August 26, 2013

How to Make a La-Z-Boy Recliner Less Ugly: Part 1

While we all have our differing design opinions, I think one thing everyone can agree on is that La-Z-boy recliners are made for comfort, not looks; in other words, they're ugly. They're kind of the Crocs of the furniture world. Or, as Shakespeare once wrote, "all slouched and puffy, beautifying nothing"--or something to that effect.

But the thing is, they really are comfortable. We have a rocking recliner that we inherited from my parents and I haven't wanted to get rid of it because I'm pretty sure it's the only chair I could sit in comfortably for weeks after having my first baby. It was also the chair my mom lived in for almost the entire time she had cancer, so although I'm notoriously unsentimental, even I can acknowledge that it was a little bit personal in this case. And lastly, they're expensive chairs. But the upholstery was starting to tear in places and it had a perma-smell that made it impossible to leave as-is. (Not to mention the ugly factor.)

A true beauty, no?
I put this off for a long time because every time I looked at how the upholstery was done, I'd get overwhelmed and decide it would be too much work and I'd probably ruin it. Unlike other things I've upholstered, this was mostly sewn together and then stapled on in larger pieces. There were gathered seams everywhere and a semi-attached back and moving parts and blah, blah, blah. Too much work. But eventually, I decided I would reupholster it my own way instead of trying to copy how it was originally done.

I started by getting my fabric: a very durable soft grey velvet. I got 7.5 yards (but ended up with more than a yard leftover). Then I got this button cover kit. I knew I wanted to do button tufting on the back because it was the only way to get away with not sewing the seams. Since the back is concave, there needed to be something to pull the fabric back or it wouldn't work at all. Plus, I like the look of button tufting.

Making my circles on the fabric with the template from the kit. 

I was seriously surprised when the buttons turned out just right. I notched the edges of the circle with scissors all around to help the fabric go in smoother and it worked beautifully. It did take a lot of pressure on the buttons to get the backs on tight, but it was nothing my heel couldn't handle.

Then I started tearing the old fabric off my recliner (which got me a well deserved, "you're brave" from my husband). I had to reach in some pretty tight spaces next to metal gliding mechanisms to reach the screws to remove the seat from the chair. Sadly, that was probably the hardest part for me, and I had very bruised and scraped hands to show for it.

Fabric finally off!
I used a long upholstery needle to secure my buttons through the padding and stuff in the seat back. You have to pull really hard when doing tufting, FYI. I used some strong upholstery thread so it wouldn't break and then tied it to the back springs of the chair. Luckily, none of the button backs popped off like I was afraid they might. The diamond shape in the tufting naturally occurs when you place the buttons in the right pattern, but if you want more detail on how to do it, here is a good tutorial.

See the little white threads tied on there? 
After the fabric was stapled all around the edges

For the back, I used a piece of cardboard to make a straight line at the top for the staples to go into. This might seem weird and amateurish, but guess what? It's the way it was originally done. You'd be surprised at how often cardboard is used in upholstery. The fabric flips down and covers the cardboard, of course. It's much better than having a zig-zaggy line from staples alone.

For the sides, I reused the metal tack strips that were originally used there (they look like this). They're easier to use than they look. I also used them in the same place on my wingback chair upholstery and it makes the fabric tight and secure. Then I stapled the fabric at the bottom of the chair back and I was done with the first piece of the chair.

I was actually just trying to get a picture of the chair back here, but my girls just can't resist being on camera.
 So there you go! Part 2 coming soon . . .

P.S. Apparently La-Z-Boy is trying to revamp their image and add a little style to their furniture. They're now using the age-old tactic of having Brooke Shields as their spokesperson.


  1. We have a rocking recliner that we inherited from my parents and I haven't wanted ...

  2. I think this recliner is best in the world of recliner and of course have to give good impression on your work. I want to learn from you. If anyone wants to buy a new recliner can help for the best.


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