Upholstery Basics Step by Step

Posted by Rebecca Atwood

Reupholstering existing pieces, family hand-me-downs, or flea-market finds is a great way to update them to your personal taste. Patterned fabric can easily transform a simple bench, headboard, or chair. Look for pieces that have simple construction where the fabric can be stapled on the reverse. More complicated projects may require sewing or working with a professional upholsterer.

Photographer: Emily Johnston
Speckled in Navy


-Furniture of your choice


-Fiberfill (optional depending on your project)


-Staple gun + staples 


Step 1: Prep for Upholstering

Take apart your furniture (legs, chair seats, etc.) to the extent possible to make it easy to work with. Remove any cording, piping, or finishing details from the furniture that might create a bump when covered.

Step 2:

Lay down enough batting to be stretched around furniture. Stretch the batting around to the back and begin to staple it in place. If the piece of furniture requires more padding, consider foam instead of batting. Be sure to keep it tight by alternating sides: staple one side and then move to the opposite, pulling it tight in between each time you staple. Keep the corners neat and smooth folding like hospital corners when making a bed.   

Folding the corner
Pulling it taught
Stapling into position

Step 3:

Lay down enough fabric to cover the furniture. If you have a pattern with a large repeat, you may want to center it first to make sure you’re happy with the placement. Cut the fabric down to size so you have about 5 extra inches all around the furniture to staple the fabric to the back.

Photographer: Emily Johnston
Speckled Navy Fabric

Step 4: Finish (optional)

If you want a more finished look on the bottom or back of the furniture, cut a piece of fabric big enough to cover the unfinished parts and staple it neatly over the exposed area

We’d love to see your final headboard! Share with us by using #RAatHome and tagging @rebeccaatwooddesigns.