hope my step by step recovering instructions were helpful. When all was said in done, here is what I spent:
  • Chair, Craigslist:     $20
  • Paint, Wal-Mart:    $10       
  • Tack kit, Wal-Mart: $5
  • Upholstery Fabric, Wal-Mart: $14 (2 yards)
  • High Density "Smart Foam", Hobby Lobby: $14 with coupon
  • Premium 12x12 Poly Foam, Hobby LobbyL $1.99
  • Batting: $2 (garage sale find)
  • Pink Spray paint: on hand
  • Fiber fill: on hand
      Total comes to $67 give or take some change. Under $50 if you don't count what I paid for the chair, since you could easily find one for a few bucks at a thrift store or garage sale, or maybe even in your own garage!

That isn't bad considering the ones I had my eye on in catalogs were close to $400+! Take that fancy expensive stores!

I hope you enjoyed my tutorial and feel inspired to rescue an old unwanted piece of furniture. It is amazing what a little bit of paint, fabric, and hard work can do!

If I need to clarify anything PLEASE send me a comment! I am only human, so sometimes things that make sense to me actually make little to no sense at all! I am happy to reword or clarify anything that is befuddling you! Let me know what you think! I love to hear feedback. :)


  1. Ginny,
    This is way too cute! You did such a great job!

  2. Great job!!! You're so creative, I'm not handy :p