I purchased chairs that need to be reupholstered, so I decided to try painting them first. These are my tips & mistakes for painting upholstered furniture.

I love the feeling of making over furniture – especially painting it!  If you do, too, you’ll enjoy how I gave this table a fancy greek key pattern top, or how I updated my grandparents MCM bedroom dresser

tips and mistakes for painting upholstered furniture

Hello friends, earlier this spring, I purchased four vintage Milo Baughman chairs.  I love love love the look of the chairs!  What I didn’t love is the carrot baby food color of the fabric.  When I bought them, I knew right off the bat I wanted to reupholster them.  But as a quick fix for my kitchen refresh, I opted to try my hand at painting the fabric.

I admit, I went into the project not 100% confident that this would work.  I looked at dozens of other blog posts where fellow DIY’ers had tried to use fabric paint on their upholstered furniture.  But, since I had already planned to reupholster them, I figured I had nothing to lose.

I won’t go into which products I used because I don’t want to give them a bad rap.  But I did use actual chalk paint and fabric medium.  I played around with the ratios each time trying to get thicker coats that would brush on well.

This is how the chairs looked when I purchased them…  this was the best looking of the four chairs.



I tried to paint a chair that had a velvet-y type of feel.  This means you have to paint every side of the strands of fabric to actually change the color.  I bought out two stores of paint and fabric medium.


Assuming that the color of the label is actual color of the paint, and that that it will actually turn out either color in the end.  Beige was definitely not my intended color.


Underestimating the amount of chalk paint and fabric medium I would need to finish the job.  Lots and lots of coats.

This was how they looked after the first coat…  at this point I was thinking “oh God, what I have gotten myself into?”  See Mistake #2 – I was actually going for a dark kelly green color and it was definitely not turning out that way.


TIP #1

After the first coat, I started to spray down the chairs with water before I brushed on the paint.  This really helped the paint bleed across the fabric.  I also kept spraying to help “bleed” the paint into bare areas.

TIP #2

I realized I needed a tool to really stipple the paint into the product, but the tool had to be stiffer than a paint brush.  Then I had an idea!  I bought one of these hair brushes years ago, and I went to town brushing it in circles as I applied the paint.  It was a huge help!

TIP #3

Using sandpaper does help – but only about half way.  I used a pretty gritty paper since the fabric was so hard from the amount of paint absorbed/dried into the fabric.  Yes, your arms and shoulders will be sore after doing this.  Today, the chairs still feel scratchy enough that I wouldn’t want to wear shorts while sitting in them.

TIP #4

I wouldn’t suggest doing this unless you were prepared to possibly have to reupholster it one day, or the piece didn’t mean that much to you and and you could chalk it up to a DIY gone wrong.

Here’s a close up of what it looks like after I used the brush and spray bottle combo.  I think this was after three coats?

This is a good photo showing the difference between the final two coats…  I can’t remember if I did four or five coats.  I just know I was ready to be done when it got to this point!

Here’s what they looked like after the final coat…

The final outcome of this painting upholstered furniture adventure… I signed up a 7-week long upholstery class at the local community college!  To have them professionally done would be $1000 (according to the multiple bids I got).  So I guess I’ll learn how to reupholster furniture! haha!

So until next time, happy DIY’ing!

tips and mistakes when painting upholstered furniture




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