The King’s Chair

By Kate Riley January 17, 2011

Several months ago, I found a cane arm chair at a thrift store and just had to bring it home.  Something about its shape spoke to me.  As I mentioned before, I had every intention of placing it in our master bedroom, as a place for ‘The King’ of this castle to take off his shoes at the end of the day.  Unfortunately, over the course of this makeover, ‘The Queen’ happened to fall in love with it, and thinks it might just belong downstairs. 

I stripped it down to its frame before the holidays began, but sadly, it was cast aside for the frenzy of Christmas crafts and holiday décor.  I tried to finish it before Christmas when I discovered how to make double welt cord, but then my last needle broke and the chair was returned to the garage.  This past weekend, I returned to this project, and finally finished it! 

Here is the chair ‘Before’:

chair before

And ‘After’:

camel velvet chair after

I kept it classic this time.  I didn’t pick a snazzy modern fabric or the latest geometric for the upholstery to wow you.  Instead, I chose a neutral camel velvet because I wanted it to be a timeless piece ~ one I could rotate throughout the house based on whim, feeling, and mood ~ all the things that dictate furniture placement in my home these days. 

Here’s the brief ‘How To’:

First, I stripped the chair down to its frame, then gave it a coat of RustOleum’s ‘Canvas White’ gloss spray paint.

chair bare frame


Note, there is a basic wood frame with springs that sits inside the seat of this chair (not shown).   I stretched the velvet to fit the back of the chair and stapled it in place.

back fabric

Next, I added new foam, batting, and then the velvet on top, all stapled in place with a staple gun.

foam batting fabric

For the new cushion, I used the old fabric as the template.

use template

Do you have disappearing ink pen?  They’re a fabulous magician’s tool for marking your fabric before you sew all the pieces in place.  The ink disappears the next day. Genius!  I found mine at Joann’s Fabrics in the sewing section.

disappearing pen


I stitched up some basic piping in a casing like I mentioned here and then a simple slipcover around 3” foam for the entire seat. 

foam and piping

I attached the foam wrapped in batting, and new slipcover to the wood seat frame mentioned above, then attached it to the chair frame.  As a last step, I attached my double welt cord with some hot glue.

double welt cord


There is one thing I learned from this latest makeover: it will be a long time before I reupholster anything with velvet.  It is not a forgiving fabric, rather, it’s a temperamental stretchy diva of a fabric. 

velvet piped cushion

Is it absolutely perfect?  No Siree.   Is it good enough for me?  Yes indeedy!

I am rather proud of the back, it is lovely.

back of chair


Do you approve of the new lattice pattern wool rug?  I exchanged it for the blue version you saw here.  If you love it too, you can buy it from RugsUSA.  I had big plans to take this chair upstairs and let ‘The King’ use it for himself.  Alas, I think it might just have to live downstairs for awhile to make ‘The Queen’ happy.

chair in living room


Speaking of The King, have you seen ‘The King’s Speech’ ?  We saw it this past weekend, hello Colin Firth?  Incredible!  I’m in love love love with Mr. Darcy.  And he won the Golden Globe for ‘Best Actor’ last night!  

As great at the story was, I also loved the cinematography.  Several walls throughout the film took my breath away.  Some were the gorgeous wallpapers from Lionel’s home (Geoffrey Rush who plays the speech therapist), big props to the film’s set decorator and art director.  The wall in Lionel’s office just mesmerized me.   Layers of muted but colorful plaster, like a giant piece of abstract art.  Stunning! 

kings speech wall in office

I highly recommend the film, but note I’m a lover of well acted period dramas that tug at your heart strings!  This one definitely qualifies. 

What about you?  Dragged anything home from a thrift store lately?


cg kate signature




  1. Love the chair! You did a great job and should be proud. I really like the rug also. Good choice.

  2. This chair is stunning!! I have a chair that’s just sitting around waiting for this kind of face lift……..just trying to get up the nerve to do it!

