Alternative Dining Room Chair Fabric Ideas

Cosy Home Interior
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When it's time to reupholster your dining chair seats, buying fabric by the yard isn't your only option. Consider repurposing vintage or unused textile scraps. It's green and cheap, plus the look is more unique. Here are six alternative dining room chair fabric ideas.

  • 01 of 06

    Free Fabric Samples

    Upholstery fabric 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 probably 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 chair seats, 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. As a result, lots of the old ones are in pretty rough shape. Recycle them by using the undamaged parts to reupholster your dining chair seats. You might even find a great deal on a new quilt that you can turn into upholstery fabric.

    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 style homes.

    Add an enchanting touch to your contemporary or transitional decor by covering your chair seats with a colorful 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 striking 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 chic interiors. The flatter and more malleable the rug's weave, the easier it will likely be to upholster your chairs.

  • 04 of 06

    Vintage Clothing

    Background pattern of vintage clothing
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    Don't skip the vintage clothing racks when you shop for chair seat fabric. Long caftans, coats, capes, and even formal gowns 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.

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  • 05 of 06

    Imported and Handcrafted Textiles

    Colorful woven Peruvian textiles with traditional patterns at a market in South America.
    Oleksandra Korobova / Getty Images

    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 unique as chair seat upholstery fabric. Even vintage tie-dye looks charming in the right room.

    The handcrafted fabric look suits bohemian style, contemporary, and transitional interiors quite well. You can also use these artisan textiles to add an unexpected layer of color and texture 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 decorative 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 frequently spills food and drink, but finer fabrics work well in a formal dining room.

  • 06 of 06

    Thrifted Linens

    stack of linens
    Jennifer Causey / Getty Images

    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, classic cotton toile, or elegant damask. You might also use old bedspreads, perhaps a print with diamond-patterned quilting or a vintage chenille.

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