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There’s nothing quite like admiring and enjoying a DIY project that turns out to be a beautiful addition to your home! Refinishing this cane chair that belonged to my husband’s parents started out as a joke. They had a pair of them in their basement and I knew I could turn them into something wonderful, but my husband did not have the same vision.

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Once we knew we were buying a house in the spring, I started doing some research to prove my point (that I could make these chairs into something we’d want to have in our living room). After mentioning that I wanted the chairs several times over the course of the next few months, and after showing Josh pictures of other refinished chairs, he realized that they did have potential. The chairs had won him over!

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My mother-in-law had mentioned that she would like to help me and that she had previously refinished the chairs with her mom and grandmother. So, a few weeks ago when my husband was gone on a business trip, she came to visit and we refinished one of the chairs to use in our living room. It was so much fun and I am so happy with the results.

Here is what the chair looked like before:

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The first thing we did was take the upholstered parts of the chair apart so we could see how it went together. We made some notes on how the pieces were attached so that we could remember when we put it back together. The very back piece was stapled in, but the seat back was stapled at the bottom and then hot glued around the rest of the edges.

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I wanted the chair to be a cream color, so we wiped it down with mineral spirits, and then primed with Kilz spray paint primer. This was the first time I had used this primer, and wow, this stuff covers! I loved the coverage of Kilz, but for some reason the chair had a fine dust all over it afterwards. I am not sure why this was, but next time I will use fine sandpaper to sand after priming.

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After the chair was primed, we painted it with Rust-Oleum’s Painter’s Touch in Heirloom White. Although I tried my best to cover everything with one can of paint, I had to use most of a second one to get the coverage I wanted.

love this paint color and it made this chair beautiful!


(I had to go back and touch-up the paint after this picture was taken)

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While the paint was drying, we worked on the upholstery of the seat. We purchased 2 yards of upholstery fabric so that we would have plenty of fabric to line up the pattern on the seat and seat back. Using the old fabric that covered the chair as our pattern, we placed each section on the fabric (over center of the portion of the fabric pattern we wanted), and cut out each piece. We also cut out two strips of the fabric for the piping on the front of the seat and around the edge of the seat back.

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We then sewed two seams, one on each corner of the front of the seat. We also made the piping by folding the strip of the fabric over the piping and sewing all the way down, as close to the piping as possible.  To cover the seat, we pulled the fabric tight, stapled around the edges on the underside and then hammered the staples down.

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Next we stapled the fabric to the very back of the chair. The sides we stapled and then folded over, but along the top and bottom we simply stapled. We also hammered in all of these staples.

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The seat back had buttons previously, but for a more modern look I wanted it to be plain. I had seen online that you could fill the button holes of the foam with batting instead of buying new foam. This worked wonderfully to make the seat back smooth.

Then came the most difficult part, adding the seat back fabric. It probably didn’t help that it was also late in the evening and we had been working all day! After we laid the foam and fabric on top of the chair, we stapled the bottom of the piece of fabric to the chair.

The rest of the sides we trimmed down to the exact amount of fabric we needed (which was quite difficult) and hot glued them down into the trench that goes around the sides. We used a screw driver to push the fabric down into the trench. To finish it off, we hot glued the piping around the sides, again pushing it down into the trench.

Next we screwed the bottom of the seat back together. We also added a dust cover the bottom of the chair that we had cut using the shape of the old one. We simply stapled it as tight as we could to the bottom of the chair to keep out the dust bunnies.

Finally, we sat in the gorgeous new chair and admired all of our hard work!


Just for fun, here is the before and after:

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24 Responses to Refinished Cane Chair

  1. Ashley says:

    Wow!! That chair is so beautiful!! Awesome Job!!

  2. Susan says:

    The chair looks amazing! I love the material you used. This makes we want to find some chairs like this and try it for myself.

  3. Nina says:

    Love the fabric! Do you happen to remember the name or where you got it from?

    Found your site from the July Before & After party at Thirfty Decor Chick. Great job!

    • Sarah says:

      Thanks, Nina! Unfortunately I don’t know the name of the fabric and I purchased it at a local fabric store. I found that local fabric stores that sell only upholstery have some beautiful fabrics and a better selection than a chain store. If I am able to find out the name, I’ll let you know!

  4. Hey Sarah!

    I help out Cassity at!
    I’d love to know if you’d be interested in being featured on her site with this chair reupholstery project!
    For more info if you’re interested, please email me at !!
    Thank you!!

  5. kelly says:

    yay!!! i was searching online how to refinish a cane back chair JUST LIKE THIS ONE! i have 2, were my grandmother’s, then mom’s, and now i can have them as we move into our new home in august. they are grayish with navy leather (eek) and i love what you did here! thank you thank you thank you….another site said something about ‘recaning’…i was about to give up the whole idea of refinishing ’til i found your post. thanks again 🙂

    • Sarah says:

      Good luck, Kelly! It was a ton of fun to refinish and I love having this chair in my living room. Let me know if you have any questions

  6. Robin Swearinger says:

    This makes me want to cry. My Mom gave me two of these chairs and I let a “friend” of mine have them to redo. Never got them back. Now my Mom is gone and my “friend” doesnt speak to me. Where can I get “new” ones? I would love to have them to go along with my contemporary furniture.

  7. Sarah! I can’t find your email to Eliza, but I have the feature scheduled for today! Sorry that I wan’t able to get an email to you telling ya.


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  9. Marcy says:

    I love this I have a chair like this I am going to redo this spring when it warms up.

  10. ndene says:

    lovely chair .. looks fabulous

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  15. Tiffany says:

    I saw this featured on remodelaholic. I have these same chairs. I found them at a resale shop and every time it would go in the chairs were still there. I too had to convince my husband they could be something great. He finally caved and we bought the set. I have yet to finish them as we have moved several times in the last year, but I have the fabric and am ready to get started on them. I will also have a new project. Our cat decided to use the cane as a scratching post so that too will have to be replaced.
    You did a wonderful job. I can’t wait to finish mine now.

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  18. Jeanette says:

    Do you happen to know about how old your chair is? I have one similar to it. It’s Drexel Heritage. I wrote the company and they didn’t have any info. I’m assuming it is older than the records they have? Usually there is a six digit item number on their products. I have a seven digit item number. Thanks, Jeanette
    By the way, your chair is beautiful. Good job! I think I am gonna copy it. 🙂

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