In the workshop- FBBC Update

The strange thing about working on reupholstery projects is that it is equally parts monotonous and challenging.  After a particularly tough day, I find it very enjoying to retreat to a corner of the apartment to work on an upholstery project.

In this post, I am giving you a progress update on the French Button Back chair. First, let’s be real.  Reupholstering furniture is not a quick process. It is a serious investment of time, resources and energy.  This is not a project that can be tackled in an afternoon or even a weekend.  However, the time, energy and resources invested in reupholstery projects yield some of the most satisfying results.

I share this because while the photos shared here aren’t glamorous, I tried to capture the time and work invested thus far in the project.

So many times, with “Before and After” projects, you see the not so fabulous “Before” photo and then the transformation in the “After” photo but there isn’t much shared about the challenges and the work that takes place between those two phases.  My goal here is to try to capture the “in progress work”.  As I like to say, things always look worse before they look better.  This project is no exception.


The first step for me, when I reupholster any piece of furniture is to flip it upside down and remove the thin black cloth on the bottom.  This is known as the dust cover or cambric.

Once this cover has been removed, I can then start to pull out the many staples that are holding the existing upholstery in place. Here you can see the dust cover has mostly been removed and I have started pulling out the staples.

It is important to note that this is probably the most tedious part of the project.  I kid you not, there will be thousands of staples and  tacks that need to be removed.  So, get yourself a nice cup of tea and get comfy because this is going to take awhile. It’s a great activity when you are looking for a task that doesn’t require too much brain power.  As far as tools, I primarily use an upholstery staple remover and also needle nose pliers which can pull out any stuck staples.

For the past several weeks, off and on I have been working on removing the old upholstery.  Slowly pulling out staples and tacks while gently pulling out the old fabric. I started at the bottom and gradually work my way to the top of the chair.

Some of the batting will need to be replaced or just refreshed.  In the photo below you can see a side view of the chair as I progress with removing the old upholstery.

It’s funny because during this phase, you can really tell if the piece of furniture was high quality.  The use of hardwoods for the frame and hand craftsmanship are two identifying traits. Also the types of materials used.  For example, in chairs that are more recently manufactured, a tufted back is often held in place by cardboard. This is fairly common and there is nothing incorrect or wrong with this.  However, a piece where the tufting is done through the use of tough fabric, taut thick thread and hand knotting – you know this is a piece of furniture that’s worth investing the time, energy and resources to reupholster.  Such was the case with this chair.

The thick thread used for tufting the buttons is shown below.

The tough dark fabric where the tufting thread goes through is shown below.

As you can see, I still have MORE staples that need to be removed.  Although about 80% of the upholstery has been removed, I still have about 20% still attached to the chair.

So, if you will excuse me, I need to get back to work.  Please stay tuned as I progress to STEP 2 on the reupholstery journey of this chair.

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