Wingback Chairs

I’ve been having a bit of fun with wingback chairs lately and so I thought I’d pop a post on about them.

The first chair I upcycled was a billy bargain at £15 from a charity shop in Kings Heath. It was a fireside chair with worn wooden arms, covered in a smokey old fashioned fabric that was screaming to be updated! (Pic below!)


Tools and supplies

5 meters of upholstery fabric

Fabric scissors

Staple remover (heavy duty)

Light duty staple gun

Light duty staples 8mm


Ply grip

Needle and thread

Chalk paint


Clear wax

Step 1: Taking off the old fabric

The first thing I did was work out where the fabric split into parts. I could see that the back had exposed staples keeping it fixed to the frame so this told me that it was the last piece to be attached. I took pictures of each piece of fabric as I took them off so I knew which order to reattach the new fabric and where they were fixed to.

This chair was sectioned into 1 back panel (including back wings), 2 separate side panels, underseat panel, front panel, 2 front wings and a sewed cushion. I kept each of the pieces intact as much as possible. There were a few rip here and there, but the main shape was kept for all pieces. This allowed me to use them as templates for cutting the new fabric. (Crafty right?)

Step 2: Cutting the new fabric

As I mentioned before, I used the old fabric pieces as templates for cutting up the new fabric. This worked well as I just added a small hem to each piece to allow for inexperienced errors to occur and was on my way. I chose a duck egg linen look upholstery fabric which I’d seen reasonably priced. It being my first attempt, I didn’t want to brake the bank!

Step 3: Painting the frame

I love the Shabby Chic look and so I decided to go for a distressed off white frame with the duck egg fabric. I used two coats of Rustoleum Furniture Chalk Paint in Clotted Cream waiting overnight between coats. I was really pleased with the coverage and the colour was much brighter than I expected – nicely so! I distressed lightly with sandpaper and finished off with two coats of Rustoleum clear wax, again, leaving 24 hours before applying again and buffering.

Step 4: Attaching the new fabric

This is where the order pictures come in handy! The piece which you took off last should be where you start; for my chair, this was the underseat panel. I used my light duty staple gun with 8mm staples to attach the fabric to the frame, making sure that I used the staples in places that would be covered by the side panel fabric. This isn’t always possible, but for this section it was.

I then followed the pictures in reverse, going through each piece at a time attaching them carefully to the frame. With the side panels, these needed to be attached with fabric facing towards the inside of the seat first to cover up the underseat panel staples and then to the outside by stapling to the underside of the arms.

At this stage, the most important thing is to follow what was originally done with the chair as this won’t lead you far wrong!

I attached the front panel next, making sure the bottom of the fabric was pulled fully through to the back of the chair to be attached to the frame. I also recovered the original buttons in duck egg to add a bit of detail to the front. I attached these, once the fabric was fully fixed to the chair, by sewing through the fabric and padding through to the back of the chair and stappling the taught thread to the frame. I think you’ll agree this added a bit of charm to the plain fabric.

Next I added the two front wings by pulling the fabric through the gap in the frame and attaching to the middle section of the frame (covering up staples from the front panel).

I used my sewing machine to make a basic cushion for the bottom part of the chair- not my strong suit, but it did the trick! None of this fancy zip malarkey for the first one, but I’ve since gone on to use zippers and all sorts!

I finished off the chair by affixing the back panel; this was probably the hardest but most satisfying part!

There are a few choices with attaching the back as it’s the area that is unable to ‘hide’ staples. I could have done what the original did, which was to have exposed staples over the entire back and presumably put it against a wall or I could go for something a bit different.

Upholstery tacks is an option that has been used for many years. There are so many different designs and styles that it’s hard not to be tempted, but I wanted an even slicker finish with nothing on show. I decided to use ply grip (pictured below).

Ply grip

I bought some ply grip which, following the curves of the frame, I attached using staples (small nails would have been better, but I worked with what I had!). I then pushed the hem of the fabric in between the teeth of the grip and battered with a hammer to attach it to the frame. I was really impressed with it as it gave such a clean finish.

Voila! My first wingback chair! I’ve gone on to do quite a few more of these in different styles and these basic instructions have served me well.

Feel free to get in touch if you’re interested in me making you a custom chair or even if you want some tips on making your own!

Wingback chair upcycle




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