How to Paint Upholstered Furniture

How many times have you passed on buying a piece of vintage furniture because you really hated the fabric on it and didn’t have the money to pay for someone to reupholster it?  I used to until I discovered that almost anything can be painted if you are willing to put in some time.  I would warn that it is very difficult to paint over a textured fabric such as velveteen or very “nubby” type fabrics.  Believe me I’ve tried and failed doing this.  However, if the piece is a simple cotton or a non-textured fabric, it can be done and look quite nice.

I read a lot about doing this on Pinterest before attempting it.  There are several different ways of painting the fabric.  This post will just show one chair that I have painted.  This chair was purchased at a yard sale for $3 and had what I call “good bones” so I thought I’d experiment with it.  If I tried and failed, it could go out with the bulk pick up with the garbage.

This is how the piece looked before I started painting the fabric.  I am definitely not in love with this weird striped fabric that doesn’t even work with a tufted back.  The chair was otherwise in perfect condition and very sturdy.  Even the caning was perfect on the sides.

The first thing I did was chalk paint the wooden frame and the caning with a light taupe/gray chalk paint from Michaels.  After that was dry I took a spray bottle and filled it with water and sprayed the fabric to wet it a little.  Pinterest told me to do this before the first coat so I followed their instructions!  It is supposed to help the paint soak in and adhere to the fabric.  I am not really sure that was needed after I did it.  Then I started chalk painting the fabric with a white chalk paint that I already had in my stash.  The first couple layers didn’t cover too well so I knew it was going to take many coats to cover this lovely blue striped fabric, especially since I was going white.


You have to lightly sand the fabric after each coat of chalk paint to keep the fabric from getting too stiff.  It still won’t be super soft but should still feel like fabric if done right.

Truthfully, I thought I was going to end up throwing the chair away as I was just tired of putting coat after coat on and sanding but I kept going.  In the end I even switched to straight latex paint for the final 2 coats.  Because I did that to speed up the coverage, the seat ended up being almost “leather-like” but even that is better than the original and I think it turned out real cute.


I wouldn’t say this is my favorite repurpose makeover, but this is a room that doesn’t get a lot of use so the chair works for now and looks good.  Time will tell on the “wear” to see if it holds up.  Next time you see something you like but you don’t like the fabric, give it a try!   You might be able to make it Practically Palm Beach style.

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