Learn how to reupholster a chair using cowhide…
This fun and relatively easy DIY reupholster chair project will add a little pizazz to any room! Learn how to reupholster a chair the simple way by following this tutorial.
Pull up a chair and see! 🙂
Let’s talk about reupholstering that chair – with cowhide leather!
Specifically, we are going to use an Ikea cowhide rug, known there as the “Koldby”.
Here’s what you’ll need in the way of materials and supplies to complete this “DIY reupholster a chair” project:
How To Reupholster A Chair – Supplies Needed
- upholstery staple remover
- tack remover
- carving knife
- quilt batting
- foam in desired height (we used 2″ for this project)
- cowhide or leather (we used a Koldby IKEA rug, but you could definitely use a smaller and even more budget-friendly option, like some of these)
- >pneumatic stapler, electric stapler (this is my current favorite staple tool) OR hand-powered staple gun>
- hot glue gun
If you’ve followed our DIY blog for a little while, you’ve likely met Margaret. She’s our little kicked-to-the-curbside, busted and rusted chrome chair rehab project.
Here’s what she looked like the day we picked her up in our furniture ambulance (AKA the minivan)…
…a bit on the forgotten and forlorn side. Just a smidge. 😉
It was definitely one of my favorite reupholstered projects to date! If you found your chair in a similar rusty situation and need to show it some love, take a look at how to remove rust from chrome. You won’t believe how easy it actually is.
But, today we’re gonna talk about how to reupholster a chair with a cowhide leather rug.
Public Service Announcement – I’m sorry in advance to the vegetarians and animal lovers out there. I get it. I kind of struggle with using this material a bit myself. At the same time, with the beef industry being so huge in this country, I feel like using all of the cow is better than letting some of it go to waste.
I completely understand, and respect, however, if you are opposed to using animal hides in your home.
There are lots of tutorials out there on how to upholster or reupholster a chair (and other furniture), and I think finding the right tutorial depends heavily on the type of chair you’re working with.
This DIY chair upholstery tutorial is really meant to just give a few hints and tips about working specifically with cowhide leather, as that can be a little different than using regular fabric.
How to Reupholster a Chair With Cowhide Leather
You may be wondering how to reupholster a leather chair. I am going to walk you through the process for this DIY reupholster chair project so you can get the basics.
Unfortunately, I don’t have photos of every single step, but I do mention everything I did to help you through the process.
Step 1: Remove the Old Upholstery and Make a Template
I did not get pictures of this process because the yellow fabric was so disgusting that I wanted it gone as quickly as possible.
To remove the old fabric, I used an upholstery staple remover and a tack remover (both inexpensive tools, but invaluable if you are going to tackle a furniture reupholstery project).
Once the old upholstery fabric is removed, simply trace it onto some paper, or cardboard, or wrapping paper…whatever you got.
Below, you can see we used 8×11 paper taped together with painter’s tape. Really…whatever works. See, it’s so simple that even a child could do it. 😉
Step 2: Cut Your Foam for the Cushion(s)
Sometimes, you can re-use the existing foam from your chair. But, in this case, our foam was gnarly and smelly and super icky. So, we opted for new foam, and luckily, I had some from previous projects.
If you have to buy foam for your DIY reupholster chair, this will be the most costly part of your furniture reupholstery project. If you have some to re-use…do it.
Use your template and trace the size you’ll need for your new foam. Above, you can see I didn’t have a large enough piece on hand to cover the whole seat, so I’m splicing two pieces together.
Below, I’m using the old seat back foam as a template for the new foam. Eeek. Super grody. I didn’t even want to touch it.
The best way to cut upholstery foam is with an upholstery knife…Apparently, some people call this a “turkey carver“.
In our house, my husband is the turkey carver, and this tool is for cutting foam.
But, to each his own.
Here we are, at the scene of the crime. My kitchen, AKA “Heather’s DIY Chair Upholstery Clinic”.
Step 3: Wrap Your Foam in Batting
Usually, batting is less expensive if you buy it as a quilt batting. I wrapped my foam in one layer of batting, smoothing it out, and securing it with hot glue here and there to get a nice shape.
