Looking for ways to fix up furniture pieces without breaking the bank? Try painting upholstery fabric before recovering it. It is an easy DIY project that is inexpensive to do and the result is amazing!
We have this beautiful antique bench in our front entryway that was passed down to us by my husband’s family.
It was not very pretty when we received it so we had it recovered five years ago to coordinate with our cranberry, sage, and gold decor.
When we renovated our home from a ranch to a center hall colonial 15 years ago, we opened up the first floor to create more of an open living concept.
For a really quick fix, I tried using different throw pillows and blankets but nothing hid or helped this floral pattern on the bench.
I contemplated having it recovered again.
But that required spending a lot of money on something I just did a few years ago.
And nobody wants to spend money if they don’t have to. Am I right?
I also considered deconstructing the piece but that would entail a lot of time and effort.
And since I wanted a quick fix for the bench, deconstructing it was second on my list.
So I decided to paint the upholstery fabric with chalk paint.
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Why I’m Painting Upholstery Fabric with Chalk Paint
My sister-in-law has done this before and the pieces she refinished look AMAZING.
This bench is hardly used.
It sits in the front entry hall, nobody really sits on it, and is mostly used to lay coats and bags on when people visit.
I was a little nervous to paint the upholstery fabric. Since this bench is an heirloom, I did not want to wreck it.
To build my confidence, I told myself that the worst-case scenario was having to recover it.
Although I have never done a project like this before, this pep talk is how I mentally prepared myself to “just do it.”
What did I have to lose?
I wanted the bench to look like it was recovered with a light, neutral fabric.
There’s a trend to use drop cloths as window treatments and upholstery fabric, so that’s the look I was hoping to achieve without actually recovering the piece.
Supplies for Painting Upholstery Fabric
- Fabric Medium
- Chalk Paint
- Paint Brush
- Painter’s Tape
- Disposable Container to Mix Paint and Fabric Medium
- Spray Bottle with Water (I recycled a Windex bottle)
- Clear Wax
- Wax Brush or Cloth – figure out what works best for your fabric. I preferred working with an old sock.
Directions for Applying Chalk Paint on Fabric
- Tape up any areas where you do not want to apply paint.
- Vacuum and remove as much lint, dirt, etc. as possible before starting.
- Mix 1 part fabric medium to 2 parts chalk paint.
- Start with the back of the piece. As a rule of thumb, it is always best to begin any project with the back, inside or a place you don’t regularly see. This gives you room to tweak the process or fix mistakes before you get into a rhythm.
- Spray the fabric lightly with water in the area that you are working. Rub the water spray into the fabric so the fabric is slightly damp. The paint will glide on and soak in to the fabric better if it is damp.
- Paint fabric and allow it to fully dry between coats. I had to do three coats to fully cover the floral pattern.
- Give painted fabric at least 24 hours to dry before top coating with clear wax. Although the bench looked really good after painting, it is important to protect the color with a topcoat.
- Apply wax with a wax brush or cloth. I usually use a cloth when I apply wax – it’s a personal preference. Again, start with the back of the piece or in a spot you won’t regularly see. To apply, I started with a blue shop towel and it left a blue film so I switched to a white paper towel. The paper towel left too much lint on the painted surface so I wound up grabbing one of my husband’s athletic socks and that seemed to work best.
- Play around with how to apply the wax. Different fabrics may work differently so see what rhythm works for you. I applied it then buffed it out to even out the finish.
Can you believe how much better it looks after the first coat of paint?
The coverage is not bad, but looks like it will need a few coats.
After two coats of paint, it looks even better doesn’t it?
Since there was a dark floral fabric, the print is still showing through.
So I needed to add another coat of paint to completely cover the upholstery.
The bench looks AMAZING, doesn’t it?
I still need to clean up the edges where the paint seeped under the tape but overall, I LOVE IT!!!
The bench looks more traditional, cleaner, and coordinates with my neutral decor.
Can you believe how much better it looks after painting the fabric upholstery?
Every time I walk by it, I am in awe of it!
The piece looks so much better now.
And the painted upholstery fabric brings out the pretty details in the wood frame.
Painting upholstery fabric is totally worth trying before deconstructing or recovering a piece.
If applying chalk paint on fabric doesn’t work out, the piece can easily be deconstructed or recovered.
That said, I would not do this if we sat on a piece a lot. I am not sure how the finish would hold up to serious traffic.
Since this project turned out so well, I am planning to paint a few more outdated low-traffic pieces we have so they match my decor.
Why replace these items when we can inexpensively refresh them?
After completing this project, I decided to paint chalk fabric on another piece. Wait until you see how it turned out!
Shop for DIY Supplies
Want to See More Unique DIY Projects?
- How to Paint Chair Upholstery Fabric
- Painting the Piano
- Upcycled Vintage Framed Chalkboard
- Coffee Table Makeover
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