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Feb 6, 2020

How to Paint Upholstery

Angela King

Not too long ago, I found the perfect chair for my front room at Deseret Industries for $15.

The chair was in great condition, and so was the fabric. However, my front room has a lot of blue accents, and I kept envisioning how great this chair would look in a deep blue.

I’d seen a lot of people painting upholstery on Instagram, so I decided to give it a try. Worst-case scenario, it wouldn’t work, and I’d just pull up the fabric and reupholster the chair. And at best, I’d have the chair of my dreams. I love thrifting when trying new projects because it’s a lot less intimidating to makeover a $15 chair from DI than a $200 chair from a furniture or antique store.

My front room has a mid-century modern vibe, so you can bet I snatched this chair up as soon as I saw it.

Since I wasn’t really sure what I was doing, I did some research online. You can find how-to tips for a lot of basic upcycling projects online. Here’s the process I followed to paint the chair:

1. Buy a water-based paint in a color that you like. I used a sample size of paint from the hardware store—you really don’t need much paint for this.

2. Make that paint into chalk paint. (See “What is Chalk Paint?” for a recipe.) You could also start by buying chalk paint, but I like making my own because it allows me to be really specific with color, and it is less expensive.

3. Water down the chalk paint. You’ll mix three parts chalk paint with one part water. When you paint upholstery, you’re basically dying the fabric with the paint, which is why you need the extra water.

4. Once you’re ready to paint, start by getting the fabric wet. Spray the upholstery down with a spray bottle. It also isn’t a bad idea to section off the fabric with painter’s tape if you’re worried about getting paint on the wood or other parts of the chair.

5. Apply a thin layer of paint to the fabric.

6. Continue to apply thin layers of paint. Between each layer, spray the chair with more water.

7. Let the paint dry completely.

Voilà! My new blue chair.

I was really pleased with how the chair turned out. The blue gave it the perfect look! The paint did change the texture of the chair a bit; it now feels a bit more like leather. But for a formal chair, it is perfect!

This project only cost me $15 for the chair and a few extra dollars for paint and supplies. If I had gone the reupholstering route, it probably would have cost me at least $300—because I’m not quite ready to try reupholstering myself yet, and I would have hired someone else to do it for me.

Now I have a chair that matches my tastes and that I am proud of. Visit your local DI and try something new!

Here’s the chair in my front room.

Angela King is a marketing strategist and Deseret Industries fan. Her most recent DI purchase? A juicer in excellent condition that she snagged for $40. When she’s not drinking homemade juice or hunting through the yard area, she can be found performing improv comedy or watching the latest-and-greatest on Netflix.