Before & After: Basic Leather Chair



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I’ve had this seat for gosh nearly 3 years. It’s been patiently awaiting a loving touch in the corner of my studio. For the life of me I can’t find a before picture, but it’s not too terribly hard to imagine: dark oak legs and a 70s poo brown tweed cover over the seat cushions. It’s a simple silhouette. And for being so old and well-used (it was formerly a chair on BYU campus), it was in fabulous condition. A few scuffs and scrapes on the legs and a whole lot of dust.


Sitting on it was a dusty, scratchy experience. I felt like it could be easily elevated out of its sad state with a little bit of paint and leather. Unfortunately for everyone, it took a year to attack the upholstery once I started to take it apart.


It wasn’t that the upholstery work was terribly difficult. In fact, once I started the job, it wasn’t hard at all. The square shape of the upholstery made drafting up a pattern for the new cover super easy. And it didn’t take up a ton of material either. I don’t think I had more than 1/4th of a hide here and I had just enough to cover the entire thing.


The hardest part about the upholstery job was that Felix put a bolt inside one of the holes sideways (how he got it in there, I have no idea) so I spent a good hour working on getting it out.

I split a small part of the wood getting the legs on (see the above pic), but overall, it came together quite nicely. Putting the back panel of leather on was the most terrifying thing because I had to measure so precisely, account for the stretch of leather and use the most deadly upholstery tacks to nail into the frame so there are no raw edges. I’m sure those tacks were meant to go only through fabric, so it was a bit tough to get them to go through 2, sometimes 4, layers of 2 oz. leather.


Overall, I’m pleased with how it turned out. I think it looks nicely finished, and guests aren’t afraid to sit in the chair anymore! It also adds a lot of lightness to that corner of our living/family room. The old chair blended right in to the dark wood flooring.


Materials used:

Here’s a run-down of the process:

I took off the legs, measured the seat and drafted up flat paper patterns of the seat. I used a 5/8 seam allowance and made sure to write out the SA on every pattern piece.

After the patterns were done and checked against the existing chair, I cut out the leather. Since there were a lot of squares, each pattern piece was labeled and the leather was clipped to the pattern pieces until I sewed them so I could leave and come back to the project and know what pieces were sewed together and where.

From there, I got a bit freaked out about the sewing aspect of it all and switched to finishing the legs.

I used BB Frösch chalk paint for the legs, which was a huge time saver. No sanding or priming required. Just paint and go! The matte finish is pretty great, too. It makes me wish this had been around when we did our rocking chair eeons ago!

After I got the legs done, I (with the help of my intern last year) removed the prior upholstery. I wish we had done this outside because dust, old fabric fibers and countless number of staples just sprinkled my studio floor for weeks. Even now I still find a random staple. This chair had hundreds of hundreds of staples keeping the material on the frame! The dusty fabric made my studio smell horribly for days.

I sewed up the seams on the sides of each section (the top and bottom cushions are two separate pieces) and fit the leather on. I didn’t have to make any adjustments to the fit, thankfully, but I realized I needed to reinforce the ends of the seams so that they wouldn’t come undone. I grabbed my waxed linen thread for that and sewed up those ends for strength. Once I got the top and bottom cushions done, I affixed the legs, attached the back portion and then covered the bottom. I cleaned everything up and conditioned with leather conditioner and voila! It took me several months to complete it, but if I had worked continuously on the project, it wouldn’t have taken me longer than a Saturday morning and afternoon. I just got nervous about each step so I would take long breaks.



So there you have it! Read more for details on the living room!


The living room has been a fun one to work on over the last few years. I still don’t consider it “done”. There’s still more work I want to do with the opposite side of the room (the leather couch doesn’t look good there) and I have buckets of art I need to frame on the walls, but I’m getting there!

I’ve had fun collecting little ampersands here and there. The dark metal one and the white one with lights are from Michael’s (recently) and the gold wooden one is from a Christmas gift exchange. The peace sign is from a white elephant exchange (seriously, too cool) and the octopus is from Amazon.



The air plant arrangement is from MakersKit, the deer shed is from Liz Bryson and I made the linocut in 10th grade art class. Super random, but I thought it worked well there. You can see in the reflection of the TV the ugly broom that’s just out of the frame just so you know my house doesn’t look like this on the regular. I styled it just for taking these pics. Just keeping it real here.


The book shelves are from the Container Store. They’re cool because the shelves are easily adjusted to different heights. It’s great with curious little hands so low. But I try to keep the bottom shelves stocked with a small assortment of toys and books anyway.

The lamp is from Target (although, I think I’m ready for something new and a little more angular and a little less top-heavy), the artwork is chalk stuff I did a while ago, the elk shed is from Liz Bryson (again), the teepee is from Land of Nod and the plaster masks are what Chris and I made when we were first dating.



I think I would have opted for something a little more built-in in this area of our house, but Chris pivots the TV and console to watch while he’s cooking his meals or cleaning the kitchen. Oh, and did I mention that Chris typically cleans the kitchen? He does. I’m one lucky, lucky lady.
I’m working on polishing up other parts of the house to share with you soon! Everything is SO CLOSE! Stay tuned!



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    1. Terri says:

      Hi! Your chair looks really great! Can you tell me what type of machine you sewed your leather on? I have a great piece of red leather I’d love to make a simple bag from, but I’m afraid I’ll wreck my machine. I have an old Kenmore.

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