Silver Leaf Vanity Chair

April 13, 2011

I finally finished up a chair makeover I’ve been meaning to get to for awhile.  I found this one at a thrift store last year and I bought it specifically for the vanity in my bathroom.  I loved the curve of the legs and the size was perfect, but the fabric?  No thank you.  It was dingy and stinky so the entire chair definitely needed to be reupholstered.  For this piece, I had some fun adding a glamorous feel with a silver leaf finish on the legs, plus I replaced the foam and fabric with a modern geometric. 

Here’s what it looked like last week. 

goodwill velvet chair before


And now.

kates silver leaf chair after


I went back and forth deciding whether to add some tufting with fabric covered buttons, but decided with the glitzy silver leaf and the swirling detail on this Annie Selke Pearls Slate fabric, to skip the tufting this time. 

I find the best way to understand how to reupholster a chair is to analyze the original upholstery job.  This particular chair was a hint more complicated because of the necessity of tacking strips along the back of the chair.


tacking strips

For those who don’t know what they are, tacking strips are a tool used by professionals to create a clean edge with fabric where there is a visible seam.  You can find them in fabric stores or order them online too. 

Stripping an old upholstered piece is time consuming and an icky job.  There are always a zillion tacks and staples to pull, and you’ll often find the foam and old batting underneath is disintegrated.  Ewww.

chair anatomy


It took me an hour to get it down to this frame.  The springs were in great shape so I left them intact, then gave the visible parts of the frame and the legs a coat of spray gray primer, which is a great base if you’re planning to silver leaf a piece. 

chair bare frame


You get a subtle crinkly texture with silver leaf, but it is a pain in the patootie to apply.  I followed the same method as with this silver leaf lamp.  However, with the chair, I couldn’t get the silver leaf to settle in the ridges very well, plus it was shinier than I really wanted, so I used some ‘Silver Leaf’ Rub ‘n Buff over the top to tone down the reflection a bit and fill in the ridges. 

Then I protected it with my new favorite: wipe on water based Varathane Polyurethane in ‘Satin’.  I found it at OSH and it’s so easy to use.  Wipe a small amount on a rag, then wipe the protectant on your piece, easy peasy.    silver leaf finish

The combo of the three led to this finish. 

rubbed silver leaf finish


Gray primer + silver spray paint could achieve a similar look, but the‘Silver Leaf’ Rub ‘n Buff creates a muted, hand rubbed sheen that’s so pretty.  Once the legs and frame were covered in the silver, I reupholstered the chair with new foam and batting.

new foam and batting


As an alternative, I could have sewn a slipcover for the top, then tacked it underneath, but I thought this chair was a great opportunity to practice some more with tacking strips.  If I was going to tuft the chair with fabric covered buttons like this headboard, it would be right at this stage (creating a hole in that batting of course).

back of chair before


You can see in the ‘Before’ how the original tufting occurred by pulling the buttons with twine and securing them to the wood frame before sealing the back of the chair with tack strips.

tufting underneath


To close up the back of the chair, I chose flexible metal tacking strips, also called flexible curve ease, with metal teeth.  I found this metal tacking strip at Beacon Fabrics for about $1.50 a yard. 

metal tacking strip


With needle nose pliers and a hammer, you attach the strip with 3/4 inch nails (or upholstery tacks).  Then you wedge your fabric inside the metal teeth, then fold the teeth over for a clean seam, hammering it closed with a mallet.

tacking strips on back


Finally, I had to hide the stapled edges around the legs.  When hiding stapled edges, you basically have three choices.  1) Sew your own double welt cord,  2) Hide the staples with gimp, or 3) Cover them with nailhead trim. 

In this case, I chose pewter nailhead trim to complement the silver leaf finish.  To apply nailhead trim, hold them individually in place with needle nose pliers, then use a mallet (not a hammer) to gently pound them into the chair.

pewter nailhead trim


silver leaf vanity chair


This thrift store chair now sits in my master bathroom.  Of course this type of gilding isn’t for everyone, but I do like how it adds a touch of Old Hollywood glamour. 



