Wooden and leather furniture is a staple feature in many homes, but when leather loses its lustre or cracks, there is a decision to make. Knowing how to reupholster your wooden chair with leather upholstery pieces saves money, and ensures you retain a cherished item.

This guide by Just Wood Furniture examines leather upholstery tips for your furniture.

What Items Do You Need For Leather Upholstery?

As you’d expect, tools and equipment are necessary for reupholstering chairs with leather, so consider having these items at your disposal:

  • A wooden chair you want to reupholster
  • Leather – in whatever finish or colour you prefer
  • If you want to change the colour then leather colourant or dye
  • A staple remover or tools like a flathead screwdriver and needle-nose pliers
  • A hammer to remove nail head trim pieces and tack strip elements
  • A pen to mark removed leather and to create a guide for cutting
  • A cutting mat and reliable cutter, useful for cutting leather
  • Fabric scissors
  • A staple gun and staples
  • Leather glue – specialist leather glue is more effective than traditional glue
  • A sewing kit might be of value when reupholstering fabric

Having these items to hand before you start the reupholstery process will speed up the process, and leave you feeling confident about the task.

Can You Reupholster A Chair Seat With Leather?

Unsurprisingly, yes, you can reupholster a dining room chair with leather. It can seem like a daunting task, but if you are relatively comfortable with DIY work, you’ll find it isn’t too hard to transform the appearance of a seat.

Clearly, not all chairs are equal, and some chairs are easier to upholster than others. A simple wooden chair is an entirely different prospect from a carved seat with intricate corners and detailing, with a range of materials on it.

Before you start reupholstering, review the piece or pieces and determine if it is worth process, and whether you feel up to the task. In some cases, the cost or work involved with upholstering a seat means it isn’t worth doing it, but in many cases, it is.

Ensure You Can Reach All Parts Of The Seat, Including Where You Add Staples To A Fold

Also, make sure the chair is secure and you have access to all appropriate parts. You might be able to flip the seat over to reach a trim or apply staples to a fold or trim, but this might make your work less secure, and if so, this is best avoided.

Not only can you have a beautiful looking chair for your dining room, you will have the satisfaction of transforming items in your home.

What Type Of Furniture Is Best For Reupholstery Work?

You’ll find upholstery which has a lot of flat areas and features simple and square lines is the best to upholster. If you are new to this line of work, this is an ideal starting point to hone your skills and develop your confidence.

Once you are confident in cutting and applying materials, you can try your skills on more elaborate items and intricate shapes.

The type of leather material you work with will also affect the outcome. Soft and supple leather is easier to shape, ensuring you can mould it around your chair’s shape with less discomfort. If you use brittle or tough fabric, it might not be as flexible as you would like.

Removing Existing Upholstery

You start the reupholstering process by removing existing upholstery, and you should pay close attention to how the material comes apart. This is because by reversing the process, you learn how to apply leather.

When reupholstering furniture, it makes sense to start at the lowest point. So, remove fabric from the bottom or lowest point of the chair and label it. Labelling pieces ensure you can check it later on when adding new leather, and this makes the process simpler.

If you mark the fabric, it is easier to apply it to the right side later, and knowing where to apply new upholstery to old upholstery is a time saver.

The material removed from the chair serves as the pattern for your new look chair.

A handy tip when removing items is to take care and hold onto items and elements you remove. Pieces such as tacks, trims or foam in good condition can be used at a later date. Using a staple remover, a flathead screwdriver or needle nose pliers to remove upholstery pieces should ensure these items remain in good condition, and also speed up the process.

Do You Need To Remove All Existing Pieces Of Leather?

This is up to you. If there are pieces of leather which are in good condition, and you can match new leather to existing fabric, there is no reason you cannot leave pieces in place.

This will often come down to personal taste, but the more original material you can use, the less work you do, the more of the original look you retain, and the less money you spend.

Therefore, remove what you must but leave what you can in place. These old pieces maintain the style of the piece and hopefully over time, the new pieces take on their appearance.

