Reupholstered Vintage Settee

How to Upholster a Settee

Ok… so the story starts off like this…

I took an upholstery class last semester and reupholstered this fabulous chair seen here. I decided I wanted to learn more so I signed up for the following semester’s class and proceeded to find a worthy project… Luckily on a trip to one of my favorite stores I spotted this hot little number in all her nakedness…

empty sette frame

She was perfect (remember I said that), she had great lines (and lucky me) already had all of the fabric and innards removed… big time upholstery project here I come!

First things first, I cleaned her up and painted her with 2 coats of Old White Annie Sloan Chalk paint, lightly distressed, waxed and buffed her really good. Then off to class she went!

Painted vintage settee

Class was every Tuesday from 12-3 for 12 weeks, it took 10 weeks for me to get this settee reupholstered! While I know that sounds like a lot, there is a lot of waiting for the instructor as there were 9 other students in the class who also needed his attention.

So I’ll walk through the steps with you below, for most of them I have pictures (not saying they are good ones, but they are pictures) some of them I either was too frustrated to take out my camera or there was one day I totally forgot it… sorry Embarrassed smile Now for those of you who could care less about how I did it just mosey on down to the bottom of the post to see the “After” glamour shots… but for the very few of you who may need some of this information read on!

Step One:

Install the burlap webbing using a webbing stretcher and stapling it down. The straps were spaced about 2” apart and when installing the horizontal webbing weave it through the vertical pieces.

How to reupholster a settee or chair


Step 2:

Install burlap over all of the webbing, pull taught, folding it over at the edge and staple it down.

How to add webbing to furniture


Settee seat burlap photo up close.


Step 3:

Install the roll edging, this is installed to help cushion the edge of the wood when you sit. The roll edging is made this way, just trim it to size and staple it along the top front edge.


Step 4:

Cut to size and install foam. The instructor had me cut it into 3 pieces them glue it back together, not sure why, but I did it. Staple the foam down at the top edge so you get a nice “roll / pillow” along the edges.

How to replace foam on upholstered furniture

Step 5:

Cut out your decking (fabric that is under the cushion) material. Sew your fabric (about 4” for mine) and the decking fabric together. Lay the fabric upside down along the line (drawn to 4” from front frame) and with a curved needle sew it to the burlap, big stiches here folks.


Step 6:

Lay layers of cotton batting under both parts of the decking, pull the front part of the decking taught and staple to the front frame.

How to make and install decking on furniture

Now you have a beautiful deck! I had never done this before so I was really proud of myself at this point!

How to make and install decking on furniture

Step 7:

Bring the back part of the decking through to the back side, cut fabric around supports, pull taught and staple to frame.

Now for the back fabric… let me tell you this almost was the DEATH of me… more an alignment issue than difficulty.

Step 8:

Layout your fabric, three pieces cut intentionally to allow the fabric to be placed appropriately, pin the fabric pieces along the area where you want your piping / seam to be. Finding the EXACT same spot on each side to center… those suckers were a huge pain!

How to recover a settee or chair

Step 9:

Sew the panels and piping together and install on the back stapling along the top edge first. Hint: put in “place” staples in strategic areas to make sure you have it lined up properly then work your way from the middle place staple to the edge etc.

Once the top is stapled pull the bottom through the back, cut where necessary for structural supports, pull taught and staple along the back edge.

Doesn’t it look good so far?

See where the decking and back fabric has been pulled through and stapled…

Step 10:

Trim off excess fabric from decking and back and install burlap (same process as the front)


Step 11:

Install batting (not cotton) all along the back of the settee a few staples to hold it in place is all that is necessary.

Step 12:

Layout the 3 pieces for the back fabric, lay and pin them like you did up front. Sew the 3 pieces together, no piping this time.

Step 13:

Attach the fabric to the back of the settee with staples (using place staples etc.) and pulling taught. Once trimmed it looked like this! I felt like a freakin’ champion at this point!

How to attach fabric to back of settee or chair

Step 14:

After trimming the excess fabric, attach with hot glue some of the miles of double welt piping you made (oh, did I not mention I needed to make a crap ton of double welt, well I DID!)Careful here, the hot glue will burn your fingerprints right off your fingers! The piping will go along all of the edges where you stapled, front and back… it’s a lot, take your time, don’t get any glue on the fabric!