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151 Responses to “Silver Leaf Vanity Chair”

  1. Wow – your chair looks amazing! I have a similiar one that’s in desperate need of a facelift, but rigid springs make the seat really uncomfortable. Did you have the same problem? I’m wondering if foam and batting would do the trick or if my chair needs more serious help.

  2. Loribeth says:

    You’re making me think that maybe I could upholster a chair I have in my living room myself… I have the fabric, but I’m not sure I want to attempt the back myself… Might be worth tearing it apart to see how they have it put together… hmmmm..

  3. Amazing job! so pretty – enjoy it!

  4. Allison says:

    I think your chair is gorgeous, Kate. Very glamorous! You did a beautiful job and that is stunning fabric. I just finished my first ever chair! I am many steps behind you in and have lots to learn to produce a beautiful chair like your chair but I had fun and think mine turned out OK for my first one. You are an inspiration with all that you do.

  5. Wow! It’s beautiful. I’m so impressed, Kate!

  6. Karen says:

    I love the silver leaf legs and nail head trim. Silver and nail heads are two of my favorite things. I also love tufting but I think your new look is gorgeous.

  7. Michaela says:

    Amazing, Kate! I love the color, the nail head trim and the shape. So great when you can refinish something and make it look beautiful!

  8. Carmel says:

    Wow- look at those beautiful legs! This came out so great! You always make it look so easy!

  9. Claire Rose says:

    Looks divine! The added bling of the silver leaf makes it a show stopper! Beauty!!

  10. Ryan says:

    Looks fantastic. You did a great job once again.

  11. Monique says:

    Another beautiful piece, Kate. You made this look easy but I’m sure it was far from it. Do you know if it’s possible to paint over the silver leaf if in a few years you want to change it up? Also, did you use foam and batting purchased used specifically for upholstery? Or did you use quilt batting and less dense foam from a fabric store?

  12. Nancy says:

    You are amazing!!!!!! I wish I had your talent!

    Gorgeous, gorgeous chair!!!!!

  13. Are you the best of What – I just adore you and your blog. You do everything. I think when your kids get a lil older you should do this full time and sell em. I’d buy it. You are the best

  14. Sydney says:

    Wow! Thanks so much for sharing that phenomenal inspiration!

  15. Liz says:

    Oh my gosh! This project turned out beautifully! I love your fabric choice and the silver leafed legs just pulled it all together! As usual another brilliant job! Thanks so much for sharing.

  16. HA!… I have been using Rub n’ buff for years… it is getting so hard to find around here!.. Love what it did for your chair… beautiful!

    Maddie- The D.A.

  17. Yikes .. the chair guts looks intimidating yet u made the proceess seem do-able. Not sure if I could had done it without crying I don’t wanna work on this anymore :) Thanks for sharing ur process!

  18. Susan says:

    Great job on the chair, Kate…it really turned out beautifully!

  19. Rachel says:

    WOW… this looks incredible!! thats seriously a fabulous chair!

  20. love the fabric… such a great pattern! you did an amazing job!! love it!!

  21. Brianna says:

    beautiful job!!! I love the lines of the chair, very pretty

  22. Katy Kenney says:

    Beautiful job! I’m a new fan of your site and talent. What is the color gray on your wall in the vanity with this chair? Thanks!

  23. Lynda says:

    WOW!! LOVE the finish you rubbed on! Much more detailed than just spray painting – to mix & layer the finishes! Wonderful before & after transformation! You ROCK Kate!!

    :D Lynda

  24. Natasha says:

    Wow! The transformation of this chair is amazing! I have been reading your blog since you appeared on the Nate Berkus show and I am amazed daily at things you do. You are blessed! Great job.

  25. Suzanne says:

    I am DYING! that chair is gorg!

  26. Courtney says:

    Beyond gorgeous!

  27. Kate, this is one sexy chair! I do a fair amount of reupholstery and it’s a bear, isn’t it? The self satisfaction from it is great, though. This is a beautiful job. Love seeing what you do!

  28. Awesome, awesome, awesome! Thanks for showing how the tufting would go. I have a chair that I want to re-do, but I had no idea how to do that back. I guess I’ll be learning how to use tack strips!