  3. The chair is perfect and looks great in the living room. I love the neutral color choice for the fabric. It is timeless.

  4. That chair is gorgeous! Great job! It will definitely fit into any room you decide on! Such a classic timeless piece!

  5. This is beautiful, and I don’t think I ever would have thought it would have ended up looking so classic when it started out so dated. Really well done. Would you please fill in a gap or two for us, and tell us what you used for the support under the seat, maybe post a photo of that part of the process if you happen to have one? Thanks.

  6. This chair is georgous! I have been looking for a great chair for our master and found one just like this yesterday at goodwill. it had crushed green leather upholstery. Sadly, someone had already beat me to the punch and she already had a sold tag on her! I guess I’ll have to keep looking! Great job!

  7. Oh what perfect timing! Im taking an upholstery class right now and documenting the process on my blog! And I have also chosen a velvet! Yikes! We’ll see how it goes….

  8. So love this… I am working on a fabulous chair, excited to get it finished…I am a new bloger and love your inspiration…check us out at

  9. The new rig was the second thing I noticed, right after your lovely *new* chair. You did a great job, Kate. You’re a decorating diva who knows how to work with diva fabric. ;) Have not seen The King’s Speech yet, but that’s on my list. I love Mr. Darcy, um, Colin Firth. ;)

  10. What a wonderful make-over of the chair! Absolutely beautiful….I am wondering what made you change out the blue rug for the new one? I like both but the blue one was so lovely :(

  11. I’m working on getting the nerve up to do my first upholstery project– what kind of stapler do you use?

  12. I am very impressed with your chair, but I wanted to say that I LOVE your new color rug! I am amazed at the difference. Your room has stepped up to WOW!

  13. Ohh what a difference! Just curious…what did the bottom (under the cushion) look like? I’m in the middle of renovating a similar one picked up from a thrift store and mine also has a cushion that needs to be redone…it will be the first time I’ve attempted sewing a cushion – eek!

  14. It looks great…no apologies, it looks pretty perfect to me!
    FYI, they have similar dhurrie rugs at Garnet Hill for less. Not wool, and a little scratch, but nice. We got one for our basement.

  15. You chair is stunning, as always!

    And to answer your question: YES! I found two wing back chairs on CL for $25 each. They were sturdy and the foam was in good-ish condition. Needless to say, I snatched them immediately.

    Then I called some people to get some reupholstering quotes. WOWZA! To say I had some severe sticker shock is a HUGE understatement. I won’t lie,… I thought of taking them Goodwill. But in the midst of talking to one of these people, he asked about my chairs and told me this specific brand was and is excellent quality and worth well over $1200 each. So, my husband and I are considering tackling the reupholstering project ourselves. And even though we’ve googled reupholstering wing back chairs ad nauseam, this project REALLY intimidates me.

  16. Thanks for the review, being a Brit I’m attracted not only to period drama, but also Colin Firth!! I really want to see the movie, the Queen Mum seems one of the last true ‘ladies’ and the story of the ‘man who would be King’ is intriguing. Now i just have to find a friend to go with!
    Fabulous job with the chair, another gorgeous, timeless piece! I wonder if you ever have castoffs?? I’d be more than happy to drive across country to pick them up :)

  17. Wow! That looks great. I love the classic colours you picked. I have DIYed kitchen chairs and stools, but I haven’t tackled something this complicated. I definitely need to take a class. I just paid to have a vintage teak chair professionally reupholstered. Frankly, it looks awesome now & I have no regrets, but serious upholstering skills would be a great skill to have.

  18. Beautiful!!
    I just redid a similar chair, and used contrasting colors. Gray for the chair and cream for the piping. Now I’m wishing I had kept it all the same color. Yours is just lovely.

    I also saw the King’s Speech over the weekend and fell in love with Mr. Firth. Such a good movie. I am normally annoyed with profanity in movies, especially overuse of the F word, but this movie made me laugh out loud, literally, at the dropping of the F bomb.

