How to Refinish a Vintage Footstool

A vintage footstool, some elbow grease, and some beautiful fabric – put them together and you have the ingredients for a fun DIY project you can complete in a weekend!

This little footstool belonged to my nana, and when she moved to long term care I rescued it from the donation pile with the goal of giving it new life with a little makeover. I’m pretty sure my grandfather covered it for her using a needlepoint she made. The stitching had faded and worn off in multiple places and really needed to be replaced.

While I was on the hunt for fabric for a chair upholstery project I came across this beautiful fabric at Tonic Living and thought it would be the perfect pattern for this little stool.


  • Flat-head Screwdriver
  • Pliers
  • Gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Upholstery Stapler (mine is a 22ga one from Paslode)
  • Air compressor
  • Paint (if required)

Using your flat-head screwdriver and pliers, carefully remove the old upholstery by removing any old staples and nails. Put the old fabric to one side.

If you’re lucky, the padding/foam on your stool will still be in good condition and you can reuse it. My stool actually had two other layers of upholstery and the padding was filled with sawdust. I decided that I would scrap it all.

Take a look at the stool and decide if it needs any refinishing. The legs of my stool had a lot of scratches so I decided to paint them. I used Americana Decor Satin paint from DecoArt in classic black.

Using the fabric you removed from the stool as a template, cut your new fabric pieces. If your foam/padding was not in good shape cut some new pieces for that as well. I used some 2” thick foam and 2 layers of quilt batting.

Layer your fabric, padding and stool upside down on a solid surface and start pulling and stapling your fabric in place. I like staple the center of each side first making sure my fabric is even.

Corners are tricky and I am, by no means, an expert. For my corners, I cut some of the excess fabric away and then carefully folded the fabric and stapled it in place. I was not concerned about having perfect corners – If you pick my footstool up and hold it at eye level you can see a few of my staples…why would you do that though? That would be weird.

Once the main fabric was on, I used a smaller piece of contrasting fabric to cover the bottom. I just folded the sides under and stapled it to the frame.

And that’s it!

I’m still pretty new to upholstery but I love how quick this project was and that I was able to give a funny little footstool a modern makeover. And don’t worry, I kept my nana’s needlepoint – I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do with it yet…any suggestions?

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