  29. Lindsay says:

    Oh I forgot to leave the link to the dry brush painted console table my husband refinished…Thank you again for the FABULOUS tutorial!! Every one who walks in loves it!

  30. Lori says:

    This chair is GORGEOUS! You inspire me!

  31. Mindy says:

    Love your DIY! Will you please let me know the brand/model of your staple gun? I am going to buy one and do some upholstering. There are so many varieties. I don’t which one I shall buy.


  32. monica montes says:

    WOW! what an AWESOME tutorial. u r a serious CRAFT NINJA. this was truly inspiring. i’ve always wanted to redo furniture but never thought i could. thanks a million. your chair looks GORGEOUS! congrats. and keep crafting.

  33. pam says:

    GORGEOUS!!! Just gorgeous before (well not the before) & after!! Love the colors you used, it’s so fresh looking! Bravo!

  34. Karen says:

    Wow! Not only did you make a clean back seam, but you perfectly matched the pattern on both sides of the seam. Surely that is serious bonus points!

  35. rasha says:

    love love love ur work…u always get me inspired…im not silver leafing a dresser while im wrting this comment:))) i have a question when i put the nail head the space between them looks always weird can you achieve this clean look? thx

  36. Erica Athena says:

    What a beautiful transformation, i love old hollywood glamour and i love this chair. It makes me wanna go find a chair right away to take on this project.

  37. Jen in NM says:

    Hi, Kate – Where did you learn to upholster? I’ve looked for a long time for classes, but there are none offered where I live. Can you recommend a book or video, or did you just go at it and learn by trial and error? I scored a fabulous teak mid-century chair at Goodwill for (swoon!) $5.99, but according to a local shop, it needs $160 of reupholstering. I’m thinking of tackling it myself (eBay was a great source for period-appropriate fabric!). Thanks – as others have said, your blog is so inspiring!

  38. Sherry says:

    LOVE the chair!!

  39. B King says:

    I want to silver leaf or matallic paint 6 dining room chairs. Not very confident! Thanks for the recommendations.

  40. Kate Belair says:

    WOW! thank you ! I have always want to know how this is done. i have 2 chairs of my own that i have inherited that desperately need an overhaul. Now i feel inspired to try. So grateful you took the time to show us.


  41. Erin says:

    hi! i just found your blog through Pinterest & i love all your ideas! i can handle the furniture painting, but this chair project looks like a lot of work. it turned out great, very pretty chair, love the fabric you chose! can’t wait to see more furniture redos! thanks for the tips!! :)

  42. Kathy says:

    Hi–Thanks to my addiction to Pinterest I have discovered your lovely blog with a TON of eye candy!! You have such awesome skill & I just LOVE all of your transformations (& creations!)! I would love to have just an ounce of your talent!! :) Blessings from your newest follower!!

  43. gold says:


    […]Centsational Girl » Blog Archive » Silver Leaf Vanity Chair[…]…

  44. Marie says:

    I’m usually more of a gold fan, but I really like this. Great job! It is beautiful at your vanity. I’ve been trying to get up the courage to try to reupholster our dining chairs and your post is definitely motivation/inspiration.

  45. Elva says:

    Hi Kate. May I ask what your opinion is regarding silver leaf on bigger pieces of furniture? I am searching for a bomb-type chest for my bedroom. I love the shiny/silver guilderdlook, but was wondering if ‘guilding’ would be difficult and expensive on such a large piece. How do you recommend achieving the look you have on these chair legs on a much bigger piece?
    Thanks, Elva

  46. Heather says:

    Thank you for this! I have 6 antique chairs that were my grandmother’s from the 1940’s that I want to reupholster. You made it look so easy. I hope I can do as nice a job as you!

  47. marox79 says:

    What a neat job!!
    New follower here.

  48. ALTA BURLS says:

    Hi Kate, i am an old hand at DIY but being in SA and still having my daytime job, i have not got around to surfing the net too much., love your work.
    can i ask a question? what is silver leaf, is it readily available.
    i painted a side table with Aluminium paint, the type we used to paint downpipes with years ago. it looks perfect, but gives off. you have to varnish it.??
    do you think we will find all the products you used in SA.?

  49. Laura says:

    Absolutely gorgeous !!

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