paint and upholstery upcycle tutorial

How to Upcycle Antique French Fauteuil Chairs – Painting & Upholstery Tutorial

This tutorial was written for Upcycle My Stuff by Amanda Klipp of Vintage Revamped. She shows us how she ‘revamped’ two antique French Fauteuil chairs including painting and reupholstering them.

French chair Upcycle tutorial

Materials Needed:

project materials French chair painting tutorial

For Painting –

For Upholstery –

Step 1: Preparing Chairs for Painting

Using the staple remover and pliers, lift and remove all studs and staples from the fabric covering your chairs.

To make things easier going forward you should mark and reserve the removed fabric to use as templates for when you go to cut your new fabric. Templates to save for this project are – Inside backrest, outside backrest, seat cover, left arm rest, right arm rest.

As the foam and coir stuffing was old, I removed them. Again you should keep the old foam to use as templates!

Thoroughly clean the wooden frames of your chair(s) with sugar soap and a sponge to remove all dirt & grease. Once clean and dry, the fun part starts, painting the chairs!

stripped French chair upholstery tutorial

Step 2: Painting the Chairs

antique French fauteuil chairs upcycle tutorial

Using an Annie Sloan Chalk Brush, I painted two coats of Annie Sloan Graphite. You want to ensure that you get a good coverage, especially in all the crevasses of the carved detailing.

Using a Chip Brush and Dark Silver Metallic Paint, dry brush the dark silver in a cross hatch manner over the graphite – Ensure that you do not cover the graphite completely; you want it to be visible.

If you aren’t sure what dry brushing is – see this quick tutorial below from Country Chic Paint (the technique is the same no matter what brand of paint you are using).

Leave to dry for 2hrs.

Using Chip Brush and Silver Metallic Paint, dry brush the silver in the same manner as before, ensuring not to cover the dark silver & graphite completely. I wanted my chairs to have a darker antique silver look! If you want them more silver go heavier with your coverage of the silver paint.

Leave chairs to cure overnight.

Seal chairs with 2 Coats of Sealer, using a Varnish Brush. 

Leave to dry for 2hrs between coats, or follow manufacturer’s recommendations.

Leave chairs to cure for 2 to 3 days before starting the upholstery. This will ensure that the paintwork will be more durable and will not chip easily while working.

Step 3: Upholstery – Inside of Backrest & Backrest Support

upholstery tutorial backrest

Using the removed inside backrest fabric as a template, pin it onto any fairly strong upholstery fabric. Cut 2 new pieces for the outside backrest support, cutting slightly larger, about 3 cm all round. This will be the backrest support and will not be seen!

Centre the fabric onto frame of the inside backrest.

Using a Staple Gun and 71/06 Gauge Staples, staple the fabric onto the frame, making sure you staple closer to the centre of the frame, leaving some space towards the outer frame in order to staple your foam and fabric down.

Start at the top middle with 2 staples, then stretch the fabric down to the bottom middle and staple, then left and right sides respectively. Then work out from the centres towards the corners. The fabric must be well stretched but needs some give to accommodate the foam.

Leave a 3cm border of excess fabric and trim off the rest if you need to. Now fold that 3cm border towards the centre of the backrest and top staple down.

Step 4: Upholstery – Cutting & Attaching Foam

To add the foam start by measuring the inside of the back rest frame. Then reduce these measurements all round by 4cm and use them to mark & cut 2x pieces of 2,5cm foam, using large scissors.

Place these in centre of backrest support.

Using the old backrest foam as template, mark & cut 2x pieces of 5cm foam using an Electric Carving Knife.

Place the 5cm over the 2,5cm foam and centre onto backrest frame.

Using a Staple Gun & 71/10 Gauge Staples tuck the foam under and staple down, which gives the foam a soft rounded edge. Once again, as with back rest support, move from the centre out towards corners! 

Using the old inside back rest fabric as a template, place onto the batting, mark and cut 2x pieces, 2 – 3cm smaller all round. Place batting onto backrest foam and centre it.

Step 5: Upholstery – Back Rest Fabric

upholstery tutorial backrest fabric template

Cut 2x pieces of new fabric for the inside backrest, using the old inside backrest fabric as template.  Place this onto your new fabric, centre the fabric onto stripes to register and pin.

