What’s Underneath Your Upholstered Seat?

| |

Have you ever sat down in a vintage or antique chair and wondered who owned it previously?  Where it came from?   What the owners were like?  This may be crazy, but I do that all of the time.  I want to know the history of a piece.  There have been times where I find a piece on Craigslist and the owner has a difficult time selling it because it belonged to a family member or loved one.  They sell it because it needs reupholstering or it has sat in a garage or storage unit for years.

This got me to thinking. 

Vintage/Antique furniture deserves to be reupholstered

– they’ve earned that right,

don’t you think? 

Yes, I know they are tattered with outdated fabric now, but they can be transformed into treasures that just need a fresh start. Antiques and vintage pieces tell a story.  To me, that is worth the extra effort it takes to reupholster a piece.

Most of the items in my home are hand me downs or vintage finds.  The hand me downs are my favorite because they have true meaning to me.  They remind me of loved ones passed and bring back memories of the times we had together.  I don’t have a lot of these pieces, but the items I have – I cherish.

Let me show you how I transformed my grandparent’s chair into a chair that has a story to tell.

Upholstered Chair

I have always loved the vintage furniture you see in Parisian Interiors.  They have a worn patina to them that is pretty difficult to recreate.  I have tried and can’t seem to find an exact way of making a piece look like it has natural patina.  I gave it my best shot here and am happy with the end result.

French Patina

I started with a can of old paint, it was thick and really should have been thinned or thrown away.  I decided to give it a try and use it with a very dry brush and rub the paint off as I went.  This was a look that evolved and truthfully it is very hard to tell you how I achieved it as it took me several attempts.  At one point I took off the paint and sanded it down to the bare wood and tried a dry brush technique again.  If it wasn’t the look I was going for, I would distress and dry brush again until I had a look I was happy with.  Finally, I was satisfied with the end result.

Once the painting was completed, it was time for reupholstering the chair.  When I took the upholstery off of the chair I was wishing there was something left behind the upholstery or in the crevices. 

Something from my grandparents that they didn’t know had fallen between the cracks. 

Unfortunately, there was nothing. 

This got me to thinking.  I needed to tell a story for the next person who would like to save the chair and reupholster it.  I want the next person to find an unexpected surprise underneath the upholstery and learn something about who owned the chair and where it came from…

a chair with a story to tell.

That’s when I grabbed a Sharpie pen and got to writing.

A chair Story

I wrote my grandparent’s story on the cardboard inside the back of the chair.  This included their history, what I loved about them and a little about who I am too.

Reupholstering a Chair

I also added the date.

Then it was time to cover up the message.  I started with the back of the chair adding burlap.

Upholstered Chair

Then I used drop cloth to upholster the remainder of the chair.  

Chair With a Story

Instead of purchasing welting, I made mine and decided to go with a

flat welt as you see here.

Flat Chair Welting

I am glad I held on to this chair. 

Chair Uphostery

It has seen storage units, garages, and almost got thrown away.  Now it is a chair with memories attached and a story to tell.  It’s updated for our interior and now we can treasure it for many more years to come.


What’s underneath your upholstered seat?

You’re a little curious, aren’t you?

Do you have a piece of furniture that needs to tell a story?

I am glad you stopped by today.

Thank you for continuing to let me share all of my stories with you!



Similar Posts


    1. Thank you very much Di. You are right, I will treasure it forever. It’s one of the pieces that brings back memories of my grandparents and I love it for that reason.

  1. That’s a great idea! I have several chairs from my MIL that need upholstering and this is a perfect way to acknowledge her. And the finish is gorgeous. I recently did a makeover of a similar chair and used chalk paint, then dry brushed it with white and used an antiquing oil on top to soften it a bit – turned out great.

    1. If you are taking the upholstery off of the chair, you might as well put a message inside. Who knows, maybe there is one waiting there for you under the upholstery. Wouldn’t that be a great surprise? I have to check out your chair and how you accomplished the finish. It sounds beautiful.

  2. Absolutely loved the chair and the idea!!! Brought trip ears to my eyes. Great job as well.

    I also do quite a bit of furniture. one dresser I refinished the elderly lady that I purchased it from told me that it came over from Scotland with her parents in the 1910’s and she can remember them taking a drawer out for her baby sister to play in with her toys in the boat on the journey over. I do indeed wonder about each and every piece I work on and try in some way to pass on any history of the piece that I can find out. LOVE it!!!!!

    1. Thank you, Debby. I am a sentimental girl (you can probably tell) and I cried while writing on the back of the chair. I miss my grandparents that have passed dearly, but I am blessed to have my grandma who is the coolest woman I know – she turns 91 this summer! 🙂

      I love your story about the dresser. It took quite a journey and sounds like it was very special to the woman who sold it to you. That is awesome that you share the history about pieces. I think it makes it even more special for the person who purchases it.

  3. I love this idea. What a beautiful way to keep your grandparents’ memory alive! And I love the finish you did! The chair looks amazing!
    One question tho – unrelated to the chair …Where did you get the map behind the chair!? Is it a reproduction or an amazing antique find?

    1. Thank you Kristin. The map is a DIY creation, I am going to post about it soon. My husband and I purchased the map and made the frame for it. I am going to post all of the information so you can do it too. 🙂

  4. The chair looks so sophisticated now. Beautiful job with the makeover, Angie. And what a terrific idea of writing a secret message in the chair. I love furniture with an interesting history–even if it was a thrifted piece. (Maybe one day your granddaughter will be touched to find the history of your grandparents in the chair.)

