Antique Balloon Back Chair Makeover

Mr. Frugalista and I were so excited when we inherited this lovely Antique Balloon Back Chair from his uncle's estate. Those curvy legs and carved details fit right into our decorating style. The red velvet seat had a faint stain but otherwise, the chair was in excellent condition.

It has been a well-used chair in our home and for many years was paired with a cherry wood sofa table used as a writing desk in our living room. Sadly after one too many gatherings and surviving two kids and a dog it was looking a little worn and tired, much like it's owners.

French Balloon Back Chair Makeover

An Antique Balloon Back Chair Makeover From The Inside Out

This is what the chair looked like before the makeover. You can see the fabric is worn and there are a lot of knicks and scratches on the wood.

Curvy Antique Occasional Chair Makeover

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So I started this makeover thinking it would be a quick and easy refresh with a little paint. Oh was I in for a surprise!

The Easy Antique Chair Makeover That Wasn't

Step 1 - Painting The Frame

First I filled the knicks and gouges with wood filler. At this point, I didn't remove the fabric because the plan was to paint it too. Once I gave the wood frame a coat of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint™ in the color Old White, those lovely carved details popped.

White French Provincial Chair Upcycle

But when I brushed the second coat I noticed dark spots coming through the paint. The infamous paint bleed, where the tannins in the dark wood bleed through the paint, especially with whites. To block the stains I primed over the first coat of paint with shellac and it worked like a charm.

Step 2 - Distressing The Paint

Once the paint was dry I lightly distressed the finish with 220-grit sandpaper along the edges and the carved details.

Shabby Chic French Chair Makeover

Step 3 - Protecting The Finish With Wax

To protect the finish I applied a coat of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint™ clear wax using a round wax brush. Next, to give the paint an aged patina, I brushed dark wax over the clear wax, making sure to get into the nooks and crannies, and removed the excess with a lint-free rag.

Dark Wax Tip:

A great way to get deep into the nooks and crannies with dark wax is to use a small chip brush and cut the bristles down to 1-inch high. It is my go-to brush for this purpose.

Changing The Plan For The Accent Chair Makeover

Like I mentioned earlier, the plan for the upholstered seat was to paint the fabric with chalk paint in the color Duck Egg Blue. As I was about to get started I noticed something didn't feel right underneath the fabric. The more firmly I pressed my hand the more I realized I needed to remove the fabric and see what the problem was.

Deconstructing The Chair

Upon removing the fabric I noticed the first layer of batting was still in decent condition so that was promising.

Antique Chair Deconstruction

I managed to remove the batting in one piece and was expecting to find horsehair underneath. To my surprise was layers of stinky, dusty, and very messy straw stuffing. Well, that's got to go!

Now I'm getting nervous because this isn't looking like a simple upholstery project and I feared what lied underneath that straw.

Antique Chair Restoration

Once I removed the bulk of the straw I noticed the burlap cover was ripped and the chair springs were popped right through the fabric. Now I'm very nervous because I've never repaired the inside of a chair before.

Antique Accent Chair Upholstery

Replacing the straw filling and burlap cover I figured I could handle but what was waiting underneath I was not prepared for.

Suddenly I had flashbacks of all the gatherings where this chair had been used and realized how forgiving the poor souls who had to endure hours with chair springs poking up their butts and never once complained. Talk about embarrassing!

You can see in the photo below the twine tieing the coil springs had broken in several places and left those springs standing at attention.

Deconstructed French Accent Chair

At this point, I am ready to throw in the towel.

Antique French Provincial Chair Deconstructed

After a good clean with the shop vac, I was very thankful to discover the chair webbing was in good condition and just needed tightening. I was also glad to see that all four coil springs were still secured to the chair webbing.

So now what?

I've deconstructed antique chairs for someone else to upholster.

I've watched the pros upholster antique chairs.

But never have I ever attempted to fix a chair from the inside out.

It was at this point I walked away scratching my head deciding I needed to research the cost of having a professional handle it from this point.

Wait a minute, I have a book!

Upholstery 101 Here We Come

I remembered I bought the book The Complete Guide To Upholstery by Cherry Dobson several months back. I ran upstairs to find it and lo and behold she has a tutorial on how to reconstruct the chair and upholster it too!

Thank you, Cherry Dobson, you saved the day and your book and I became best friends. I can't recommend this book enough - it is chock-full of easy to follow tutorials with pictures.

Putting The French Accent Chair Back Together Again

One layer at a time, thanks to Cherry Dobson, we (as in Mr. Frugalista and I) managed to put the curvy antique chair back together again.

Antique Living Room Chair Reconstructed

...and here it is with new script fabric and upholstery gimp trim.

Instead of upholstery trim, we considered adding upholstery tacks like the original. But at this point, we were so overwhelmed with the chair reconstruction that learning how to add tacks spaced perfectly even apart, like the professionals do, was way too much stress.