Cut the new fabric 3cm larger than your template all round. I used a striped fabric pattern. If you are using stripes as well – Remember the centre stripes must be the same on backrest, seat and arm rest pads.

Place your fabric over batting and centre the stripes at the bottom of backrest.

Using your Staple Gun & 71/10 Gauge Staples, tuck about 1,5cm of fabric under and stay staple the centre stripes, (2 or 3 staples) tilting the gun slightly at an angle so that the staple lifts at one end. These staples are to help keep the fabric in place while you work and so you don’t want them to staple down all the way as you will be removing them again shortly.

Using a flat hand, smooth and stretch the fabric upwards to the centre top of back rest, tuck the fabric under and again use 2 or 3 stay staples to secure.

Going back to the bottom remove the staples carefully with a staple remover and pliers.

Check that the stripes are centred and this time staple down properly.

Tucking and stretching the fabric, staple and move from centre towards corner. Leave the last 3cm from the corner unstapled. Remember to use a flat hand to smooth and stretch fabric upwards & outwards to prevent puckering of fabric.

At the corners tuck the sides of the fabric under to create a neat corner. Once again, if you have too much fabric to tuck under, trim the fabric down!

Go to the centre of the backrest and smooth the fabric first out to the left side, tuck and stay staple then out to rights side, tuck and staple. Then smooth fabric upward and sideways as you go.

Go back to the bottom of the backrest and smooth, stretch and staple upwards towards the side centres, alternating from side to side, ensuring that the stripes remain straight.  If stripes go crooked it means you are stretching more to one side than the other and you will have to remove the staples carefully and adjust the fabric and restaple.

Remove stay staples and continue up towards top corner of back rest, stopping 3cm from corners.

Now remove stay staples from top centre of backrest. Smoothing & stretching from the bottom centre upwards re-tuck and staple centre staples. Continue this way out towards the corners, stopping 3cm from corner. 

Corners are tricky and often there will be a lot of excess fabric from stretching it upwards and outwards. It is important to trim the excess away in order to fold the corners neatly.

 Once trimmed tuck and staple the corners neatly.

upholstery tutorial inside backrest

Note: During this process ensure that the fabric is stretched tightly across the foam; however the fit should also be smooth without unsightly indentations at the edges!

Step 6: Upholstery – Attaching Strip Studs

I do the studs before foaming the seat as once they are foamed there is very little space to work and it makes the studding process difficult!

The strip studs are easy to wiggle and snap with your hands.

Place a length of strip studs on your fabric, starting from a corner.  You will notice that you only hammer a stud into the stud hole.  There are 4 mock studs between each stud. I use the pliers to hold the stud in place initially so that when I hammer down the stud does not go in crookedly.  Once I know it is in straight I hammer the studs all the way down.

Sometimes you will not be able to fit in a strip with stud holes on each side as the gap will be too small. Fill these gaps between strips with single studs.

antique French fauteuil chairs upholstery tutorial backrest

Step 7: Upholstery – Back of Backrest

Using the old back of backrest fabric as a template, cut 2x pieces. Cut your new fabric 3cm larger all round.

Following the same upholstery procedure as the front of the backrest, however this time there is no foam to attach. You staple the fabric directly onto the frame of the chair. Ensure that the fabric is centred and stretched tightly. Also make sure to check that the stripes are running straight.

Apply the Strip Studs as you did on the front to complete the backrest.

antique French fauteuil chairs upholstery tutorial

Step 8: Upholstery – Foaming the Seat

As with the backrest, measure your seat dimensions and use large scissors to cut 2x 2,5cm pieces of foam that are 4 -5cm smaller all round than the seat.

Using the old seat foam as template cut and mark 2x pieces of 5cm foam with the electric carving knife.

Place 5cm foam over 2,5cm foam and centre it.

Using 71/10 Gauge Staples, tuck and staple the foam using the same method as with the backrest.

Using the old seat fabric as a template mark and cut 2x pieces of thick batting, 3cm smaller than template.

