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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Between Naps on the Porch, The Dedicated House, A Stroll Thru Life, Coastal Charm, Domestically Speaking, From My Frony Porch to Yours, French Country Cottage, My Romantic Home, Redoux Interiors

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