Wednesday, March 20, 2013

d. i. y. French Louis Chair

Lou-ay, Lou-ay... we love Louis XV style chairs, but it's hard to find one in the perfect fabric at a reasonable price. So, we devised a way to easily create a custom Louis XV style fauteuil for less than $200. (Designer fact of the day to whip out at your next dinner party: a fauteuil refers to an open arm 18th century French chair, whereas a bergere is an enclosed, upholstered French armchair. Now you know!)

We started with this here chair we found at because it had good bones at a great price but was begging for a face lift. (We love furniture from Overstock because everything ships for FREE and items come in project-perfect condition, a.k.a. disassembled. Don't all Versailles decorators shop at Overstock?) We also encourage dumpster diving and antique furniture shopping.    

A few more Louis XV and XVI style chairs we heart to inspire your project:

Image courtesy of
Images courtesy of Lonny Magazine
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Image courtesy of Ruby Press
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Ok, ready? You will need:

1. Louis XV style chair
2. Fabric of your choice (We recommend 2 yards plus extra if you want a coordinating pillow. And of course you want a coordinating pillow!)
3. Contrasting piping or rope (Measure enough to wrap the seat and back cushion.)
4. Paint (We recommend Behr Ultra in Flat Matte as you do not need a separate primer. Tip: Paint stores including Home Depot sell a sample size which is more than enough. Color used: Oregano Spice)
5. Medium grit sandpaper
6. Staple gun (our favorite tool) and staples
7. Fabric glue (We like Aleene's Fabric Fusion Permanent Dry Cleanable Fabric Adhesive.)

The how:

1. Gently sand the finish off the wood areas.  
2. Next, cover the wood areas with paint and let dry.  For a vintage look as seen on our chair, apply only a small amount of paint at a time using an old, dry brush, and don't cover edges and corners completely. The trick to creating an "aged" instead of "messy" appearance is to keep paint strokes going in a consistent direction.
3. Rip the fabric off the existing cushions. (We don't have a great method for this; just have at it!)  
4. Now pull your fabric taught and cover the seat cushion with fabric, wrapping corners like a present. Staple on the back side to the wood and trim edges. (We weren't even neat about it since no one is going under the chair!)  
5. Staple piping or rope trim around the entire bottom cushion edge.
6. Since the back cushion is attached, measure the amount of fabric needed to cover the cushion plus 1/2" seam allowance. Use a thin object (ie: flat screwdriver) to tuck seam allowance between cushion and chair.  
7. Apply glue to the back of your piping or rope (a few inches at a time) and tuck in along the back cushion edge. (Start and finish on a lower corner so transition is more discreet.)
8. Assemble the chair as per the directions.

Et voila! (As Louis would say.)  

Pillow courtesy of Pottery Barn (old).

Want to learn more about French Louis chairs? Design*Sponge featured a great article including a creative chair leg candlestick project here.


  1. Hi! I am just curious if you ended up doing this with your dining table/chairs. I have a set from the 60's that is fairly sentimental - it is from my grandparents - but I am wanting to repaint it. I don't want to sand it either. I was thinking of doing something like this: Furniture (dining set at the bottom). If you have any advice, I sure would appreciate it. You did a beautiful job, thank you for sharing this!

    1. Hi Liana! Thanks so much for reading and that sounds like a wonderful project! Furniture with a history is our favorite, so we're glad you got in touch. I actually did repaint the legs of my dining room chairs too, although I sanded those as well before painting. (*Tip: if you do end up painting, don't forget to use painter's tape to protect the cushions from getting paint on them.) Unfortunately, we don't see what dining set you are referring to on the Furniture website, but if you even want to e-mail us a photo of the chairs, we'd be more than happy to try to help. One suggestion we have if the chairs are sentimental but you want to give them a lift is to purchase slipcovers. (We're personally fans of the slipcovers at The shape of the chairs will determine if this is a good option, though, so again, feel free to e-mail them to us if you'd like further assistance. Thanks again for your interest and good luck with your project!
      Warmest, Liz (and Lo)


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