Monday, September 26, 2011

How to transform a chair by removing the chair skirt

Usually, I attend estate sales in order to find my items, but I'm up for hunting anywhere! Andy and I recently visited Music City Auction. We swung by about 2 hours after the start of the auction, so they were deep into furniture. (This auction house typically starts with "smalls" and moves into furniture as the night goes on.) We were there for about an hour before I saw anything I was interested in, but then I saw it: a cute white armchair! I bid and won - it was exciting!

When we picked up the chair before we left, I noticed it was a little more outdated (and not, in my opinion, in a cute retro way) that I originally thought. I liked the clean lines and the tufting, but the chair was skirted and I'm all about legs on furniture! I felt a tinge of regret, but decided I would make the most of my new purchase.

it was also dirty - exhibit A: huge footprint on the cushion!

I inspected the chair to see how I could transform it. I knew it needed a good cleaning and I had a hunch that if I could just remove the chair skirt, it would make a world of difference. I started researching removing skirts from chairs and came across this inspiring before & after:

An ugly chair became so stylish, just by removing the skirt and showing off the legs! I hoped my chair would have the same fate!

If you want to do this project on your own chair, be sure to inspect it carefully to make sure ripping the skirt off won't damage the other upholstery or reveal any strange defects in the chair.

You will need:
  • patience :)
  • scissors
  • pliers
  • staplegun (as needed)
In the example I found above, the owner was able to fold the fabric under the chair and staple it in place. Luckily, my skirt was stapled to the outside of the chair and there were 2 rows of piping - one above the skirt and a row of piping under the skirt which meant once I pulled the skirt off, there was a line of piping which makes the chair look really finished!

Here's a close-up of the skirt:

there's a row of piping under the skirt!

I started on the back of the chair, just in case anything went wrong. I managed to pull some of the piping away from the chair and cut it - then all I had to do was rip it.

When I ripped the piping, some of the staples came out with the piping and some did not.

I have not worked with upholstery very much, but if you're like me and you've ever pulled up carpet to reveal hardwood floors, you're really familiar with pulling staples! I used my trusty pliers to pull out the many, many staples. You can barely see the holes the staples left behind, but I've heard you can steam holes out of fabric if needed.

Be warned - some of the staples came out easily and some did not. I had to carefully run my finger across the fabric to feel if any remnants were left behind and then pull those out.

All in all, it didn't take very long - maybe 45 minutes tops! It turned out to be such a cute armchair that I think looks a little Hollywood Regency with the diamond tufting and curved arm fronts. Toss a few colorful pillows on it, and voila!

Have you ever removed a chair skirt? Do you have a chair that needs updating like this? It's so easy!

You can find affordable chairs in so many places and I highly recommend auctions. They can be a little intimidating at first, but they're pretty easy once you know the basics. You can read about my auction adventures and tips for auctions here!

A note on cleaning the chair - I used stain remover and diluted laundry detergent to lift the stains. It took several sessions of spraying it with stain remover, but it finally looked fresh and new!

Linking up to:

Chic on a Shoestring DecoratingThe Shabby Nest


  1. This is a SUPER cute chair! Thanks for posting! :)

    -Bonnie @ Revolutionaries

  2. I think the skirt makes it look like a grandma chair! Love it with the skirt off, does that make me "hip"?

  3. I just found a vintage sofa for my daughter, and I think taking the skirt off would be a great idea! It does give things a more updated look, I think.

  4. I did the same thing on a chair I found at an antique mall. It was a great shape and had a decent golden velvet, but the skirt made it dowdy. So I did the same thing - ripped off the skirt. However, mine needed some camouflaging afterwards so I hot glued decorative tape/trim over the bottom. I've since sold that chair, but I loved it dearly!

  5. The difference in before and after is huge!!! I'm pinning this idea.

  6. My Interior Life, What did you use for the decorative tape/trip on the bottom. I'm in a similar situation with an older 60's chesterfield styled sofa in golden velvet. I started to remove the skirt, but realized that it looks funny without the piping. There is also an indentation where the skirt was attached. I was hoping to cut the skirt and fold it under the sofa to staple it.... but I have no way to remove the legs or work around them. Any advice?

  7. Hi, since you left your comment anonymously, I can't respond by email... but I'm not sure I have much to suggest unfortunately! My chair had piping underneath the skirt.

    The blog I linked to did fold the fabric under, can you cut a slit in the fabric in order to wrap it up/around the legs? Do the legs not unscrew? I thought normally you could remove legs, but I haven't worked with large furniture.

    I have no idea if this would work, but I wonder if steaming the indentation would remove it. I don't know what steaming does to velvet, but I know that steaming can help fabric spring back to life sometimes. You could also try ice cubes, similar to how people put ice cubes in carpet indentations when they move furniture.

    Hope this helps!


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