  19. Awesome upholstery job, Kate! Love the color with the rug & the rest of your room. Thanks for the link to Rugs USA – – – I might have to hand over some $$ to them!

  20. loooved the king’s speech – also nice to have a Colin Firth movie that my husband also really enjoyed watching :)

  21. Gorgeous chair! What an awesome transformation, Kate! You’ll love it for years to come.

    I too am in love with Colin Firth and was thrilled when my husband suggested we watch The King’s Speech last week. He had no idea who Colin Firth was, though! Loved the movie.

  22. Great chair and GREAT makeover. I’m so impressed you can do all this yourself!! yes I saw “King’s Speech” one of my favorite movies ever. Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth were insanely great!!

  23. This chair is absolutely beautiful!!! I HEART it so much! I have been looking for a chair like this for such a long time, but the cane is always broken! What a great find and you did an amazing job recovering it! BEAUTIFUL!

  24. I love the how-to, gorgeous and sleek and clean. Plus, thanks for the heads-up on the King’s Speech. Have been wanting to see the movie and now there are plaster walls to see as well? No more calls, we have a winner. LOVE your blog.

  25. Looks fabulous, Kate! I have never re-upholstered with velvet. Good to know it’s a Diva. :)
    It turned out great, though. I love the simplicity. And I really do love the rug too.
    Have a great week!

  26. Gorgeous! I absolutely love it! I have three chairs to upholster and have been so afraid to do it. I’m definitely going to follow your tutorials for help.

  27. Wow, I’m impressed with that upholstry job. You should earn a couple of medals, one for courage, one for patience, and one for going above and beyond the call of duty. Beautifully done!

  28. You did a beautiful job on the chair. I’m afraid that when you mentioned the word, “sew”, that I realized that it was a project that was out of my league! :) I have a chair that is similar, and I would love to give it a face lift, but I’m afraid that I would ruin it because I can’t sew a stitch!

    By the way…I LOVED the King’s Speech!

  29. Thanks, Kate for sharing the “how-to’s .I am going to re-do a chair soon with Sheeting fabric(a great buy from SteinMart that I saw on Chinoiserie Chic) and the chairs were garage sale buys… years ago! ( Better buy what you really like, cause… when it’s a deal… you end up keeping it For-Evah!)
    Saw the KIngs Speech last week, and can’t wait to see it again. You are so right in your description…. everything you could want in a movie…..and a perfect ending too… I also enjoyed seeing the great wallpapers, , and I will listen closely this next time to hear Lionel Logues remark regarding the plastered wall behind that SENSATIONAL French settee… drool …
    Ooh,Love that new rug too!

  30. wow! That chair is divine! Love that you chose timeless fabric and neutral….love love love….you are so talented! I mean really….talented and your tutorial is fine too!

  31. My favorite MKL quote! Love the revamped chair– plan to hit the thrift stores this weekend myself! Enjoy your treasure. :)
    BTW, The King’s Speech is on my “to see” list for sure!

  32. I love the chair – I’d keep it for myself too! I’m curious if your hubby like mine often says “another piece of furniture? REALLY?!!” lol

  33. WOW..what an amazing job…I am going to try to redo this awesome old chair my dad found on the street and gave to me….it’s very intimidating so it’s been sitting in my bedroom for the past year with its ugly yellow stained cover on it…puke-orama….seriously…why can’t you live next door to me and be my best friend…ughhhh…
    but…anyhow…thanks for the inspiration- maybe I will actually work on it this week after seeing yours!!
    <3 marielle

  34. i knew he’d be white and regal and i was right, most indubitably Colin Firth worthy, swoon I love that man

    your fellow “lover of well acted period dramas that tug at your heart strings” and admirer of all your beautiful creations, beauty and peace!