This step will also serve to help hold your foam together nice and tight to make the upholstery part easier if you had to piecemeal pieces as I did.
I don’t have a picture of this, either, but you can see the product I used a bit in the image above.
Step 4: Use Your Templates to Cut the Cowhide Leather
I used an IKEA cowhide leather rug I found on Craigslist to make this project extra-thrifty.
Then, I simply searched the cowhide for the section I wanted to showcase as the seat and cut that section using my DIY seat template.
Cowhide Reupholstery Tip:
When you cut cowhide (I just used regular old scissors), be prepared for a big mess. Hair will fall off as you cut. Just have your vacuum ready – all will be fine.
Oh, and cut in your PJs (as above). This helps with the results- I’m sure of it!
Step 5: Iron the Cowhide Leather to Remove Wrinkles
As you can see in the image above, this cowhide upholstery was a bit wrinkly. Those wrinkles would have shown on my seat if I didn’t address this prior to upholstering – that would have bugged me every time I looked at the chair.
To remove the wrinkles, I ironed the backside of the hide. I used a high heat setting and a wet cloth between the hide and my iron.
Step 6: How to Upholster a Chair – Time to Attach the New Upholstery!
Luckily, we have a couple of different “power” stapling options here. I’d definitely recommend one of these tools in order to make the project quicker and easier.
You could use a pneumatic stapler. My personal favorite stapling tool right now is an electric stapler (great because I don’t have to lug the air compressor into the house).
If you don’t have a powered stapling option, you can certainly staple upholstery with a simple hand-powered staple gun as well.
The key to getting a good unwrinkled finish on your cushion is to HEAT THE HIDE with the iron as in the step above just prior to upholstering. This allows a little give and stretch in the hide and will help you get a nice, smooth finished product.
Since the cowhide is very thick, it’s much harder to work with unless it has been heated up. I kept the iron on, and heated it up, little by little as I went.
This part was a tad awkward to do, but it really helped get the cushion smooth.
Step 7: Finish off the Bottom of the Chair
To cover my staples on the bottom of the chair, I chose to cut another small piece of cowhide, and simply hot glue it into place.
Voila! Cowhide and seek this chair out now because she’s a beaut!
The cowhide leather and the chrome make a great pair, don’t-cha think?
Looking for more furniture flipping fun, or other budget-friendly DIY ideas? Check these out, too!
If you don’t need to know how to reupholster a chair now, pin this post for later! And if you try it, leave a comment (or better yet, a photo) on the pin! That helps others know whether they want to try this project, too!
Pssst…before you go, I sure would love to hang out with you again really soon! Sign up now and get a FREE copy of “Builder-Grade To Beautiful: 10 Totally Transformative Home Decorating Solutions, All Under $100!” Click here to enter your email or on the image below. Your copy will be sent right away!
This is such a great and comprehensive tutorial. Thank you!!
I’m reupholstering with cowhide 2 old barstools for a second life. Seats are round and a little difficult to get the edges to fold without being so bulky. Read your great tutorial and will try heating with an iron first. Will be back to your site as you explain very well. I have a bad habit of finding old kicked to the curb pieces and giving them a new life.
Oh good! Hope it works for you Sandy! For a round stool, try cutting the edges almost like fringe…it will mean more staples, but it will be easier to get the edges to conform to the round shape 🙂 Heather
Hello, how does the hide hold up? Does the hair shed and stick to your clothes? Looking to do two chairs, just wondering how it holds up? yours looks lovely by the way! Thanks
It has held up unbelievably well, Kathy. BUT, I should tell you that I do NOT sit on this chair everyday. Not because I’m worried about it, but more so because it’s sitting in a room that doesn’t see a lot of activity right now. Mine has not shed. It DID get a bit messy during the upholstery process, but it doesn’t get all over me when I sit on it. If you go for it, would love to see pics of your final product!!! Good luck!!
Absolutely love it! What great “bones” that ugly yellow chair had! Good vision!