Tufted Cane Chair Tutorial : How to Take it Apart

Yesterday I posted my tufted cane chair makeover, did you see it?  I’m so excited about it!  It’s definitely one of my favorite projects thus far!

Since I have very little upholstery experience, this project was a little daunting at first.  It’s a big project and the whole tutorial is a bit long, so I thought I’d split it up into two posts – how to take it apart and how to put it back together!

Tufted Cane Chair Tutorial - Part 1: How to Take it Apart

Today I’m sharing how to take the chair apart and prep it for upholstery.

So, this is what we started with.  A $2 garage sale find from, well, last summer!  See all that dust?  That was AFTER I vacuumed it off!!  Yeah, I told you it was daunting, right?  I was so nervous to work on this chair that I let it sit in my basement an entire year before working on it.  Thankfully my mom was in need of a chair, otherwise it might have been in my basement for another few years!  😉

How to Reupholster a Cane Chair with Tufted Back

Okay, so try not to let your project sit around for that long!  Just hop right in!  Really, it will be alright!

Here are some supplies you’ll need:

Supplies Needed to Get a Chair Ready for Reupholstery


Small scissors


Chalk Paint® in Country Grey & brush

Furniture wax & brush

Now that you have your supplies, let’s get started!

1.  First thing you’ll want to do is remove the seat.  Turn the chair over and take the screws out using your screwdriver.

How to Reupholster a Cane Chair with Tufted Back

2.  Check out all the nasty crumbs, dust, and ummm, candy wrappers that were stuck in your chair for years!  Try not to get grossed out!

How to Reupholster a Cane Chair with Tufted Back

3.  Next you’ll remove the cording.  You want to be gentle but firm when you do this.  Mine was just hot glued on, so I just pulled it off.  Make sure to be careful not to rip the caning.  If pulling it off is not working, try to pry it up with a putty knife.  Like I said, just be careful not to wreck the caning.

How to Reupholster a Cane Chair with Tufted Back

Cording is now off!  Save it for later so you can reuse it.

(Yes!  That’s more dust!  Don’t fret.  I cleaned it off before painting the chair!)

How to Reupholster a Cane Chair with Tufted Back

4.  The next step is to pry the back rest off the chair.  See in the picture above how it is just stapled on?  To pry out staples, I like to use a flat head screwdriver and pliers.  Pry each staple up a little bit with the screwdriver and once enough of the staple is showing, pull it out with the pliers.

Set the back rest aside so you can use it later.

How to Reupholster a Cane Chair with Tufted Back

5.  This is what the chair will look like when the back rest is off.  There will probably be a bit of padding/filler between the back rest and the actual back of the chair.  Pull it off gently and set it aside for later.

How to Reupholster a Cane Chair with Tufted Back

I like to put mine in a plastic garbage bag for safe keeping until I need to use it again.  We have two cats and I’m just not sure what they’d do with it!  So, for safety’s sake, I make sure they can’t get to it.

How to Reupholster a Cane Chair with Tufted Back

6.  Okay, now you need to get the back of the chair off.  This part was one of the hardest/scariest parts for me.  First, use the screwdriver and pliers method mentioned above to pull out the staples on the top and bottom.

The sides are a little trickier.  I didn’t want to rip out all the staples because they were also holding the caning on.  I was not about to mess with the caning because I REALLY didn’t want to ruin my chair!  So I decided to cut it out instead.

How to Reupholster a Cane Chair with Tufted Back

With small, sharp scissors, cut the fabric away from the staples.  Get your scissors as far under the caning as possible.  You don’t want old fabric left exposed when you’re trying to reupholster the chair.  That won’t be fun!  Make small cuts and keep an eye on your line making sure not to cut the caning, either.

How to Reupholster a Cane Chair with Tufted Back

If your fabric isn’t stuck under the caning, by all means, pry it out like you did the rest of the fabric!  Much easier!  :)

Again, set the back aside so you can use it later.

How to Reupholster a Cane Chair with Tufted Back

Yay!  Now you’re down to the shell!  PART of the hard part is done!  😉  Now it’s time to paint!

How to Reupholster a Cane Chair with Tufted Back

7.  Get out your Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and paint brush and get to painting.  Oh, wait!  First, wipe all that dust off the chair and sand any rough edges.  Then start painting!

Paint the frame like you would any piece of furniture.  The caning is a bit different.  Put very little paint on your brush and work it into the caning very gently.  If you see any paint starting to pool in the holes, use your paint brush to smooth it out and remove the excess.  You’ll probably have to apply two to three coats on the caning, but it’s better to apply a little at a time than to apply too much and be left with globs of paint.  Oh, and make sure to paint both sides of the caning!  :)

8.  Distress and wax the chair.  You may choose to either not wax the caning at all or do a light coat of wax.  To wax the caning, apply a very thin layer.  Get just a very small amount of wax on your wax brush and wipe off the excess so there’s barely any wax on your brush.  Brush the wax onto the caning and lightly wipe off any left over residue.

How to Reupholster a Cane Chair with Tufted Back

And you’re done!  All ready for the next step – reupholstering!

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Want to see more pictures of the finished chair?  Check them out here.

Ready to put the chair back together?  Check out my upholstery post here.

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*Sharing this project at Savvy Southern Style and Home Stories A to Z along with many other favorite blogs you can check out on my “Where I Party” page.

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  1. says

    I have two half taken apart chairs that need to be reupholstered. I have made my husband drag them to 2 different houses across the country and he doesn’t get why I’m just hanging on to them. Hopefully I’ll figure out how to do it soon.. it’s kinda scary. I’ll just have to go for it one day!

  2. Christa says

    That is a GREAT project! Thank you for showing all the steps, I have passed up many a chairs because I wasn’t sure how to go about starting something like this! I is one of the best before and afters that I have ever seen. Also love the accent pillow, did you make it…buy it??
    I will be waiting for the rest of the post:)Thanks again!

    • Allison @ The Golden Sycamore says

      Thanks so much, Christa! I actually got the pillow at Pottery Barn on clearance last year. Isn’t it so cute? It’s one of my favorite pillows!!

  3. Michelle Warner says

    I may just have the courage to take on the barrel chair I’ve had sitting in the garage for some time now! Thanks for sharing this 2 part tutorial!

    • Allison @ The Golden Sycamore says

      Hi Malea! I actually used chalk paint – different from chalk board paint. Chalk paint is super easy to use and distress! It’s a great paint! I use it and milk paint pretty exclusively. They’re my favorites!

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