  35. LOVED the king’s speech! i almost cried when colin firth won best actor at the GG’s last night.

    my latest project is a vintage window, diamond paned, that i want to spray paint with mirror paint like a project i saw either here or on another blog, can’t remember..

    ps- i broke tons of needles on my sewing machine before my friend pointed out that i was pulling the fabric toward me impatiently without realizing it, instead of gently guiding it.

  36. I just started to reupholster my cane arm chairs this weekend too! I’m going to try to finish the back the way I disassembled it, but I’m going with your tutorial if that doesn’t work. Thanks for the tips.

  37. i just saw The King’s Speech this evening and was too MESMERIZED by the wall coverings…his office, home and the palace too! Nice to know someone else was thinking the same thing! (PS: loved the movie too–especially as a speech therapist. I almost cheered out loud! )

  38. Your chair looks amazing! I’m so impressed with your DIY savvy!

    I have this cane wing-back chair ( that I picked up from Craigslist a few years ago now for $30 that I thought I’d paint white and re-upholster. I’d be perfectly fine with a spray can but was overwhelmed by the prospect of screwing up the upholstery job so 3 years later, it’s still sitting as is, at my mom’s house. I’ve done dining chair seats but button tufting, etc. is beyond me. At the time I asked a re-upholsterer for a quote but she told me the cane couldn’t be painted – I’m glad you’ve proven her wrong! I’m not yet brave enough to tackle this project – nevermind that there’s no room for it in my condo! Perhaps for my next home! :)

  39. I have a chair similar to that I picked up at Goodwill for a whopping $6.99. There is one tiny hole in the caning on the side but it is down near the seat and hardly noticeable. I love the fabric actually- its in great shape and minky brownish color- but I want to paint the wood. Its been sitting as is because I’m still trying to figure out how to do it without removing the fabric or ruining it.

  40. Beautiful chair! My heart skips a beat when I find a chair as cool as that one. I just posted a tutorial on double welting. I made mine just like your’s. And yes, cutting on the bias really helps you turn the corners so perfectly! Love it! If you ever need supplies, check out Rowley Co. They have everything! And very fast delivery. I stock up on all of my supplies with them.
    I hope one day to find a chair as unique as your’s. You did an amazing rehab on it.

  41. Hey!!! I’ve been reading your blog for a few months now. It’s one of my very favorites and I check often for your talented updates!! The chair is gorgeous! Another amazing project that you make look so easy. But, I’m actually wanting to know about the rug UNDER the chair…. We need a new rug for our living room and I’m digging yours. Can you tell me where you got it? Thanks!!

  42. Yep, this might be your best one yet. Love the caning, the cording, and that delicious camel velvet. It really is stunning! -shaunna :)

  43. Lovely chair! And yeah – velvet is a pain, whether you are making clothing, costumes or upholstery…

    About the disappearing ink pen – they also make them in light colored ink for dark colored fabrics. A better choice than chalk if you are going to be handling the fabric alot while getting it sewn together.

  44. Gorgeous chair, Kate! I love the velvet with the white and what a beautiful job you did It is fit for Queen Kate! Great quote on faith.

  45. Great tutorial – thank you for this. Your chair is sweet…love it. I am perusing the aisles of Salvation Army looking for a chair right now so I can try this new endeavor of reupholstering! You make it seem effortless! Enjoy being queen!

  46. Love it! I have many chairs from thrift stores taking space in my work area. After I drag them home I realize I do not sew and I have no idea how to reupolster anything! Perhaps now I will give it a shot!

  47. Kate, the chair looks amazing. You did a wonderful job. I’ve yet to try a reupholstery project, but you make it look easy.

  48. I’ve been wondering how to reconstruct a chair. I saw some frames on craigslist but felt i didn’t even know where to start. thanks for this tutorial. i’m on my way to cl to see if they’re still available!!

    and colin firth! oh my puttering little heart. love, love, love him ever since pride and prejudice. swoon! so i will also see the king’s speech. :)

  49. LOVE the chair (and the rug—- if I didn’t have a messy kid and a chocolate lab, I SO would own!). So many bloggers I find are from back east so nice to see one from Northern CA where I’m from (live near Seattle now). Course, Northern CA to most people is probably San Francisco LOL and I lived closer to the mountains. Thanks for sharing!

