Sharon O'Conner with upcycled piano stool

Upcycle a vintage piano stool in six steps

Practical and multi-purpose, a piano stool is a great introductory upholstery project if you’re lucky enough to own or come across one.

I’m a big believer in the fact that anything can have a new purpose with a bit of imagination. Piano stools may not be as popular as they once were, but they’re a great, multi-purpose piece of furniture. Providing extra seating when you need it, plus a place for extra storage, a piano stool really is a functional thing to have around the house.

This vintage piano stool was picked up at the tip by my BBC Money For Nothing colleague EJ Osborne from Hatchet and Bear. As with all the projects I take on for the show, the stool needed some work, but that’s never stopped me before! Unless something is completely falling apart, it’s always able to be transformed. The most important thing is whether the item has potential, and this stool had stacks.

Follow these steps to a totally transformed vintage piano stool…


It might sound obvious, but the first step with any piece destined for upcycling is to give it a really good clean. Years of dirt, dust and cobwebs do build up and there could be all kinds of debris lurking beneath. Sponge down with some soapy water and dry well.

Old vintage piano stool in need of upcycling


Next up, I like to take a step back and work out a plan. Does anything need fixing or adjusting, and how can we make this process as straightforward as possible? Luckily, this particular piano stool came apart easily due to handy thumbnail screws within the storage compartment. That made my job so much easier when it came to painting the wood and fixing in the refurbished seat pad. The original screws on the padded section of the lid had been lost, which made it loose, so I added four replacement screws to make the mechanism as good as new.

Piano stool compartment

I also added new foam under the lid as the old foam had seen better days and attached a fire retardant inter-liner to make it compliant with current fire safety regulations.

Old vintage piano stool with hidden compartment


Often, I won’t advise that my customers paint over old wood but it all depends on the condition of the piece. Look out for a nice grain or tone to the wood. In this case, the scratched veneer wasn’t doing it for me, so I settled on a striking navy-blue spray paint from the Montana range, which I love for its coverage, colours and durability.

Dismantled piano stool legs

It’s the details that always make the difference to my projects and therefore I added a flash of neon yellow on the tips of the legs to showcase its curves.

Upcycled piano stool painted in purple


Choosing a fabric is my favourite part of the whole upholstery process. The right pattern or print has the potential to make or break your piece, and I relish the challenge of getting it spot on. Piano stools are traditionally covered in a plain velvet or leather so I thought a print would be the perfect way to mix things up here.

I had wanted to use Emma Shipley’s Animalia fabric since it was launched, and the Rousseau print on cotton was the ideal size and scale for the piano stool lid. The design features an intricately hand-drawn pattern of winding foliage, peacock feathers and small birds and creatures. Stunning!

Emma Shipley’s Animalia fabric - The Rousseau print in cotton

But why stop at one fabric when you can have three? For a pop of colour, I chose two different shades of bright velvet by Kirkby Design – one for the underside of the piano stool and the other for the inside of the lid. I always like to add detail where you least expect it, and in this case making the underside every bit as fabulous as the top was the answer.

Bright velvet Kirkby Design fabric on piano stool


Okay, this is the tricky part, but don’t be daunted. Trial and error is what it takes to get better at upholstery, and this is a good level to begin at. The real bonus here is that the seat pad and base both popped out so you can access them easily. I used staples to secure the fabric in place as I didn’t want to use tacks which could damage the wood. Getting the tension right is all-important, especially as this stool is bound to be sat on many times. The fabric needs to be stretched tight so it’s durable enough for everyday use.

Emma Shipley’s Animalia fabric - The Rousseau print in cotton on a piano stool


To complete the transformation, all that was left to do was screw the legs back on and fix everything in its place. And there you have it – a handy stool, with its own secret storage compartment.

Completed upcycled and upholstered vintage piano stool

Catch me on the current series of BBC One’s Money For Nothing on weekday afternoons for more upcycling inspiration or contact me directly on 07764 182783 if you have your very own piano stool that you’d like me to re-upholster!

The above transformation is adapted from a feature which originally ran in Inspiralist.

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