Craigslist like a bandit! Chair makeover

When the fiancé (now husband) and I moved into our second San Francisco apartment we acquired a little more space. And by more space I mean room for small chairs in our living room. Do you know what the rental market is like in SF? Let’s just say two bedrooms is a luxury! 

Craigslist Chair

After reselling some overpriced Craigslist chairs I found these gems. Someone was cleaning out an old office space and selling two fabulous mid-century modern chairs for around $25. I felt like a thief as I crammed both chairs into our two-door Honda Accord.

The wood only had a few minor scratches so I decided I was too lazy to sand and re-stain properly. The wood was dry, but looked brand new following an olive oil rub down. You know kind of like refreshing your cutting board. Smear the suckers down with olive oil. Works like a charm!

However, the upholstery left a little to be desired. Plus, if I can’t properly clean a Craigslist find my mind takes a turn for the worst.  What’s a girl to do?!? Rip off the old stained upholstery, duh. Most chairs like these have screws or bolts holding the seat in place and the back had a row of stables along the bottom that secured the fabric.

There is probably a more sophisticated way to remove upholstery, but I use a flat head screw driver, needle nose pliers, elbow grease, and an occasional swear word. Sometimes you have to show old staples whose boss! It’s ME.

Once you have the fabric off use it as a pattern for cutting out your new upholstery fabric. Re-upholstering this particular chair is around an intermediate range for difficulty because it required sewing. Other chair cushions could just be removed, new fabric cut, then re-stapled. Don’t be intimidated, you can do this!


The navy fabric and white piping came from an amazing discount fabric store in my neighborhood. It’s called Fabrix, located on Clement and 2nd Avenue in SF’s Inner Richmond.

After cutting the new fabric I pinned and sewed the seat top to the long side piece with the piping in the seam. Then stretch the new cover over the cushion. Depending on the condition of your chair you can replace both the foam cushion, batting, and fabric or just the batting and fabric like I did.

Then comes the part where your muscles are needed. Pull the fabric tight, being careful to staple on opposite sides as you stretch the fabric. This will prevent any weird gathers or an uneven seam. (Also, save yourself possible heartache by not cutting your fabric too small. It can always be trimmed after you’re done stapling.)

The back of this chair was tricky since I don’t have professional grade upholstery tools… just a hand held stapler. I stapled the front piece of fabric to the back first, flipped it over then stapled to the underside. Then pulled the sides taught and stapled as close to the edge as possible. (This is where the professionals would have out done me.) I stapled a piece of the piping across the back then stapled the back fabric on top, flipped it back over the staples then secured it on the underside of the back rest.

Craigslist chair back

To cover the stables down the side of the back rest I hot glued the piping. Not the most ideal solution, but absent any other brilliant ideas I went for it. I’m kind of an instant gratification type DIY’er.

Craigslist chair piping Craigslist chair reupholstered

So here they are in all the mid-century glory. The contrast with the white piping and navy fabric does show the slight unevenness of my seam, but nobody is staring at the chairs for hours on end. Hopefully they’re sitting in them while conversing amongst friends! I may redo these chairs again someday. I love the classic shape and style that much. They would be fierce with a leopard print or maybe a bold floral. Perhaps it will happen when I need to take out my aggression on some old staples.

Re-upholstered Craigslist chairs

Man, those are some sexy chairs!

Re-upholstered Craigslist chairs

Free coffee table facelift

When you cohabitate aka move in with your fiancé, boyfriend, lover, you get what I mean… sometimes you end up with pieces of furniture like my fiance’s coffee table. Thanks, sweetheart.

It did the trick as far as holding drinks, tv remotes, and my feet, but lacked the amount of style I desired for our new San Francisco digs. However, I relocated without a job and for a month or so we were a one income household also saving for our wedding. Basically it meant no extra money to throw towards a new coffee table. (Sorry still searching for before pictures!)

Chevron stripes were all the rage so I scrounged around the apartment for what I could find: left-over white paint from our bathroom, a half used can of champagne colored spray paint, painter’s tape, wood stain, and some sand paper. In business!

First, I lightly sanded the top of the wood coffee table, which was already pretty beat up from residing in a bachelor pad. Then I painted it with the white interior paint.

Coffee table top painted

Two coats or so later I measured (roughly) out the lines needed to create the pattern. I divided the table (narrow direction) into fourths and with a straight edge drew guidelines in pencil. Draw a center line then divide the two sections in half again.  This determines the number of turns your chevron stripe will make. Moment of honesty… I hate math so the less “exact” measuring the better for me. Also, no friend of mine is going to measure the coffee table stripes.

Next comes the taping. Don’t stress yourself out too much about getting the lines perfect. (Again with the math) so I just used the wide painters tape as a guide for the width of the line. Start on one end of the table with your first zig-zag. Once you have a first row rip a couple small pieces of tape to use as “spacers.” Create your second line with full strips of tape then remove the “spacers.”

Taping coffee table top

But how do you get the corners just right at the turn!?! Overlap your straight lines of tape then use a razor blade to trim the excess and you’ll have a sharp corner. Viola!

Now the fun part, spray paint that table top to your hearts content. I don’t know about you, but I always feel tough when using spray paint. In no way do I have street cred with taggers or graffiti artist, but I do feel like a rebel when holding a can, even if the color is “champagne.”

Once the paint has dried peel off the tape. At this point you can either leave the stripes, as is, if you like the crisp contrast. I was looking for some more texture. So I distressed the top with sandpaper. By sanding over the lines it softens the edges, which hides any spots where the paint seeped under the tape. No matter how hard I try painters tape is never 100% clean. If you have a remedy please share!

Sanded edges

I also sanded through the paint to the wood in some places. I’m extra pleased with this decision because our coffee table takes a beating. When there’s a new chip it’s not the end of the world just additional “character.”

Finally, when the distressing was just right… I took a wood stain, wiped it on then quickly wiped it off. This darkened the bright white and in my humble opinion tied the new painted top in with the wood legs.

 Coffee table top

Ta-da! A coffee table facelift for $0 styled with a milk glass vase, coffee table books, and yes the remotes. We’re only human.

Coffee table after