How to Upholster a Door

Cutting fabric on a table
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Add panache to plain or damaged doors by upholstering them. Fabric doors look bold and glamorous. You've probably seen upholstered doors on the stunning sets of Golden Age films. Popular interior designer Miles Redd decorated the double doors opening into his living room with bold zebra stripes.

Though the results are striking, upholstering a door isn't hard. If you use remnants, vintage drapery panels, or other bargain fabrics, it's not costly either. Here's how to upholster a door:

Preparing the Door and Fabric

  1. Remove the doorknobs and the rosettes or doorknob plates. Remove the door from its hinges, and lay the door on a flat work surface.
  2. If the door opens into the room on the side you're upholstering, paint the edges of the door to match the fabric or the background of printed fabric.

Padding the Door Panels

  1. Sketch your door, including the panels. Measure the length and width of each door panel. Note the measurements in their corresponding panels on your sketch.
  2. Cut three to five layers of quilt battingdepending on the depth of your inset panelsto the measurements of each door panel. You have to pad and build out the panels before you pad the door.
  3. Staple batting to each panel. Staple through all of the batting layers at once. Work around the perimeter of each panel, about one-quarter of an inch from the batting edge.

Padding the Door

  1. Measure the total length and width of the door, and cut three layers of quilt batting to those measurements.
  2. Staple all of the batting layers to the door at once. Staple around the perimeter of the door, approximately one-quarter of an inch from the edge.
  3. Feel for the doorknob or doorknob plate hole. Use the hole as a template to cut an appropriate hole in the batting.

Attaching Fabric to the Door

  1. Now that the door is padded, measure the length and width again with a cloth measuring tape. Don't pull the measuring tape too tight. Let it follow the curve, or loft, of the batting.
  2. Add 2 inches to the length of the door, and 2 inches in width. Cut a piece of fabric to those measurements. If your fabric has a pattern, cut the fabric, so the center of the pattern ends up centered on the door.
  3. Fold a 1-inch hem into both sides of the fabric, and then into the top and bottom. Iron the hem in place instead of sewing it.
  4. Align the folded edges of the fabric with the edges of the door. Staple around the perimeter of the fabric, approximately one-quarter of an inch from the fabric edge.
  5. Feel for the doorknob or doorknob plate hole. Cut an appropriately shaped hole in the fabric, but cut it a little smaller than the hole in the door.

Applying Nailhead Trim

  1. Cut two pieces from a strip of nailhead trim to the length of the door, and two to the width. Nailhead trim strips have disk-shaped pieces interspersed with solid tacks, typically at every third to fifth tacks. They come with matching tacks to insert into the disks.
  2. Position the nailhead trim along one edge of the door, just at the edge of the fabric. Tap a single tack through each disk with a rubber mallet or nylon-tipped upholstery hammer. Repeat with the other three sides of the door.
  3. If you're upholstering a paneled door, cut nailhead trim strips to fit all four sides of each panel. Feel for the edges of the panels through the fabric and padding, and apply trim around the perimeter of each panel. If you're upholstering a flat door without panels, you can embellish the door with your nailhead trim design, such as a diamond-shaped, harlequin pattern or a Greek key design. Or, you can mimic the design of a paneled door.

Rehanging the Door

  1. Replace the door on its hinges. Reattach the doorknob plate or rosette, making sure the raw edges of the fabric hole are tucked behind it. Install the doorknob, and admire your upholstered door.