Candace Couse

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Build Your Own Parson (ish) Chair

Parson Chair DIY

For $200 and lots (and lots) of your time, you too can turn eight ugly old chairs into tailored parson style awesomeness. 

<---After            Before--->

How to get this look:

Remove the seats and chair backs. If you are lucky you may not use a saw. I did.

Maintain all side supports when removing the back

I used four cherry chairs and four oak. I like the variations in the leg. I kept in mind the finished height for consistency. I had to cut extra height off the cherry chair backs to even them out.

The oak chairs were a little unstable so I reinforced them with some nails from a nail gun.

Some sanding and staining applied to just the oak chairs helped with the uniformity. I used "dark walnut" and finished a clear coat of varathane in a satin finish.

Use cheap pine or scrap wood to construct the back supports.

These can be quickly stuck in with some nail gun shots.

Trace a back for your chair out of plywood. I just added a front side to keep it cheaper, but you could have a front and back.

The fun part--as always--is choosing your fabric. 

Reupholster the chair seats. Pretty basic stuff. Enjoy this part because it only gets harder later!

Use batting cut conservatively to pad out the back. You don't want to be fighting with extra material here, it will only make your chair lumpy.

Attach batting directly to chair frame using a staple gun. The more staples the better as you don't want the batting to appear wavy. 

The sides here are too wavy, a quick second dose of staples solved this.

Cut your fabric in one piece and start to attach it. I started at the bottom fist adding a staple to the bottom layer of padding in the centre before working outwards in both directions and creating a tidy fold around the bottom of both side supports.

Allow fabric to travel sightly high at the back. This is naturally what it will want to do, and it will look polished if you embrace it vs. bulky trying to fight with it.

Next run staples down the back of both side supports securing the front fabric in place. That's it for staples, leave the back flap unworked.

This is the painful part. You could avoid this if you did a pre-sewn slip cover, but then it would look sloppy and not as tailored, so it's up to you.

Get some pins...

Using two folds on either side create a straight edged back for your chair. pin both sides before sewing.

sew all the folds as well as securing the back. when you get to the bottom of both sides flip the chair over and tuck the remaining fabric behind the overlapped (non stapled) padding. Sew the bottom.


Parson Chair DIY


  1. Thanks! I am SO doing this. Going to a huge thrift-flea market store next week

  2. Just bought one starter chair. If it goes well ill buy 8-10 more. Holidays are coming up

  3. I am starting this after the holidays. Any tips if you haven't upholstered anything before?

    What kind of fabric did you use? Has it held up over the past few months?

  4. Hi Snugwithfour,
    Good luck with your project. If you haven't upholstered anything before this may not be the most ideal starter project, but having said that, don't let it stop you. I would recommend you really take as much time as possible to map out the lay of the fabric. Don't afraid to use thousands of pins, experiment with fabric tension (everything should be taught) and allow yourself to make tiny adjustments as you go (everything that starts perfect tends to make tiny shifts you need to constantly compensate with by making adjustments) and lastly staple everything that is not visible to the eye. Take the time to really stitch carefully and cleanly. This will determine how resilient the chair will be.

    I used a natural fabric for my chairs, but a better bet would be to use a heavy upholstery fabric if you really want to have something that can take a beating. My chairs are in great shape, but they don't always get daily use.

  5. Just found your blog via Ana White, and I love your chairs. What a great idea!!

  6. Great project, the chairs came out with a specialty look!

  7. Love this so much! Looks great! I was curious if you did the stitching by hand or if you had to take the fabric back off the chair to sew the covers. Also did you end up attaching the fabric before that to just after you sewed it?

  8. Thanks! I stitched by hand right onto the chairs.

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