Step 9: Upholstering the Seat

how to reupholster seat cover template

Using the old seat fabric, cut 2x pieces of your new fabric, ensuring the lines are centred and registered with those of the backrest. Cut fabric 3 – 4 cm larger all round than your template.

Place your fabric over the batting and centre it to match that of the backrest. Follow the same upholstery procedure as with the backrest.  I always stay staple the back of seat first, then the front, then the two sides. 

Once stayed go to the back of the seat, remove the staples and working from the centre staple outwards to the corners, once again leaving 2 – 3cm unstapled.

upholstery regulator

Use the upholstery regulator to push the cut corners of fabric that wrap around the wood of the backrest struts neatly into the space between the foam and the wood.

If need be you may have to take cotton wadding and push it in under the batting to plump the area around the wood. Then tuck & staple down neatly.

how to reupholster an antique chair

Then do the two sides, working from the back forwards, remembering to smooth, and stretch the fabric both towards the front of the chair and out towards the side you are stapling.

 One tip is to staple a few on one side, then go to the other side and do the same. Alternating the sides will ensure that the stripes remain straight. 

On the sides leave 2 – 3cm towards the front of the armrest unstapled.

upholstery corner of armrest

Now move to the front of the seat, remove stay staples, smooth and stretch your fabric forward, tuck and staple from the centre outwards. Once again, if you find you have too much fabric to tuck under trim the fabric down so that you have about 2,5cm excess to tuck under.

When you get to the corner leave 2 – 3cm unstapled.

 Using an upholstery regulator push the cut ends neatly into the space between the foam and the wood. Use extra cotton wadding if need be in this area too. Then tuck and staple.

how to reupholster antique French chairs

Apply the strip studs to finish the seat. You will have 4 separate runs of studs.  One for the back of the seat, one each for the 2 sides, and a separate longer run for the front of the seat which will wrap around the corners of the seat to the armrest struts (see photos).

Step 10: Foaming the Armrest Pads

Measure the width and length of the top surface of the arm pads. Using 2,5cm foam cut 4x pieces. Mine were 4cm wide and 20cm long.

Staple the foam to the top part of the arm pad. Do not tuck the foam under this time. Staple down 1cm from the bottom edge of the foam.

As the shape of the pads is concave, add a layer of cotton wadding over the foam to plump it up (see middle photo above)

Using the old armrest pad foam as a template, cut 4x pieces of 2,5cm foam.

Centre these over the wadding, tuck under and staple down.  I do the back and front ends first, then the sides, working from the centre outwards.

Using the old fabric as templates, cut 4x pieces of batting 3cm smaller than the template all round. 

Place onto the foam and centre.

Step 11: Upholstering the Armrest Pads

Using your old arm pad fabric as a template cut 4x pieces of new fabric, 2cm larger than template all round, ensuring the lines register with that of the backrest and seats.

Place on top of the batting and centre the fabric.

Using 71/10 Gauge Staples, smooth and stretch, tuck and staple the front and back ends of the arm pad fabric down, (remember to trim fabric where necessary) using the same procedure as with the foam.

Attach Strip Studs to complete your armrest pads.

after photo of reupholstered chair

Congratulations and well done on fully revamping and refurbishing your Chairs!

pair of reupholstered antique French fauteuil chairs

I trust that my notes and photos have given you inspiration and useful instructions to aid you in your upcycling endeavours. Painting the chairs is the fun part. Re-upholstery can be daunting but with practise and perseverance even a novice can achieve great result!

Amanda klipp vintage revamped

This tutorial was written for Upcycle My Stuff by Amanda Klipp from Vintage Revamped.

Vintage Revamped are based in South Africa and specialise in revamping tired, second-hand and vintage furniture for modern living.

Instagram: @vintagerevamped_za

Looking for more upholstery tutorials? Try our Armchair Reupholstery Basics Guide.

If you liked it – pin it!

how to upcycle antique French chairs
What would you like to Upcycle Today?

Thinking of Starting Your Own Upcycling Business?

Download our free Top Tips for Brand New Upcycling Businesses
What would you like to Upcycle Today?

Thinking of Starting Your Own Upcycling Business?

Download our free Top Tips for Brand New Upcycling Businesses