Ta Da! So happy…


Step 15:

Cut out your fabric for your seat cushion (we are basically making a box cushion with curves).

Step 16:

Layout fabric on the foam (mine is 5”) and trace.

Step 17:

Using this handy dandy foam cutter cut out your pattern. Hint: If you’re at home use your carving knife!

Yes! The foam fits! We made the box cushion (sorry no tutorial for that, easy to find one one on the web) with a 4”edge so that the cushion fits in it snuggly.

Here she is in all her glory! I’m THRILLED with how she turned out! It’s super comfy and a great neutral gray color!

How to reupholster a vintage settee

My “mad” double welt making skills are now a force to be reckoned with!

Vintage settee reupholstering

The back is just perfection!

Vintage settee reupholstering

The hardest area for me were these corners, which I am happy to say came out great!

Vintage settee reupholstering

Some things I learned on this project…

1. This upholstery stuff is HARD work and takes lots of time… which is why it is not cheap!

2. I suggest you take a class and learn how to do this the “right” way if you are interested in doing your own upholstery… but maybe you can figure it out by watching YouTube videos… not me, I needed a teacher for sure!

3. Just because the fabric has been removed from a piece don’t get too excited… this process would have been SOOOO much easier if I had the original fabric to use as a template. Keep that in mind!

Reupholstered vintage settee - a how to guide

So I know this was a SUPER long post, but if it helps just one person I will be happy! If you have any questions feel free to ask, I just may have the answer Winking smile

Until next time!

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  1. That is such an awesome settee! Perfectly neutral without being boring. I’ve been toying with the idea of reupholstering a chair i inherited from my grandmother, but I’ve been a bit scared to tackle to project. The class sounds like a good idea though. Do you mind sharing where you took yours?


  2. The settee came out great! I wish i could take upholstery classes, but there are none where I live. Keep going to your classes and you will soon be doing custom work. Very talented.


  3. Susan, You did an excellent job with a lot of perseverance, I’ll bet, on your part. The settee is awesome. Good for you girl.


  4. Oh yummy! I have a chair I’m going to attempt to reupholster…I’m pulling out the big guns though…My Mom!! She’s done a gazillion pieces over the years. You did an awesome job!


  5. Great job Susan! No classes where I live so I’m depending on you for more info. I had a hard time understanding the decking application – and why did you use cotton fill instead of a batting under the decking? By chance did you learn anything you can share about using the squiggly wire stuff in lieu of (or maybe with) the webbing? Did you make a paper pattern for the fabric covering? How do you make the double welt? And last – where did you get your upholstery supplies and equipment? Again, well done!


    1. Thanks CJ! I did use cotton batting, not fill on the decking, not sure why it looks like fill to you. I have not installed the metal springs before, but my teacher recommended the webbing because I was going to use a loose cushion. I started making the double welt using a tutorial on lone, but ended up finding a better way for me, I have a double welt foot for my machine so that helped. I will do a tutorial soon, but there are lots of good ones out there. Lastly I bought my supplies locally at Foam to Size, a no frills upholstery supply store, there are many online as well!


      1. Thank for all the answers Susan. Can I ask one more thing? What kind of tools do you need for a project like that?


  6. OMG Susan, It looks amazing – I’d love to take a reupholstering course but it looks way beyond my abilities looking at this 🙂
    You did a BEAUTIFUL job –


  7. What a beautiful job you did. I’ve never even thought of attempting such a huge project. It’s truly beautiful!


  8. Oh my, your settee is just gorgeous Susan! You did an amazing job. I can see you leaned a lot in your class. But I think I’ll leave the upholstery projects to the expects. That looks daunting to me!


  9. Fantastic! I gotta save this one, may need to rethink the position that I cant reupholster! Thank you for sharing.


  10. Susan, my goodness! What a beautiful job you’ve done here! Thank you for the tutorial. I read every step and the Q & A forum provided additional benefit. You’ve made an antique piece and bygone style contemporary and chic again — who wouldn’t admire it? It’s just gorgeous. I gasped at your result! Tons of respect, girl! 🙂 MKE


  11. Be happy cuz you sure helped me! The whole time I read this I was thinking upholstery is worth the price now that I see what’s involved. I’m just trying to make a cushion so your tips will really help. thanks for sharing this tutorial.


