an upholstered ottoman with a flowery themed pattern

5 Simple Upholstery Projects for Beginners

When you first get started in upholstery, the most important thing is to master the basics and practice, practice, practice. With a bit of patience and by starting with something simple, trust me, you will gradually build your knowledge and confidence. Before you know it, you’ll be tackling more complex projects. Imagine taking up running – you wouldn’t expect to complete a marathon straight away. Same thing with upholstery. If you choose an achievable transformation, you can get familiar with the basics and build up to something like a sofa, or a precious antique chair over time. Here are 5 projects I recommend to anyone just starting out…

1) Chair with drop-in seat pad

Possibly the easiest project to begin with and also one of the most common pieces you’ll come across at the tip, on an online marketplace or in a charity shop.

Tips to success:

The reason I recommend this for starters is because you are going to learn the fundamental skills you need as an upholsterer here. Namely, stripping back followed by creating the right tension and a precise finish with your top fabric. You won’t need to worry yourself yet with anything else too technical, although start thinking about how you can enhance wood colour and grain with a few basic tricks. Bonus is that you’ll only need minimal tools and you’ll see a big transformation with a great fabric and a little repair work.

two upholstered chairs with blue drop-in seat pads

2) Piano Stool

Practical and multi-purpose, a piano stool is a great introductory upholstery project if you’re lucky enough to own or come across one. They may not be as commonplace as they once were, but providing extra seating when you need it, plus a place for secret storage, it really is a functional piece of furniture to have around the house.

Tips to success:

Depending on its condition, you may need to replace hinges, which is a good lesson in basic woodwork and repair. Knowing when things need fixing or adjusting is all part of the skill of upholstery. Adding detail, like a hidden fabric on the inside of the lid or a flash of colour with paint can soon take something from ordinary to extraordinary.

an upholstered piano stool
a piano stool used for an upholstery project

“Adding detail, like a hidden fabric on the inside of the lid or a flash of colour with paint can soon take something from ordinary to extraordinary.”

3) Dressing Table Stool

I can’t stress enough how much you need to start SMALL. Especially if you’re picking a project to take along to a course or class. Most people underestimate the time things will take. A pretty little stool, like this one, is ideal.

Tips to success:

Upholstery is full of surprises! Especially when you’re working with an older piece. Something on this scale will give you the opportunity to trouble shoot unexpected complications and stillstand a chance of completing the project successfully.

an upholstered dressing table stool with a striped pattern
a dressing table stool with black fabric and gold frame for an upholstery project

4) Telephone Table

A telephone table or even a small bench seat is a good project for transformation. The upholstery skills you’ll need will be basic, but the results can be dramatic.

Tips to success:

A removable, upholstered seat on any kind of furniture will give you ample chance to practice your fundamental skills. Because you’re working with a rectangular shape, it means you don’t have to be an expert at navigating curves and corners… Yet!

5) Ottoman

I love the versatility and potential you get with an Ottoman. Whether it’s a place to store household bits and pieces or somewhere to rest your legs, it’s also a great beginner’s upholstery project to get stuck into.

Tips to success:

No legs, backs or arms to worry about – just the art of a perfectly covered top to master on most Ottomans. If you’re tackling a Lloyd Loom ottoman it’s always a good idea to make sure the wicker work is in good condition. I sometimes like to spray paint the wicker to give the piece a whole new lease of life. When you’re taking apart the lid from its hinges, take pictures at every stage so you know how to piece things back together. 

an old, pink fabric ottoman prior to being upholstered
an upholstered ottoman with its lid open showing a pink interior
an upholstered ottoman with a flowery themed pattern

We have an unmissable offer this January for budding upholsterers… Download Virtual Vintique: Upholstery Uncovered with 20% off for a limited time only.

Virtual Vintique is my total beginner’s guide to getting into upholstery. It’s everything I wish I’d known before I got started. In a series of video guides and downloadable resources, I demystify upholstery. How to get into it, what kit you need to get going, what are the skills it takes to master it. Basically, I hope it answers that one burning question… Is upholstery for me?

​To kickstart your new-year goals, we’ve reduced the price from £125 to just £99 (a saving of 20%!) for a limited time onlyClick here to take a look… Use the coupon code: janspecial at the checkout. Hurry though, the offer ends at midnight on Friday 4th February 2022!

Stay up to date

Keep up to date with the latest upholstery news and trends, delivered directly to your inbox.