You can buy upholstery tack strips that make the spacing a no brainer but heck are they expensive. More money than I wanted to invest in this project. Besides they would have looked far too masculine with the pretty script fabric, wouldn't you agree?

French Provincial Side Chair Makeover

Here's a close-up of the new fabric, found at our local Fabricland store, a Canadian fabric retailer. I also found the perfect color match upholstery gimp trim there too.

French Script Upholstered Antique Chair

Here's a before and after photo of the French Provincial accent chair.

Armless Antique Accent Chair Makeover

Much better! I'm very proud of the results of this makeover and how we were able to successfully repair and upholster this curvy chair.

It is now being used in our guest bedroom paired with the dresser that we repurposed into a Faux Secretary With Pull Out Desk Top.

French Country Occasional Chair Makeover

When we inherited the antique chair we also inherited a curvy set of nesting tables. Both the chair and the nesting tables were used most often during gatherings and they too were showing their age. While I had the paint out, the French Provincial Nesting Tables also got a makeover.

Like home renovations, sometimes when you think you'll just give something a quick makeover you may be surprised by what awaits underneath.

If I have one takeaway from this makeover, it's that when you feel like a project is way beyond your skill set, there may be a book for that!

If I could, on my first attempt at upholstery, successfully upholster a chair from the inside out, you definitely can too.

Antique Balloon Back Chair Makeover

If you have any questions about this antique chair makeover, please leave them in the comment section below or the Contact Me tab at the top. I love hearing from you!

If you enjoyed this chair upholstery project, I'd be so thankful if you shared it with a friend and pinned it to your chair makeover ideas or chair upholstery board on Pinterest.

Antique Accent Chair Makeover

I share my projects at these inspiring link parties.



  1. Where did you find the fabric and trim?! I love how this turned out! And I want to use it on my own chairs project! Tia!

    1. I found the fabric at a Canadian fabric store chain called Fabricland. This was a few years ago mind you. But if you do a Google search "script fabric" you'll find many options and sources for similar fabric. I hope this helps!

  2. It turned out gorgeous Marie! Well done!!!!��

    1. Thank you so much, Terry, means a lot coming from such a talented furniture artist! xo

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Debra! I'm so pleased we were able to repair it ourselves and learn a new skill set.

  4. Good for you for sticking with it! I might have given up once I saw the straw. It turned out gorgeous, which i'm sure makes it that much more rewarding to have stuck with it.

    1. You are so right, Virginia, about it feeling so rewarding after pushing our way through the unknown. Especially now having learned a new skill set in the end.

  5. You never know what you'll find when you remove upholstery from an old chair! Your chair was very well built. Beautiful transformation! I love the farbric you chose.

    1. Thank you, Heidi, I'm glad you like the transformation of our sentimental chair. So very true, and one of the things that makes me nervous when tackling upholstered projects. Thanks for popping by for a visit and have a great weekend!

  6. You never cease to amaze me Marie! This turned out absolutely beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing.

  7. Such an amazing makeover!!! Great paint job, and I love that fabric! Beautiful work!!!

    1. Thank you very much, T'onna! I'm so glad I didn't give up thanks to that book.

  8. Such an elegant makeover, it looks so fresh and stylish.

    1. Thank you, Anita! I'm glad I persevered and proved to myself that I can do it. Next time I won't panic when dealing with broken chair innards.

  9. You are a superstar! This was such a wonderful makeover and I learned so much! It turned out beautifully! Thanks for sharing at Charming Homes & Gardens! ~ Kristin | White Arrows Home

    1. Thank you so much for your sweet comment, Kristin 🤗 So glad you found some useful information in the tutorial. Have a great week!

  10. So much work for one little chair but it really looks gorgeous. Plus it will be comfortable to sit in again! ;)

    1. Thanks Michelle, it really was a lot of work but because it has sentimental value, I'm so glad we persevered.

  11. Marie,
    This is so adorable. We are excited to share this on Charming Homes & gardens tomorrow.

    1. Glad you like the antique chair makeover, Rachel, and thrilled to learn it'll be featured tomorrow! Thank you. xo

  12. This is amazing Marie! I love the transformation. I am featuring you at Charming Homes and Gardens tomorrow. Thank you for the inspiration!

    1. So glad you like the antique chair makeover, Kim, and I'm thrilled to learn it'll be featured. Thank you so much! xo

  13. Beautifully done Marie --- love it! Oh la la, tres magnifique!

    1. Debbee, thanks for your sweet comment and the chuckle this morning, I'm glad you like the chair makeover. xo I cannot tell you how relieved we were to successfully put the chair back together again and have it come out looking so good.

  14. Wow! I love this transformation! Thanks so much for sharing this with us at Farmhouse Friday!

    1. Thanks Michelle! I was so worried we destroyed the inherited chair but thank goodness we were able to successfully put it back together again.


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