  12. Oh my word, I am so impressed, this is stunning. I just reupholstered two little arms of a french chair and it was tough, I can’t even imagine a settee, but I totally love it. Unreal. Thanks tons for joining Inspire Me. Hugs, Marty


  13. Your settee is gorgeous! Thanks for sharing some details. I would really love to find an upholstery class in my area.

    I, too, am a furniture hoarder. So glad we can admit it. LOL I’ve reupholstered lots of chairs but want to get brave, like you, and try a sofa.

    Thanks for the inspiration!



  14. I’m super impressed. I used to “upholster” furniture for theatre productions, but that meant no one was looking too closely. I’ve always wanted to upholster something for my home, but never had the courage. I’m going to do it! Thanks for the inspiration.



  15. I want you to know that not only is this settee beautifully done, but so is your tutorial. I have a chair that is now naked and needs the back and seat upholstered. I have done this process before but not with a naked piece like yours. This has helped me a great deal since I was unsure of the beginnings with the webbing and burlap. Appreciate it a great deal!


  16. Wows! This is an amazing transformation. Your upholstery job is absolutely perfect. Looks like a tremendous amount of work though. I admire your stick-to-it-tiveness. Thank you so much for sharing the tutorial just in case I ever think I can tackle something like this. Pinning 🙂 Patti@OldThingsNew


  17. Oops! OldThingsNew again here. I accidentally hit enter on the above comment without realizing I was linking to the wrong website (one that I’ve never used). Correct link here! Patti


  18. this is great..I have a settee that has to be redone and this gives me some confidence that I can do it! pinned it….
    love, Mona


  19. What a job!!! It just looks gorgeous! I have my grandmothers settee that is just like yours and is upholstered in it’s original velvet and I just look at it and throw up my hands, lol. I think I’ll find a class like you did so when I freak out I have someone to talk me down!
    Love the gray fabric with the white frame, so fresh 🙂


  20. I am frankly jealous. But not in the ugly green way, just…wish I had that settee. And had been there to see it all done. I have two very desperately ugly chairs with cool lines that I need to reupholster, but they would be my first project ever (I have made slipcovers, but that is a whole ‘nuther animal). This is beautiful; I’m inspired. I’ll get past the envy and one of these days… soon…those chairs will be beautiful. Thanks for sharing this. Lynaea @


  21. Very lovely just curious as to what the fabric is you used & where you found it. I just picked up a great French reproduction settee for a song well in my area it was lol


    1. I wish I could help, but I bought it at a local fabric store, U-Fab in Richmond, Va, and I just picked it for its feel and strength. I knew better than to get a print as that would have been VERY difficult to use with all of the curves etc. keep that in mind when you are looking for your fabric. Be sure it’s sturdy but has a good feel. Good luck and take our time!



  22. Hi Susan,

    I’m in the process of recovering an old settee myself, and I must say, your tutorial has been the most helpful!! Quick question for you, on the foam you used for the back of the settee; how did you measure it to fit the curves? Also, mine had metal webbing and springs so I just repaired as need, however, I’m stuck on how to fill the bottom. Have you had an experience recovering something with springs?

    Anyways, your peice is lovely, and you are so right; even though I had to pull all of the old fabric off–having the pattern of the old fabric is SUPER helpful.

    Any suggestions welcome! Thanks for your post!




    1. I’m so glad the tutorial has helped Jessica! To mark the foam to fit the curves I cut the foam to fit it square then laid the foam on the back and marked the foam with a marker following the curves. While I didn’t have springs there were others in my class who did. I know they put burlap over the springs then the foam. I hope this helps you!


    2. I am in the process of upholstering a French settee. I made a pattern or template using Bristol board and then used that to cut the foam.


  23. Where are some of your favorite places to find gems like this near Louisville? I’ll be home there for about 6-8 wks on vacation and would love to shop some markets. Can you give me ideas places to look? Also where did you take your class? I found a class at Walker fabric but don’t know if that’s a good one. Thanks for any advice. I love your blog! I’m excited to do some crafts while home:)


    1. Hey Danielle,
      Since moving here just over a year ago I have yet to find a great place to find pieces. There are a couple of auction houses that seem good and I’ve also seen some good pieces at the Peddlers Malls. As always Craig’s List is a good resource. I took my class in Richmond, VA so I can’t help you with that recommendation there. I hope you find some good places, if so let me know!


