Alternative Dining Room Chair Fabric Ideas

Dining chair seat being reupholstered

distelfliege / Flickr

When it's time to reupholster your dining chair seats, buying fabric by the yard isn't your only option. Consider repurposing vintage or trash-bound textiles. It's green and cheap—and the look is more unique. Here are six alternative dining room chair fabric ideas:

  • 01 of 06

    Free Fabric Samples

    Upholstery samples

    If you want to use new fabric for your chairs, fabric samples are one of the best bargain fabrics around.

    Furniture stores and upholstery shops typically toss samples when they're discontinued. If you ask, they'll probably give you the discards for free. Among the offerings, you may find expensive designer fabrics you'd never buy by the yard.

    Fabric samples vary in size, but they're ideal for lots of home decor projects, including covering dining chair seats.

    Most hanging samples are large enough to cover a single chair for your desk or den. With larger folded fabric samples, you may have enough for a pair of captain's chairs, or perhaps even a set of small breakfast room chairs.

    Can't find anything but sample books with small swatches? Stitch the samples together for a crafty patchwork effect. 

  • 02 of 06

    Old Quilts

    Stack of handmade quilts

    Karen Burns / Vintage Findings/Moment / Getty Images

    Before quilts were considered collectibles, most were made to be used. Thus, lots of the old ones are in pretty rough shape. You can recycle them by using the undamaged parts to reupholster your dining chair seats.

    Most traditional quilts suit the cozy cottage and country looks. Dining chair seats upholstered with a Victorian crazy quilt look equally at home in Victorian-inspired and boho homes.

    Add an exotic touch to your contemporary or transitional decor by covering your chair seats with an Indian or ​Pakistani Ralli quilt.

  • 03 of 06

    Damaged Rugs

    Stack of rugs

    Michael Marquand / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images

    As with quilts, some of the most beautiful older rugs have too much damage to use them on the floor.

    Repurposing them as chair seat fabric is a great way to display them. Just cut away the threadbare and stained areas. If the good parts aren't large enough to cover a set of chairs, cover just one as an accent for another room.

    Oriental rugs look good with most decor styles. The geometric patterns of flat-woven Navajo or kilim rugs are ideal for casual, country, and contemporary chair seats. Look for a damaged French Aubusson rug if you love romantic or shabby-style interiors.

  • 04 of 06

    Vintage Clothing

    Vintage clothing shop

    miss.libertine / Flickr

    Textiles are textiles, so don't skip the vintage clothing racks when you shop for chair seat fabric. Long caftans, coats, and capes frequently have enough yardage to cover a small set of dining room chairs. 

    Don't dismiss a piece with moth holes or stains, especially if the price is a bargain. You may be able to remove the stains, and you can always cut away the damage.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Exotic and Handcrafted Textiles

    Batik fabric for sale

    Elvert Barnes / Flickr / CC BY-SA

    While you're searching for alternative chair seat fabrics, visit the craft and import booths at fairs and flea markets.

    Hand-dyed pieces, such as batik, plangi, or ikat, look fabulously exotic as chair seat upholstery fabric. Even vintage tie-dye looks charming in the right room.

    The handcrafted fabric look suits bohemian, contemporary, and transitional interiors quite well. You can also use exotic textiles to add an unexpected layer to a traditional room.

    Appliqued fabrics are another good option for your dining chairs. Use fabric samples to create your own applique design on plain fabric, or look for a handmade imported piece, such as a suzani.

    You might not want to use fine examples of textile art on your kitchen chairs if your family spills, but the formal dining room is ideal.

  • 06 of 06

    Thrifted Linens

    Vintage drapery panels

    Sam Howzit / Flickr

    For more vintage (and just plain used) textiles you can recycle as dining chair seat fabric, visit the linen departments of your local thrift stores and consignment shops. Keep your eyes open at estate sales as well.

    Look for discarded custom drapery panels made from patterned barkcloth, cotton toile, or elegant damask. You might also use old bedspreads, perhaps a print with diamond-patterned quilting or vintage chenille.

    If you find a cheerful 1940s tablecloth, cover the chair seats in the kitchen to add color and a bit of retro kitsch.