Painting Upholstery – How I Painted an Armchair

One of the features of our house that we fell in love with when we first saw it was the lofted upstairs hall. It’s extra wide and there is room for a little lounge/sitting area. Jesse said he wanted it to be a place to read or get a little chess table and pretend that we are fancy chess playing people. I immediately started dreaming up a little nook with a high back arm chair and stenciled wall. I figured that it would take awhile to find “the chair” but then I stumbled upon a tutorial from Kristy at Hyphen Interiors for painting upholstery! (Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Kristy or her original tutorial are online any longer!) When I found a nice chair I really liked on Craigslist a few weeks later I knew I had to give painting upholstery a try!

Here was the chair a few weeks ago after I picked it up on Craigslist for $25. I loved the pattern in the fabric and the shape of the chair and legs, but the color wasn’t right for my vision for the nook. It was also faded and yellowed in a few spots. painting upholstery
This is the chair after painting the upholstery! I couldn’t wait to move it to the upstairs hall/loft! painting upholstery

Painting Upholstery Supplies and Tutorial


– 2 6oz. bottles of Fabric Medium (I used the Martha Stewart brand and loved it!)
– At least 6oz. of acrylic paint in your color of choice
– A sample size of latex paint (the kind you paint your walls with) that matches your acrylic pretty closely
– A 2 inch paint brush
– A spray bottle of water


Painting upholstery involves mixing different paints with water and fabric medium. It’s not very difficult though. The first coat is equal parts fabric medium and latex paint. I used about 3 oz. of each and mixed them in a cup from our kitchen. Then I filled my spray bottle with water and headed out to the garage. painting upholstery

Before you start painting make sure you clean off your surface really well. You don’t want dirt, dust or pet hair getting stuck in the paint! I’d also recommend painting the seat cushion first, just in case you aren’t a fan of the color you can just flip it over and try again!

First, generously spray water on your surface. I let my water drip and then rubbed it in to the chair a bit. Then, paint the fabric with the latex paint and fabric medium mixture in thin even coats. painting upholstery

Follow the same process for painting the upholstery of the chair. Thoroughly dampen the chair with water, and then paint on the latex paint and fabric medium mixture in thin, even strokes.

painting upholstery

painting upholstery
The latex coat of paint is basically your primer, so after you finish with that coat you’ll want to let your chair dry for at least 24 hours. You should have basic light coverage, but will still be able to see the original color coming through. painting upholstery
When painting upholstery there can sometimes be issues with the fabric becoming stiff and uncomfortable. Due to the material of my chair, I didn’t have any problems with stiffness or the paint clumping, but if you have an issue just lightly sand the stiff areas with a 220 grit paper before moving on to your next coat.

For the second coat, you’ll mix acrylic paint with the fabric medium. Again, mix them in equal parts, but you’ll need twice the amount of paint that you used the first time. So I used 6 oz of acrylic paint and 3 oz of fabric medium. You’ll also need to add a few thimbles of water to the mix. You want the mixture to be thin, but not runny. Paint this coat in thin, even strokes like the first. Be sure to cover every nook and cranny of the chair with paint. painting upholstery


painting upholstery

Let the fabric dry for 24-48 hours before using. I also wouldn’t recommend sitting down in light colors or white the first few times, just in case. I didn’t have problems with my chair rubbing off on clothes, but I still recommend caution! The legs of my chair had seen better days and didn’t match the new color very well, so I decided to paint those too. I debated for awhile what color to do, but I finally decided to spray paint them oil rubbed bronze (aka ORB)!painting upholstery

The metallic sheen of the ORB will look really good with the gold/brass accents I want to use around the chair. And just for your viewing pleasure, I did a little photo shoot of my chair in the back yard 🙂 painting upholstery

painting upholstery

painting upholstery

I taped up my chair with some grocery bags and did a few quick, even coats of spray paint, then left everything in the yard to cure for a few hours. painting upholstery

Jesse brought the chair in and put it in it’s little nook in that hallway and I’m in LOVE! I love the rich color and the glittery sheen of the legs. It makes me so giddy! painting upholstery

painting upholstery

painting upholstery

Now all I need to do is get some paint and stencil on the wall behind it, find and hang a gold sunburst mirror, find a little table for setting books on and get a gold-ish pillow for the chair! painting upholstery

And to save you some time scrolling up and down, here’s the before & after! painting upholsteryThe total cost of this project was a little less than $50! $25 for the chair and then roughly $25 for the fabric medium, paints and ORB spray paint!

What do you think?!? Anybody else want to try painting a chair? If so let me know how it turns out!

**Linking up at Between Naps on the Porch, Embracing Change, Crafty Scrappy Happy, A Glimpse Inside, House of Hepworths, The Shabby Creek Cottage, Creations By Kara, Yesterday on Tuesday, Serenity Now, One Project Closer and Primitive & Proper**

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