  24. Hi Susan, I used this excellent blog post to reupholster a piece I did that was quite similar to yours. I appreciate your tutorial and I hope you do not mind me referencing your tutorial on my site!

    Thank you!


  25. This makeover is truly amazing! I just reupholstered some cane chairs and I thought that I was pretty good, until I saw this tutorial….wow you are awesome! I am considering purchasing a little french settee as my next project but I am super intimidated with all the sewing involved. I am pinning this tutorial for future reference. Thanks!


  26. Such a great jobb and I consider myself as a fan of you and your dream occupation which I dream for myself someday. I started with small projects and recycling some old lamp shades and old vases ,really joyfull and environment friendly.


  27. So glad I found this tutorial and you did a GREAT job! I have similar frame I had stripped by my upholsterer who was going to only charge me $400 to redo. Unfortunately he retired before I could find that perfect fabric. Now, thanks to you, I’m confident I can tackle this myself.


  28. Thank you for posting this. It has been very helpful. I love to reupholster but have never taken a class. I guess I learn by doing and making mistakes!!! You’ve motivated me to take a class to learn how to do it right! Thank you!!!


  29. That couch looks amazing! I never knew that so much goes into reupholstering furniture. The most interesting pictures you posted were from the first step where you added to burlap webbing. Do all couches have this webbing? It would make sense, it’s just that I’ve never seen this process before!


  30. I love it. What a great job. I was at my aunts hose the other day and she has this exact one, with the fabric that is. The wood on the arms is in rough condition from her dog. I am saving this post, she said she might recover hers one day.
    I just got through doing a chair from the 30’s. I tackled tufting. Wish I could post a picture of my chaur to share Your settee would look great tufted.


  31. Hi, beautiful work! I am looking to take on a similar project but am not sure how much of the webbing I’ll need. This piece appears to be similar in size to mine: 47″ w X 30″ h X 26″ d
    Seat height approx. 18″ accounting for upholstery. Do you have any idea about how much I would need for that?


  32. Thank you for taking the time to document such a detailed turtorial. It’s helped me know where to start with my own little project.
    Kind regards


      1. Thanks for the quick reply, Susan! You said in step 6 “Lay layers of cotton batting under both parts of the decking”. That’s “layers”, plural. So I assume you mean one layer each for both parts. Is that correct? Sorry to be a pain!


  33. So my settee is painted, supplies are delivered and there it all sits! I have a couple more questions. Is it really necessary to use a decking fabric? Or could you just use all one fabric? I guess that depends on whether or not sewing the decking fabric to the burlap is necessary…. Also in step 3 the photo shows the roll edging wrapped in burlap. Did it come that way or how did that happen? Thanks, again, Susan!


    1. Lord you are testing my memory for sure! You can use any fabric you want for the decking, but usually the decking fabric is cheaper and it was smooth, I think you can use a good tight weave fabric and be ok. The rolled edging I wrapped in the burlap and stapled on both sides. Hope this helps!


      1. Thanks, Susan! I know it’s been a while! Are you sure you don’t want to to fly up to Vancouver, Canada and just finish my project for me? Lol


  34. At any point, did you have to put springs underneath for support? Or, is the webbing sturdy enough to hold the weight of people sitting on the couch? I am asking this because, I have a whole antique set ..couch (sette), love seat, and chair I am trying to reupholster. It was completely bare when I started, just like yours!


  35. I have a settee that’s almost identical to yours. I’m planning to use a neutral colored linen to reupholster it. Do you think it would be possible to upholster the back in one piece without adding the piping, or will it not lay correctly otherwise? Thanks for your input and excellent work!


    1. I had to go back and read the tutorial to jog my mind, but now I remember that I had to piece it that way due to the shape, curve, of the settee. The teacher said that otherwise the fabric would not lay right in the concave sections, it would pull off the back, if that makes sense. You could always test it with some muslin to see if it would work for your piece.


  36. How beautiful! I have a couch and two chairs that have been in my family for over 60 years. My hope is to reupholster them on my own. Your steps give me some confidence.


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