The Armchair Makeover From Hell

I'm so excited about today's post because it's the first edition of Themed Furniture Makeover Day for 2016 and this month's theme is Shades of White. A very fitting theme considering the project I'm sharing, a.k.a. The Armchair Makeover From Hell had me in shades of white.


...and black and blue.

Doesn't it look so sweet and innocent sitting in front of the ethereal light coming from our living room window? Perhaps I jinxed it when I told Mr. Frugalista how it was going to be such a quick and easy makeover.

Armchair Makeover After

The Armchair Makeover From Hell

Pictured below is how it used to look. We've had this chair for a few years and I remember the day I bought it like it was yesterday. A colleague and I were shopping for a client's home that we were staging to put on the real estate market and we both fell in love with the chair, wanting it for our own homes. I was thrilled when it landed in the back of my vehicle.

The armchair worked well in our living room with our former earth tones but now that we've whitened and brightened this space, so too needed the chair.

Armchair Makeover Before

My vision was to paint the wood white and reupholster the chair in a neutral fabric so you can imagine my delight when I saw that this month's theme was Shades of White.

Armchair Makeover from hell

And so the makeover from hell began, starting with removing thousands of staples. The staples ran continuously one after another with no spaces in between. That's where the shade of red came in - thank goodness for band-aids.

After removing all the staples I noticed one of the legs was wobbly and I soon learned the poor quality of this chair. The adage, you get what you paid for stands true.

Once glued and screwed back together and clamped to dry overnight, all was solid again.

...or so I thought.

Every strap of webbing on the seat had so much slack that I'm surprised people's butts didn't touch the floor when they sat down.

Armchair reupholstered back

After tightening the webbing it was time for the fun part, painting the frame. This is where the shades of white came in, literally and figuratively.

First I lightly sanded the wood, as I always do, and no surprise that the tannin's in the wood bled through the first coat of paint. Nothing that a coat of shellac won't solve.

While applying the second coat of white the paint started bubbling and coming off in patches. This has never happened before in the three years that I've been refinishing furniture. The second coat of shellac and two days later, the chair was finally painted.

Then silly me decided I wanted a distressed look. BIG mistake, the paint was coming off in chunks.

What finally worked, after fixing the paint mishap was applying a coat of clear wax and letting it cure first before distressing.

Armchair chalk painted white

Onto the upholstery part of this makeover, starting with the fabric on the back. We used a pretty sage green that I already had in my fabric stash.

Moss Green upholstered armchair back

The fabric for the rest of the chair was intended for our Ottoman Makeover but we ended up using a different fabric for that project. I was happy to find a new purpose for the fabric because it wasn't cheap.

Thankfully, we had the chair upholstered within a couple of hours and it looked great.

Armchair reupholstered

The following day I got to work sewing the piping.

Sewing piping for Armchair Makeover

I should start off by telling you that the fabric was a heavier upholstery fabric and it frayed a lot.

Piping for Armchair Makeover

Hot glue gun in hand I got to the task of attaching the piping to the chair. I've done piping before and it's not a difficult process. Spoke too soon.

Despite trimming the seam allowance close to the seam the piping would not sit flat on the chair and kept fraying as I worked.

Here is where the shades of black come in...

It looked awful and as I sat back with a glass of wine, the more I looked at the piping the more I didn't like how it looked.

Using a heat gun on the lowest setting, we proceeded to remove my handy work. Frustrated as all heck, we got it done and that's when Mr. Frugalista noticed something.

Burn on Armchair Makeover from hell

The heat gun burned the upholstery!

At this point, I was DONE. Feeling completely defeated and ready to throw the chair out the window, I called it a day. That was on Monday night OF THIS WEEK.

After a lot of colorful words were exchanged and we decompressed with another glass of wine, it was decided we had to replace the fabric. In our fit of frustration, or that second glass of wine, we cut the new fabric and it was TOO SHORT.

We had one piece of fabric left. Exhausted by this point and having shed a few tears (mine) we had just enough fabric to reupholster the seat.  By this point, we couldn't get the corners (that we had no problem doing on Sunday) to lay nice and flat so we decided to call it a day.  It was 11:30 pm and did I mention that I started working on the chair at 3 o'clock.

Upholstering Armchair Makeover from hell

As we were cleaning the mess Mr. Frugalista noticed one of the arms on the chair had come apart. I think the entire neighborhood could hear the expletives coming from our basement.

Now 11:45 pm, we re-glued the dowel and bid that damn chair good night.

Repairing loose arm on Armchair Makeover from hell

On Tuesday night, after a good night's sleep and with clearer heads, we finished the seat and moved onto Plan B.

Instead of piping (we had no more fabric), I hot glued gimp upholstery trim around the chair.

Gimp Upholstery Trim on Armchair Makeover

...and declared the chair DONE.

Armchair Makeover From Hell

We both jumped for joy.

Danced like nobody was watching.

And both of us were too scared to sit in the chair.

Armchair Makeover in Shades of White

For fear of scratching the paint.

Or staining the upholstery.

Or having a Goldilocks moment.

So instead, we'll admire the armchair from afar and applaud our determination and hard work.

And perhaps I'll make a pillow with the small scraps of leftover fabric and I'll embroider the words, "For Looks Only".

If you or someone you know has thought about attempting an armchair makeover and want to learn from our mistakes, share it with a friend and/or save it on Pinterest.

Armchair Makeover Before and After

Now that you've read my saga of The Armchair Makeover From Hell, let's head over and see what the other DIY Furniture Girls in the Themed Furniture Makeover Day Challenge created for their Shades Of White piece.
Furniture Girls Themed Furniture Makeover Day

Press the links below to see their makeovers but please pin directly from their blog rather than the links.

I'm sharing this project at these fabulous LINK PARTIES.



  1. I have a very similar project underway. I ordered piping, but was in the process of rethinking that choice. You’ve reassured me that trim is the way to go. Can you tell me where you got your trim? I don’t care for most upholstery trim, but like yours. Thanks for any help you can offer!

    1. Hi Deb! I got the upholstery trim at our local Fabricland store, a Canadian fabric retailer. If you're not Canadian, have you tried looking for it online? Amazon may even have it. Good luck with your search!

  2. Lovely result! I have a chair that has been sitting (stripped of its upholstery) in the corner of my dining room....waiting for some love.Your blog has lit a fire under me to 'git 'er done'! Thanks!

    1. Dor, you just made my day! I'm thrilled to hear my armchair makeover lit a fire under you to get your chair done, especially after reading all the hiccups we had with our chair. Wishing you the best with yours and if you have any questions along the way, don't hesitate to drop me an email, I'd be happy to help.


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