Over time, good upholstery work means you can no longer tell the difference between old pieces and new pieces of fabric.

Can You Reupholster Over An Existing Piece Of Leather?

It might be there is a good piece of leather that doesn’t need to be removed, but you’d like to reupholster it to ensure the finished chair matches.

Consider these questions:

  • Is the existing leather (or fabric) in good shape?
  • Is the existing leather tight and reliable?
  • Does the existing material provide a smooth surface?
  • Will the fabric take and hold staples?

If the answer to all questions is yes, then you can reupholster new leather over existing fabric.

Cutting The Leather

This is a challenging part of the reupholstery process, and again, some people will feel more confident in this work than others. If you are handy with a pair of scissors and generally find cutting and craft work straightforward, you can approach this task with confidence.

If you aren’t handy in this line of work, you need to take additional care in measuring, cutting and applying it to the chair.

This is where removing existing leather helps, because if it remains in good condition and the required shape, you can use it as a template to cut new leather. Of course, thick material is often difficult to cut, so ensure you have a good pair of scissors.

You can place the old leather (including excess material) onto the new fabric and cut around it, or you can draw around the old pieces, and then cut the new material.

If you are working on a number of chairs, it makes sense to create a template you can use each time. This saves time, and ensures consistency in the new material you have available.

Finish The Other Aspects Of Your Dining Chair

Even though this guide focuses on reupholstering a wooden chair with leather, if you update one element of a seat, make sure the rest of the chair looks as appealing. If you update the leather elements but leave the wooden features tatty, the seat will look less appealing than it should.

You should commit to improving every feature of the chair, so be sure to know what the remaining fabric is, and how you can improve these elements.

Add The New Leather Upholstery Pieces To The Chair Frame

Once the underlying elements of the seat are in good condition, it is time to add the leather.

As suggested earlier, applying new leather should see you follow the removal process, but in reverse. So, when you removed the existing material, you started at the bottom, and made your way to the top of the seat.

If you work in the same way, but in reverse, you’ll add leather pieces to old upholstery with a minimum of fuss.

Work Your Way Down The Seat Frame

Now, it makes sense to start with the top of the chair, and apply the new material in the same way you removed them, but in reverse. If you have existing tacks and trims, use these features step-by-step, making your way from top to bottom.

Ensure you pull the material tight and a staple gun is super helpful to place staples securely and with confidence.

A Staple Gun Is A Handy Tool To Secure Your Seats

It is typical to use a staple gun to attach the fabric to the chair with staples or you can use tack strips to apply the new material to the frame or seat base. There is no need to rush this process, even though you will likely feel excited to see the finished chair.

If you have decorative nails or staples you can add a great look to old furniture, even with new upholstery.

Be Careful With Staples

If there is a pattern with the fabric, consider this when you pull the seat together. Always ensure you pull patterned fabric tight before you use staples or glue on the seat.

Don’t Forget The Dust Cover And Use Up Excess Fabric

If there is a dust cover with the dining chair, and the bottom and front edge, don’t forget to apply this. If you don’t have one, but want a cover, use excess fabric. You can use a tack strip and staple gun to attach this cover to the seat.

Admire Your Work

If you use leather glue in any place to secure material, allow time for glue to dry. It is also a good idea to allow your seat time to settle before you use it. You’ll be tempted to try it as soon as possible, but in doing so, you might weaken the work you carried out.

This is also the stage where you can take lots of photos to share on social media! For some people, this is the most important part of the process, but if you are proud of yourself, and the work you do, why shouldn’t you share your beautiful piece with the world?

After time, you can return the wooden chair to everyday use. Hopefully, the chair will continue to look good but when leather reupholstery is done well, it starts to blend in with other pieces., especially around the seams and fold areas.

When you start to see the furniture as an everyday item in your home as opposed to the upholstered furniture, you know you’ve done a great job with your DIY project.

How Much Does It Cost To Reupholster A Chair?

It would be great to offer a set price for reupholstering a chair, but this isn’t possible. There are too many variables involved with the process, and of course, prices for all manner of products are increasing all the time.