    1. Thank you! I know, there is something so special about learning the history of a piece. That would be cool if my grandchildren could uncover the story someday. Or… maybe my grandchild’s children.

  5. I think the history of the pieces we ‘relove’ is part of what makes them so special. My eyes watered up as I read your story. I’m sure your grandparents would be so proud and so touched by your tender sentiment…
    And the remake is also beautiful! Thanks for sharing this with all of us!

    1. Thank you, Robin! I wrote on the back of the chair as thoughts came to mind and they made me smile as I was writing. Then I read it out loud to my dad and I started crying… couldn’t hold back the tears. I hope my grandparents are proud, I sure am still so very proud of them. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Beth! I agree with you, this idea can definitely be used with all pieces passed on or “found”. We might as well leave behind a bit of “ourselves” in every piece we own or even the pieces we recreate for someone else. It’s fun to think of the possibilities and who may read them in the future.

  6. What a wonderful idea! I love your beautiful chair, the unexpected’ story surprise’ and the gorgeous re-upholstery. i also love the white chair pillow with the 3 little rosettes. It’s so sweet. Where did you got it?

    1. Thank you, Kim! The pillow was made by me. I wish I would have done a tutorial on it, but unfortunately, I didn’t. Now that I say that, I may have taken pictures, so I will sift through and see what I come up with. 🙂

      1. ohmigoodness! you made it? of COURSE you did!. lol. if you do find any additional pictures, i’d love to see them. again, it’s so sweet… 🙂

  7. Hi Angie – What a sweet idea! I’m just happy when I find a tag or sticker that tells me where the furniture was made so this would be such a great surprise to anyone!

    1. Thanks Mary! I am the same way. I like finding stickers or something about the furniture. I especially like finding money… 🙂 I’ve only found a nickel so far, but hey, it’s fun to find anything under upholstery.

  8. Gorgeous! I have a few chairs to makeover and am wanting to do something parisian/french cottage. This is the perfect inspiration to get me started – thanks! By the way, I am the same way when it comes to wondering about where a piece of furniture came from, who used it and what it may have looked like back in the day 🙂

    1. Kate, Thank you! I am so glad this chair gave you inspiration to get started on your chairs. I love anything Parisian/French Cottage, I bet they will be gorgeous and I look forward to seeing them. 🙂

  9. That chair is so elegant, and you did an amazing job with the reupholstery work on it. The secret message made me cry (I’m such a sap!), your love for your family and admiration of your grandparents really came through in your message. Maybe one day many many years from now your granddaughter will feel the need to reupholster the old chair because, though her grandmother did a gorgeous job with it, the fabric is now 50 years old and needs to be freshened up. Maybe she will find your message and add one of her own, with beautiful words to say about you and what a lovely influence you were in her life. I like that idea!

    1. Awww… thank you, Kimberly! I hope I can be blessed with those years to have grandchildren. It would be special to have my grandchildren find the secret message. 😉 BTW… I am a complete sap too!!!

  10. Love this chair! It is absolutely gorgeous! I would be beyond thrilled to find a story under a chair, I think I would have to frame it!

  11. Angie, this is such an awesome idea!! I would love to start working on a project and find the story behind it. The chair is now totally beautiful, inside and out!

  12. I found your site through the Haven Facebook, I’ll be there too. This is a beautiful makeover and a wonderful story. The paint and burlap/dropcloth upholstery are perfect together on this. When my dad repaneled their family room when we were kids, we wrote things all over the walls before the paneling went up. Maybe someday someone will find what we wrote. I think we even taped newspaper clippings to the walls like a time capsule. What a special chair you’ve made!

    1. I am looking forward to meeting you at Haven, Deb. Thanks so much for your kind comments. What an awesome idea to cover a wall with a time capsule full of thoughts and items. I love it! Don’t you wish you could be a fly on the wall when they find your messages? Now that would be fun!

  13. Beautiful chair redo and how great that you’ve left the chair’s story inside for future generations. I just found your blog today while searching Pinterest and I’m so happy I did. Great posts and wonderful writing. I am your newest follower by email.

    1. Awe… Patti, you just made my day! Thank you! I am so glad you found my blog too. Thank you so much for being my newest follower! I look forward to going through this journey with you. 🙂

  14. Beautiful!! Makes me wish I had some upholstered furniture left from my grandparents’ home. My mother was a thrower-outer, but I did manage to salvage my grandmother’s brass-bound trunk with which she traveled here from Europe in 1921 (in my living room), her demilune table that I refinished, and her sewing machine, now a dressing table in my bedroom. None of these is upholstered, but I will search for a place to write a message!!! Thanks.

    1. Hi Devi, I am so glad you have a piece of your grandmothers. Definitely put a message in a drawer or on the bottom of the piece. Not only will it mean a lot to you, but also those that find your message in the future. 🙂

  15. I so love this! I have just bought an old chair and when I sit in it, wonder about its history. I am going to upcycle it in this way, can’t wait to do it now! Thank you x

    1. Yay Adele! I am so happy you are inspired to upcycle your chair. Who knows? Maybe you will find a message inside as well. Wouldn’t that be fun? I would love to see your transformation. 🙂

  16. Angie,
    I own two of my grandparents chairs. I covered them leaving the story of the the original fabric. The brass measuring tool I found in the chair that was ringing like a bell. Which my Papa probably looked for many times. I love that you wrote the story on the chair. You did a beautiful job refinishing the chair. It will be a family treasure for years to come.
    Thanks for sharing your talents,
    Karen Marie
    Dragonfly & Lily Pads

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *