IKEA Hack: Painting Fabric Chairs

IKEA Hack: Painting Fabric ChairsI could happily spend hours shopping at IKEA. At this point, I feel like I should have an assigned parking spot at mine. But what I love even more than shiny new IKEA furniture (I’m a pro with an Allen wrench) is second-hand IKEA furniture that needs a little remaking.

My good pal Erin Gardner generously gifted me four of these IKEA Solsta Olarp chairs for the new studio and I was beyond grateful — seating AND a DIY project? Yes, please.

IKEA Hack: Painting Fabric ChairsThese guys had been used in Erin’s bakery for tasting appointments with clients, and considering how in demand the creations of Wild Orchid Baking Co. are, these chairs got a lot of use. (Martha Stewart has twice in one month shined a spotlight on Erin’s work, so you can see why we named her a Creative Genius a few months ago.)

IKEA Hack: Painting Fabric ChairsThe chairs were in great shape overall, but the smudges and stains on the cream colored fabric weren’t budging. I needed to give these modern ladies a full makeover, and I’m not exactly well versed in re-upholstering chairs. Or anything. Upholstery scares me. So I did a little research and decided to paint them. Yup, PAINT. It was so much easier than I thought, and the chairs came out PERFECTLY. I consider this an IKEA hack success all around. Hooray for secondhand IKEA, and hooray for a DIY win (#diywin).

Click in the top right corner of any image below to see the how-to process in a larger photo gallery.


Step 1

 Open GalleryIKEA Hack: Painting Fabric ChairsThe first step was to give the chairs a quick cleaning. I scrubbed the chairs with a damp sponge and let them dry completely.

Step 2

 Open GalleryIKEA Hack: Painting Fabric ChairsWhile the chairs were drying, I rounded up my supplies. I grabbed a few bottles of fabric medium, a quart of flat paint (Benjamin Moore in Space Black), a spray bottle of warm water, and a small paint brush. The fabric medium is critical — it keeps the paint from drying too stiffly or flaking off after the paint is dry.

Step 3

 Open GalleryIKEA Hack: Painting Fabric ChairsThe ratio of your mixture should be one part fabric medium to two parts paint. In my case, six ounces of fabric medium to twelve ounces of paint. Mix well, and you’re on your way.

Step 4

 Open GalleryIKEA Hack: Painting Fabric ChairsBy the way, here’s a few quick tips from an indoor painting project pro: 1)pick up an apron you can use just for paint projects, 2)designate an old pair of pants for painting projects so you don’t ruin multiple pairs of pants, and 3) when painting indoors, paint barefoot. You might not notice if you get paint on your shoe or socks, and can then track paint ALL OVER THE PLACE. But you’ll definitely notice if you get paint on your bare foot and can wipe it off immediately.

Step 5

 Open GalleryIKEA Hack: Painting Fabric ChairsOK, now that you know I paint mostly barefoot, we’re ready to paint this lovely, albeit slightly smudgy, lady.

Step 6

 Open GalleryIKEA Hack: Painting Fabric ChairsBefore you start slinging paint, use your spray bottle to wet down the fabric. This helps the paint go on in smoother and thinner coats. The fabric doesn’t need to be wet, just damp.

Step 7

 Open GalleryIKEA Hack: Painting Fabric ChairsOnce your fabric is damp, brush on a thin coat of paint, following the grain of the fabric.

Step 8

 Open GalleryIKEA Hack: Painting Fabric ChairsLet the paint dry completely for a few hours. I was expecting to need multiple coats to get full coverage, but I was pleasantly surprise when one coat was all I needed. Once the paint dried, the fabric was slightly stiffer than it was before paint, but it was still flexible. The paint gave the fabric an almost oil-cloth look and texture, which I love.

Step 9

 Open GalleryIKEA Hack: Painting Fabric ChairsThe chairs looked significantly better with a jet black coat of paint, but I wanted to add a bit of character, so I threw together a makeshift stamp using a sheet of crafting foam and some rigid insulation I had lying around. I made a template with card stock and started cutting.

Step 10

 Open GalleryIKEA Hack: Painting Fabric ChairsHere’s my finished stamp. I glued the craft foam, which would be the actual stamp, to the cutout of insulation, to give the painted surface some stiffness to press down against.

Step 11

 Open GalleryIKEA Hack: Painting Fabric ChairsI grabbed a small container of matte fabric paint in white for the stamped design.

Step 12

 Open GalleryIKEA Hack: Painting Fabric ChairsI did a couple of test stamps to figure out how much paint to use and how to best load the paint onto the stamp. Rather than pressing the stamp into a layer of paint, the stamp came out best when I used a small paintbrush to spread a thin layer of paint onto the stamp.

Step 13

 Open GalleryIKEA Hack: Painting Fabric ChairsOnce I was ready to put my stamp to good use, I worked out a quick layout for placement. I used the center point of the back of the chair for the first stamp, and then marked out spacing at six inches along the top of the chair and down the front-facing arms. The stamping took all of about 15 minutes and after that, all that was left was to step back and enjoy the fruit of my labor. This IKEA hack just made my studio look a whole lot more chic and the total cost for remaking all four chairs was just under $50. Not bad for a day’s work.



  • A clean spray bottle
  • Paint brush
About Ellen Foord 


A tight budget has never stopped Ellen Foord from creating a beautiful, modern, creative home and treating every day as one of life's smaller celebrations. A freelance writer and ...

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15 Responses

  1. i'm asking the same thing what is a fabric medium

  2. jscpsb2 says:

    I've never heard of " fabric medium". Where do you purchase it?

    • Connie says:

      I have a LEATHER loveseat & sofa which are a dark green & faded, but in good condition otherwise. Can you paint leather material?? I have them in our somewhat finished basement.

  3. Charlcy says:

    I bought special paint for fabric that I was ASSURED would NOT dry stiff, but alas it did. After a whole can of paint, the chair isn't all covered & it feels like tree bark! Is there ANYTHING I can do to make the chair usable now?

  4. Joanne says:

    Such a great idea. I have some of these chairs but they have picked up the odd mark being cream. Only thing is these are in my bridal boutique so they need to be pretty colour fast if I go for a bold color, especially black (which would look best). How have you found the paint for colour fastness. Thanks :)

  5. McKenna says:

    Do you think it would work on a fabric that isn't as smooth as the one on the chairs?

  6. Jennifer F. says:

    Did the fabric feel scratchy and not soft after painting it?

  7. floriany says:

    Le fauteuil est unique, et en plus design, je doute que je sois capable de le faire, mais c'est sympa

  8. Veronica says:

    I'm looking to give this a try this weekend on a chair I found on the side of the road…I'm curious, how do you think this would hold up outside? I want to put the chair under my porch but I'm afraid I need to apply like an indoor/outdoor clear spray which would basically make it hard…

  9. JeanineQ says:

    This is so cool. I had a white sofa and love seat that at one time had slipcovers on them. I kept wondering if it was possible to paint them. Too bad I didn't see this before I got rid of them 6 mo. ago.

  10. wilma says:

    I have a red microfiber couch that is sun bleached – I would like to paint a simple lined design on with bleach – is this possible or will the fabric fall apart
    Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you

  11. Susan B in Tennessee says:

    I moved from a 600 sq. ft. mobile home to a 3100 sq.ft. house. Can we say it's a little bit bare? I've been haunting thrift stores and auctions for bits and pieces to fill up the wide open spaces. One is an ugly green chair my sister fell in love with as it fits her tall frame without looking too masculine. I don't want to reupholster because it has a tufted back and wooden trim inserts on the wings and the front of the armrests. I hope your method works on fuzzy fabric as painting it seems the only easy way out. Dsis repainted her room (it was Tennessee Vols orange!) and there's plenty of her paint left. I think I'll recover the seat cushion in a complementary print instead of painting it, though.

  12. wawomom says:

    Would this work on a 100% silk love seat? It's cream colored with stains around the skirt and cushions.. I'd love to have it stay the same color but would it be better to paint it a darker color? This love seat would be used in a semi formal room. I wish I could just have it cleaned but have been told that cleaning pure silk is impossible.

  13. emily says:

    It looks so nice, Ellen! That's a cool paint mixture that I'll have to try someday – I can't believe it only took one coat!

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