DIY: How to reupholster a bench

michelle drinking mode and honey teaThis week’s post is courtesy of Michelle. After seeing some of her projects on instagram, I was very excited when she agreed to do a tutorial on how to reupholster a bench. I admire her simple, and whimsical style and love her taste in fabrics. Follow along as she shows us how to turn an old foot stool in to an adorable children’s bench.


What made you start refinishing furniture?

About three years ago, I jumped on the mid-century teak furniture-craze bandwagon. When my husband and I moved to Toronto and settled in to our new apartment, I desperately wanted a teak chair to complete the living room. After scouring Kijiji, Craigslist, and local garage sales, I finally found a piece that was almost perfect; $10, teak arms and legs that were in great shape, and just the right size for the space. The only problem? The fabric smelled like it had lived in a dumpster for the last 50 years, and it looked just as bad. I called around to a number of upholstery studios in town for quotes to have the chair re-upholstered, and after deciding that $600-$700 was just too steep, I decided to give it a shot on my own.

How did you learn?

I learned the basic techniques for furniture upholstery from Andrea Ford, owner of Re:Style Studio. Re:Style offers weekend workshops that are interactive, hands-on and a lot of fun. I did two of the BYOP (Bring Your Own Project) workshops – in the first one, I re-upholstered the teak chair (which now lives happily in my living room), and the second workshop I did was as a fun “girls weekend” with my mother-in-law. Andrea is so knowledgeable and helpful (and you might recognize her from segments on Steven & Chris!)
Since then, I’ve been having a lot of fun experimenting with small upholstery projects. I think it’s a great way to relax, and it gives you such a great sense of accomplishment to take something that’s in a rough state and turn it into something beautiful.

The project: DIY Old, second-hand footstool converted into a sweet little children’s bench!

diy re-upholster a bench
Note: this technique can be used on footstools, or basic wooden chairs with upholstered seats.


  • Staple Lifter (Lee Valley) 
  • Scissors 
  • Staple Gun (I use a Paslode Pneumatic staple gun hooked up to a small air compressor, but a simple, manual staple gun will work just as well!) 
  • 1.5″ thick foam (available from some fabric/craft/flooring stores)
  • Polyester Batting, in sheet form (available at fabric stores)
  • Fabric 
  • Sand Paper
  • Paint (for simple colours I use spray paint, for more variety, simple latex paint in matte finish with a durable, clear top coat) 

Tools to upholster a bench

Step 1: remove the seat (some are screwed down, others will just pop out) and begin removing staples using your staple lifter. For particularly tough jobs, I like to wear a pair of simple gardening gloves to spare my nails/fingers.

Remove staples from the seat

Step 2: when all the staples are removed, remove the fabric and check to see if the foam on the seat is usable; if so, leave it as-is. If not, pull the foam from the wood (it might be glued down.)
Step 3: if you need new foam, cut a piece of 1.5″ thick foam to fit the wood.


Step 4: lay out your fabric (right side down to the floor), a layer of polyester sheet batting, foam, and then the wood on top. Pull one edge of the fabric up around the wood, and begin by stapling in the middle along one side. Pull tightly as you make your way around the wood, stapling 1-2″ between each staple. Fold corners in like you fold sheet corners when making the bed. Voila! The seat is finished!

cutting batting foam for bench

Staple fabric to the seat


Step 5: lightly sand the wood; depending on what paint you’re using, you might need to prime the wood before painting. For this footstool, I used some two-in-one primer and paint (Rustoleum oil-based spray paint.)

sand and spray paint bench legs

Step 6: when the paint has dried, re-attach the seat. Sit, have a cup of tea and enjoy!

Finished reupholstered children's bench

How cute is the finished product!? Michelle made it look so simple that I’m now hunting through the classifieds to find an old storage bench to reupholster myself! Good luck with your own projects and let me know how they turn out!