How to de Upholster a Wingback Chair

You can head over to You Tube and see about a gajillion tutorials on upholstering wingback chairs and other comfy lounge chairs but learning how to de upholster the fully upholstered chair, loveseat and sofa is crucial to learning the craft of upholstery. Most videos and tutorials leave out the ins and outs of good teardown. De upholstering, or tearing down, can evoke more whining and complaining from eager upholstery students than you can even imagine. Sorry to break it to you, but it’s still the VERY BEST instruction for learning about furniture construction,  upholstery techniques, cuts, slices and staples.  It’s what we call experiential learning, don’t ya know?

I hastily purchased this wing chair for a demonstration workshop I did last summer at the Haven Conference. As I got deeper into preparing for the workshop, I realized this chair would not hold the attention of a room full of DIY-ers. I ended up using another wingback chair that was more straightforward and much easier to digest in a 30 minute workshop.


Going though my photos, I found the folder with these Big Wingback Teardown images.  Removing the fabric pieces in the correct order, labeling and pressing them flat does you a world of good before you get started. Even though you’re antsy to start applying fabric, you need to do the prep work well. It pays dividends down the road. I just went ahead and chalked the standard upholstery abbreviations on each piece before removing them. The pieces are identified as you are looking at the front of the chair head on.

OB-Back, ROA-Right Outside Arm,  LOA-Left Outside Arm, ROW-Right Outside Wing, LOW-Left Outside Wing, RIA-Right Inside Arm, LIA-Left Inside Arm, RIW-Right Inside Wing, LIW-Left Inside Wing, IB-Inside Back, D-Deck (which includes the nose, or lip) and possibly a FB-Front Band.

Did you even know there’s a correct order to tear down upholstered furniture? There is, and this is it:

Remove the bottom dust cover (cambric).

Lift and remove all the tacks or staples around the bottom cording and all four rails.

Now remove the sides of the outside back, which may either be hand stitched, or attached with a metal pronged tack strip.

Once the sides are unhitched, you’ll have to remove the back piece by taking out staples or tacks along the top, back rail which will most likely be attached with a piece of cardboard tack strip.

On this style of wingback, you have to pop off the front arm panel and then undo the front roll in order to unhook the staples at the top of the outside arms.

The outside arm has to be removed before you can access the attached bottom of the outside wing. Once the lower panel is gone, you’ll see where the bottom of the wing is attached.This doesn’t show it, but the outside wing is attached with curve-ease (metal pronged bendable gripper, or hand sewn in place)

Now you will start to see how the puzzle is put together.

The inside wing can now be removed. The picture below shows how the removal of the inside wing reveals how the inside arms are clipped so that they can fit up snugly against the wing so that the wing fabric will fit down over the clips, probably with a piece of welt cord.

(You need to photograph these steps on your chair so that you’ll know what to do. It’s crazy how quickly you forget how the pieces were attached.)

Now that the inside wing is gone, it’s time to unhook any remaining staples that hold fabric to the back and bottom rails.

Next, undo all the staples that hold the inside back in place, but you may want to leave the fabric loose on the inside back. The padding will stay in tact when there’s fabric on top. You can remove the fabric when it’s time to attach the new inside back fabric. I took it off here, just to show you what it looks like. If you leave it off like this, when you start attaching the inside wings and arms, it tends to get caught on that cotton.

Now, take off the other inside arm and the decking.

When you flip up the nose (or lip) piece, pay close attention to how the seam allowance is hand stitched with upholsterer’s twine to the canvas or burlap that covers the springs.  When you remove the whole piece, you’ll take the decorative fabric off the twill decking. Use the seam ripper to take out darts, iron that oddly shaped piece flat so that it can be used as a pattern to cut out your new fabric. It’s a tricky little bugger, but after a few of these chairs, you’ll see many different ways that it’s done.

We’re almost finished with de Upholstering our wing chair. Once your chair is all stripped of its old fabric, then where do you begin? Start by cutting out your new nose piece and then just retrace your footsteps.

Now it’s time for the fun work. Be sure to add a few extra inches to each fabric edge that was stapled in place. By this time, the previous upholsterer already trimmed off a few inches ou’ll have to add them back in order to give yourself enough fabric to pull and staple. You can do your trimming at the end.

Good Luck and email me if you have any problems.








Posted in chair, tutorials, upholstery | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

6 Responses to How to de Upholster a Wingback Chair

  1. Bill Chagnon says:

    You hit the nail right on the head with this one. The first time I tried to strip a chair I just tore into it . It was very hard to strip that way and I really had no clue as to how it would all go back together. After 17 years I have finally mastered the art of teardown and I still mark the pieces. I also take pictures before and during teardown to remind myself of certain details.

  2. Mary says:

    How very strange that I’ve opened this on my return from our first session of this term’s classes with Marguerite in Hartlepool – and I’ve been deupholstering a wingback chair! Glad to say that I’m doing it in the right order. But how easy you make it sound to ‘lift and remove all staples’. It’ll take me nearly as long to strip the chair as to reupholster it.

  3. shellyleer says:

    Mary, I feel your pain!!! haha!!

  4. I am upholstering a wing chair that has panels just like the one here being displayed. my question is, where can I purchase new front arm panels the ones on this chair are busted and cannot be reused. I tried making some with cardboard BUT will not work in the middle it wrinklesi am desperate can u send me a reply by tomorrow or what can I make some out of that will work nicely thank u Sandra Vernon please reply to my email

  5. Ina Ribeiro says:

    Oh my! When I saw the pictures sequence I asked me if would be able.
    Are so many details and I’m fear doing wrong things and destroy the armchair.

  6. Jhonaiker says:

    I painted an old club type chair 10 years ago. Was the eeisast thing I’ve ever done that had such great results. I painted everything except the bottom and back cushion. I then removed the back cushion and tacked a large decorative pillow as the back and just covered the bottom cushion with a piece of white faux fur. Ten years later this is still my favorite chair in the house. Don’t hesitate it works! Hint: I cut the bristles on the paint brush down to about 1 inch in length to basically scrub and rub the paint into the fabric. And used Latex eggshell paint with 2 coats.