Flea Market Flip: Thrift Store Chair Gets a Fresh Upholstery Update

Once you flip one piece of furniture, you'll want to thrift and flip it all. 

It’s Flea Market Flip Theme Week on I Heart HGTV! All week, we’ll be sharing our best thrifting tips and makeovers. Come back every day for a new take on upcycling.

"One man’s trash is another man's treasure," am I right? Here at HGTV, we believe in the power of transformation thrifting, so my fellow editors and I headed out to find six pieces of lonely furniture and bring them back to life.

I landed the classic chair flip. Now, you might think that as an HGTV editor I was inherently born with the gift to reupholster a chair. Eh, not the case. This was a first for me, so I'm here to tell you how a rookie reupholster-er gave some character to this $6 find.

Breathe New Life Into Old Furniture With a Staple Gun Upcycle

Flea Market Flip: Neutral Arm Chair

If the thought of reupholstering an old chair makes you nervous, then this project is for you! All you need is fabric, a staple gun and some decorative nail head trim to breathe new life into a worn out piece of furniture.

Photo by: Liz Gray

Liz Gray

The Before

I thrifted around quite a bit before I found the winning piece, and I won’t lie, I almost overlooked it. It was a sad blue, sunken-in chair (probably from the '70s) that looked like its home had been a dentist office waiting room. Nevertheless, it was the perfect size and looked like it would be manageable to reupholster. Plus, it was a whopping $6 and you can’t argue with a pricetag like that!

Before Shot: Arm Chair

Before Shot: Arm Chair

The Process

Keep in mind, I have never reupholstered a chair. Thankfully, my friend’s wonderful mom is a pro and offered her guidance. Here’s a quick rundown on the process. For starters, I needed fabric. I picked two different types: a cream suede and a green-gold cotton blend. I wanted the chair to be neutral but not boring.

Fun fact: I dragged my chair into the fabric store and asked them to measure the chair so I could get the right amount of fabric. I’ll consider that my pro tip of this post. For the sake of your muscles, you should just measure at home.

Photo by: Kayla Suazo

Kayla Suazo

When it came to the actual reupholstering part, I attempted to disassemble the chair so I could add my new fabric to the individual pieces. Well, I learned that chairs built decades ago were made to withstand an apocalypse. In other words, no amount of hammering would take that chair apart.

With the help of my handy-dandy staple gun, I was able to stable the fabric over the existing fabric, folding the new fabric over to ensure a clean seam showed. I then went nail-head crazy. I measured out where I wanted to put decorative upholstery nails in the chair and added them around the body to make sure the new fabric stayed in place.

Kayla Suazo
Kayla Suazo

Photo By: Kayla Suazo

Photo By: Kayla Suazo

Finally, I sanded the legs down and painted them a lighter cream color to match the other neutral hues. I added a wax layer on top to seal it and prevent it from chipping. And just like that, my sad little chair became a furniture piece my living room is quite proud of! Not to mention, my feline child has found her new favorite nap spot.

The Budget Breakdown

Overall Budget = $100

Considering my chair was $6, I had a lot of room in my budget to buy all the essentials. I was able to pick two types of fabric ($50), paint and wax coating ($12) and upholstery nails ($12). Bringing me to a grand total of $80, $20 under budget! #Winning

The After

From the sad blues to a fresh and modern arm chair. Not bad for a gal that has never reupholstered!



Liz Gray

Photo By: Liz Gray

What I Learned

Your plan may not be the chair's plan. When I originally got the chair I thought I would be able to take it apart. Instead, I had to get creative with how to put the fabric on, hence all of the upholstery nails.

Give yourself a lot of time and be patient. I seriously underestimated how long this project would take. I had to space it out over multiple days because I would get frustrated. Be patient! It's definitely worth it.

Cats truly run the household. I was super pumped to get this baby in my living room. When I did, it became my cat's chair, not mine. Oh well, she's still pretty cute.

Photo by: Kayla Suazo

Kayla Suazo

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