  50. Love the chair! I have been looking for a rug like that, thanks for the link. I was able to find a coupon code good for January and bought it for an additional 20% off.

    Here is the code for anyone interested. WSJAN20

  51. Love the chair, love Colin Firth, and loved The King’s Speech!!! That’s a whole-lotta-love for today’s post! :)

    No recent trips to the thrift stores … I’ve grounded myself from going until I do something with the things I picked up LAST year! My New Year’s Resolution!

  52. Hey, can you tell me what kind of staple gun you use? I need to purchase a new one, and since you do so many projects, was wondering what kind you used.
    Thank you.

  53. What a great job you did with the chair, and l too LOVED “The Kings Speech” fantastic movie, and of course it helps that Colin Firth is in it, brilliant acting. The funny thing was that l too was eyeing Lionel’s office wall, l kept thinking what an amazing backdrop for a photo shoot it would be!

  54. Your chair is perfect. I wish I could find thrift store items at a reasonable price! I saw similar chairs like that this past weekend with price tags of $225 each. I know that’s less than new ones, but it’s not “thrift” prices to me!!

  55. Haha – my first thought of the after picture was to get distracted by the beautiful rug :) Thanks for sharing the info on it! I’m looking for something similar for our living room :)

  56. What a happy coincidence that I happen to be home instead of work and caught you on Nate! My whole house is thrift, side of the road treasures. Great website from one of your new fans!

  57. Beautiful upholstery job! I’m trying to get my nerve up to try re-doing a wing chair as we speak. I got distracted by your beautiful room though, do you mind sharing your paint color & where you bought the rug?

  58. This looks just stunning! AND thank you for the tutorial on double welt cording. It really helped me in my latest upholstery project!

  59. I saw this when you originally posted it and just saw it again on CSI Project and can I just say….Ah-mazing! Love the VELVET.

  60. Oh Kate…this chair is beautiful! I just purchased my first upholstered chair with intentions to sew up my very first slipcover…wish me luck.

    You did a wonderful the welting.

    Now go back to that thrift shop and find a chari for ‘The King’

    Janet xox

    PS…If my hubby goes before me, I am hunting down Mr. Darcy!

  61. OH MY GOSH!!!! I LOVE LOVE LOVE you chair! My favorite thing in design is making old look new and you totally accomplished that here! I don’t think I am quite as handy with the sewing machine, but when I sharpen my sewing skills, I am totally going to try this!!! Thanks for the inspiration. I am a new blogger ( so I am always looking for inspiration for new projects!

  62. Love the chair! In the middle of a similar project myself and having major issues w the piping. You really just hot glued yours and it’s completely durable? It looks amazing!

  63. Where did you get the fabric? And what’s the name? Looks beautiful!

  64. OMG!!! you have inspired me to do a project like this. granted i would start out small but what an EXCELLENT job with this chair. love it love it love it!!!!!

  65. I would appreciate very much your help with the name of the staple gun — I have a similar chair and can’t find a staple gun with long nose that is either electric & small. — is that right?

  66. What sort of foam and batting did you use for the chair back? I have dining chairs that need new backs, but I have no previous back on them to work from. Thanks!

  67. The back of the chair does look very nice! I like the simple elegance of your chair. Velvet gives a rich look without needing a lot of color. Velvet is not much fun to work with. I used velvet for drapes and discovered the hard way that the fabric stretches. I had to hem my first set twice.

  68. I LOVED ‘The King’s Speech’! And I loved that wall too :)
    I came over looking for your double cord welt. Miss Mustard Seed sent me over when I asked if she knew of a tutorial for using it!

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