Midcentury Modern Tulip Chair DIY Re-do


A vintage Mid Century Modern chair from my studio got a new life with a few staples and old fashioned elbow grease! This chair is by Burke, similar to the Tulip Style of Eero Saarinen for Knoll but without the high price tag. The chair has been well loved over the years and needed a facelift. I snapped a few pics along the way to show the transformation in this DIY upholstery project. 


Got this awesome vintage vinyl from my uncles upholstery/furniture shop, Wynans Furniture.  My uncle has had his shop since 1955 and let me tell you he has the best vintage shizz you can imagine!  



Materials Needed


  • eye protection
  • gloves
  • pen or pencil
  • pliers
  • staple remover (I used leverage with an old ice pick)
  • stapler (I had an electric staplegun)
  • foam (reused existing as it was in good shape)
  • vintage vinyl
  • measuring tape
  • scissors
  • heat gun (I used a hairdryer)
  • screwdriver
  • patience



1. Take a photo of the chair and parts along the way.  This will help with putting it back together later, you think you remember but.... Unscrew the top from the underside and mark the front and back on the underside in pencil.  I didn't mark front an back on my project as there were two screw holes on the back and only one in the front.  With previous projects with square seats good to make note of sides, trust me on this one.


2. Remove the old vinyl.  I didn't have a stapler remover so I used an old steel ice pick to prop up the staples and used leverage with needle nose pliers to remove them.  Kinda 'rolled' the staples out as to opposed to pulling straight up..  I used the existing foam covering as it was in good shape and kept it intact.

3. Place your seat top side down on the back side of the vinyl and cut leaving a good 3 to 4 inches around.  You'll need the extra length to pull on when stapling.


4. With vinyl straight I did the first two staples on the top and bottom as anchors and turned over to check it was straight.


5.  Secure sides with a few staples and pull vinyl taught but not too tight.  I alternated a few on all four points, top, bottom, left, right then started around one corner.  I had seen on a YouTube video that someone used a heat gun to soften the vinyl to get smooth corners.  I didn't have a heat gut so used a hairdryer on high to soften and it did the trick.


6. Finish stapling around, softening with hairdryer on corners and pulling fabric slightly taught.  I staggered some of the staples to for more strength.  Check your work as you go along.

7. Trim excess vinyl with scissors.  I left about 1/2 an inch around the staples.  Didn't want to cut too close except in spots that I needed access to the screw holes.


8. Turn the piece over as you go along to make sure you're on track.  Smoooooth corners from my trusty hairdryer!  

9. Finding your front and back markings from before, place your newly covered seat on the chair and screw into place.  You may have to trim a bit of the excess fabric where it's a bit bulky in corners for a good fit.


Ta da! Done!