As soon as a suggested cost for upholstery work was listed, it would be out of date, and likely under-priced.

However, there are factors you can consider in the pricing of upholstery work, including:

The cost of leather – which depends on the quality of fabric, how much fabric you need, whether there is a pattern or specific trim and where you buy it.

The cost of equipment and material used – you might have material and equipment or you might be able to borrow items.

The time it takes – while not an immediate financial cost, there is an opportunity cost of what else you can do with your time.

Knowing the cost to upholster furniture allows you to budget for new fabric.

Is It Cheaper To Reupholster Leather Furniture Or Buy New Furniture?

While some reupholstery projects aren’t just about money, it is natural there is a point when you need to consider if it is better to reupholster an existing chair, or buy new furniture.

Old furniture has a natural pull on your emotions, and an old pattern might be hard to replicate, but depending on the quality of the chair, sometimes, you need to make a hard decision.

Sometimes You Can Flip A Cover And It Looks Like A New Piece

For example, if the seams are burst and the seams cannot be covered, no amount of staple work will make the existing chair look good. With some pieces, you can flip fabric over, but if the pattern isn’t on the right side, it might not look good.

Even if you can fold and then staple fabric, the colour or pattern is often a giveaway.

Sentimental Value Is A Great Reason To Restore Old Upholstery

A good starting point is finding the price of furniture you would replace your existing items with. This is the base figure to use when considering if it is worth upgrading your existing items.

Of course, if your furniture has been in your family for generations, there will be an emotional aspect that cannot be measured in financial terms.

For furniture like this, many households will gladly pay more to retain a cherished heirloom than discard it and replace it with a modern piece of furniture.

Can You Reupholster Different Colours Of Leather?

The answer is yes! You can reupholster leather chairs with different colours of leather.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind.

If you want to retain existing pieces of leather while maintaining a consistent finish, carry out a close search to find a leather that matches the colour of the existing leather as closely as possible.

Cover Your Upholstery In The Style And Fabric That Is Best For You

You will also need to make sure that the new leather is compatible with the old leather. Different types of leather can have different finishes, and you want to make sure that the new leather will adhere to the worn or old leather without issue.

Finally, you will need to be careful when cutting and stitching the new leather, as you don’t want to damage the existing leather.

With careful planning and execution, it is possible to reupholster a leather chair with different coloured leather. So, if you’re looking to give your old chair a new lease on life, don’t be afraid to experiment with different colours!

Can You Reupholster Faux Leather Furniture?

When it comes to reupholstering, faux leather presents a bit of a challenge, more so than real leather. Unlike natural fabrics, faux leather cannot be easily removed and replaced. In most cases, the only way to reupholster with faux fabric is to completely remove the old fabric and start from scratch.

This can be a time-consuming and difficult process, but it is possible to do with enough patience and effort. If you are considering working with this form of fabric, be sure to factor in the extra time and effort required to get the job done right.

If you are looking to add faux fabric to existing material, please take the time to review the materials and ensure they match. If you only require a small repair job, the overall look might not matter too much.

However, if you intend to add large swathes of faux leather, consider the overall look and what it means to the finished look of the chair.

Preserving The Leather You Add To A Dining Chair

Anyone who has owned a leather chair knows that they can be both comfortable and stylish. However, leather is also a delicate material that requires special care. Here are a few tips on how to preserve leather on seats.

The first tip is to avoid placing the chair in direct sunlight, as this can cause the fabric to fade. After this, dust the chair regularly with a soft cloth to remove dirt and debris.

You should also review the condition of the leather regularly, and if the fabric begins to look dry or cracked, apply a leather conditioner. This will help to keep the leather smooth and supple and prevent it from cracking.

By following these simple tips, you can enjoy your leather chair for years to come, hopefully ensuring you don’t need to carry out further reupholstery work.

You might be surprised what you can achieve in your DIY projects with old fabric, a staple gun, some tack strips and a dining chair or two!