Design Lesson

Before and after: Chair makeover

Before and after: Chair makeover Author: Style At Home

Design Lesson

Before and after: Chair makeover

It all started with a $30 chair I found at a consignment store in Cobourg. I loved the shape of the chair, but the fabric was horrible and the structure was a little wobbly. A colleague recommended Carrocel Restorations in Markham, Ont. as they specialize in restoring furniture (rather than a lot of places that simply reupholster).

So call them I did, and in a few days I was dropping off my chair and DwellStudio fabric from Robert Allen at their huge showroom. Over the two week period that my chair was in their hands (we had to order more fabric because the bolt had a wee defect), Carrocel sent me pictures along the way, and I have to admit that I was a little scared when I saw a photo of my chair stripped down to the bare bones and scattered across the table. But when I arrived to pick it up, my jaw dropped -- I couldn't believe the transformation!

To realize how much hard work goes into a chair restoration, you have to see the step-by-step process -- it's incredible. Here's how my chair went from gross to gorgeous.

carrocel-before.jpg The 'before' shot
This is the chair as I bought it, horrible pinky fabric and all. I had to look past that though to see the lovely shape and potential that the chair had. "It's a well-made solid wood Regency-style arm chair," says Carrocel Restorations office manager John Kalogiannides. "Starting a reupholstery project with a good quality frame is always a plus." carrocel-2.jpg
Removing the original fabric
The first step is to remove the original foam and fabric (bye-bye hideous pink!). You can also see that the armrests were basically falling apart and in dire need of a fix-up. carrocel-3.jpg
What was stuffed inside
When the guys at Carrocel showed me what was stuffed inside the chair, I was pretty grossed out. After all the foam was removed, they pulled away the springs and the seat was padded with .... horse hair and hay! That was all thrown away, but the coil springs were kept. "Coil springs are a hallmark of a well-made chair," says John. "The springs will last forever -- they just need readjusting and retightening." carrocel-4.jpg
Completely deconstructed
This was the shot that got me worried -- my chair wasn't even a chair anymore! I wasn't able to foresee how they could put it back together in the exact same shape.

"Taking the frame apart completely is the best way to ensure that the chair, once put back together, is strong and sturdy," explains John. "Each individual piece gets sanded and repaired, then all the pieces are put back together using wood glue and brand new dowels for extra joint reinforcement."
Rebuilding the chair
"The chair is now reassembled, reglued, and is seen with multiple adjustable clamps strategically placed to hold the frame in place while the glue dries," explains John. Carrocel keeps it clamped for up to 48 hours to ensure that the glue is firmly in place and the chair is sturdy.
Finishing coat applied
Since I wanted the legs painted white, the whole frame had to be sanded to the bare wood and finished from scratch. "Here, the initial finishing coat is ready to be applied to the raw chair frame. The finish is carefully sprayed on to ensure uniformity and complete coverage -- the skilled, steady, and trained hands of our craftsmen are necessary for this," says John. carrocel-7.jpg
Reupholstery begins
I wasn't too fond of the brown legs and armrests on the chair, so I asked Carrocel to spray them in a nice Benjamin Moore white. "After the chair is sprayed with a white finish, the upholstery can begin. The first step is to apply new webbing to the underside of the seat ," says John.
Tightening the springs
One of the things I really liked about Carrocel's restoration process is that they weren't wasterful. Rather than replace everything on the chair other than the frame, they kept elements of the original that were in good condition. Here, the craftsman takes the originl coil springs and simply tightens and reties them for stability and comfort. carrocel-9.jpg
Attaching the foam
After the coils have been tied down, it's time to staple on the foam. The new foam makes a world of difference -- I can't believe how much more comfortable the chair is now. carrocel-10.jpg
Stitching on the fabric
Here you can see the gorgeous DwellStudio fabric I got from Robert Allen -- I love it! After the fabric has been stapled to the frame, the craftsman does some detailed handstitching to make it all look seamless. carrocel-12.jpg
Adding the piping
The original chair didn't have piping, but I love that craftsmen at Carrocel made the decision to add some. It gives the new chair a more high-end, tailored look. carrocel-13.jpg
Finishing details
Like the piping, the original chair didn't have any nailhead detailing, but they were added onto the restored version (and I'm not complaining -- I love the look of nailheads!). "They also serve a practical purpose," says John, "hiding the upholstery seams and staples."

The final product
Here it is -- a $30 beat-up chair turned into a beautiful showstopper! The  craftsmanship that Carrocel did was incredible, and I loved being able to see every detail that went into restoring the chair -- it really shows the amount of care goes into their work.

The labour cost for the chair was $550 (plus the cost of fabric). That may seem like a high cost for a lot of people, but this isn't a chair that I'm buying from the stockroom at a store. This is a chair upholstered with the exact fabric I wanted and that will last me a lifetime with all of the custom, handcrafted work that was put into it.

The end result? I couldn't be more pleased!

For more information on Carrocel Restorations and to view items for sale in their showroom, visit

To see more of the DwellStudio fabric collection, check out



Share X
Design Lesson

Before and after: Chair makeover