the vintage Drexel dining set & recovering a chair seat

A few of you noticed the new dining room set when I shared the fall tablescape earlier this week.  We bought an antique dining set last year just a few days before Christmas off of Facebook Marketplace for $40.  I had been searching for a dining set since we moved into the house and I just wasn’t finding the one.  I was feeling a bit bummed about not having a table and chairs for the dining room for Christmas, though, so I jumped at the chance to get a set for $40.  That was less than we would spend on a dinner out for our family so it was worth it.

We made a few initial repairs to some of the chairs as well as to the stretchers on the table and it was good enough, but the table was just a little bit too wide for the room and most of the chairs creaked and groaned.  While I loved some of the design details, it just didn’t feel like it was our set.  So, I kept an eye out on Facebook Marketplace and at local secondhand shops

Just a couple of weeks ago, I spotted a set with oval-backed caned chairs, just the kind of set that is up my alley.  It’s a vintage Drexel set called Francesca for $300.

The best part of this set is the chairs.  They are super sturdy, the caning is in great condition, I love the style, and they are comfortable.  Let me tell you, that can be hard to find in a vintage set!  Usually, there is at least one chair with a shimmy.  I am planning on stripping and refinishing the table and all of the chairs, but that will likely be a project for spring.  Removing the 70s speckled finish will give the set a more timeless feel.  I might get a bee in my bonnet and work on the table this fall so I don’t have to have it under a tablecloth all of the time, but we’ll see.  The top isn’t bad, but the finish is smudgy and has some remnants of what appears to be craft or school projects.

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The chair upholstery was in amazing shape because it’s been covered in plastic that was only recently removed.  The fabric was a bit too retro for me, though, so I wanted to recover them to work with my style.

I am planning on making tie-on slipcovers, but that will take me a while.  Given that I had a fall table photo shoot with a tight deadline, I decided to take a shortcut.  And, honestly, if you have similar chairs, this method would be a fine no-sew option.  Flat seats, like the ones we had on our previous chairs, are better for this method, but it’ll work on this style of chairs, too.  The seats are removable making them easy to wrap in some new fabric.  It would be better to sew a cover based on the shape of these chairs, but simply wrapping them in new fabric will work for now.

I removed the seats from the chair frames and also removed the remnants of the plastic covers.

I cut pieces of green velvet fabric I had on hand to size and set up an assembly line to get all six seats covered.  Whenever I’m upholstering something, I make sure the piece of fabric is centered and then I put a staple in the middle on all four sides.  This ensures that the fabric doesn’t shift if I get a little overenthusiastic in pulling the fabric tight.

I use a pneumatic upholstery staple gun with 1/2″ 22 gauge staples.

I’ll then staple along the edge on all four sides, making sure the fabric is pulled tight and even.  I’ll leave the corners for last since those are the trickiest parts.

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I’ll create the corners by folding the fabric in and pulling it tight.  See the photo below…

The corners where the back of the chair was located were a bit tricky.  Again, sewing a cover is better for this style of seat, but I made it work.  I cut a slit and pulled the fabric tight on either side of the notch in the seat.  This left a little flap that was too short to secure with a staple, but it will be hidden by the back of the chair.

I then cut off all of the excess fabric and screwed the seat back onto each chair frame.

With the newly covered seats and a tablecloth, it’s good to go for now!

I know that stripping these chairs will be a headache, but it’ll be worth it.  I think they will serve us for a long time.

You can find more furniture makeovers HERE and more upholstery tutorials HERE.