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Bet Your Bottom Dollar

Pull up a chair at the dining table of a family member or friend these days, and there is a strong chance it’ll be a cane or Chippendale-style chair. The two styles are hot products on the flea market and thrift shop spectacle, highly sought after to add a little whimsy or old-school flair to your room.

The Chippendales of today are inspired by the chairs created by Thomas Chippendale, a London furniture designer and cabinetmaker from the 1700s. It was a popular century for these chair designs, with cane-bottom chairs appearing China too. The chairs became popular in the usa around 1820, with the advent of factory-built furniture.

Now ubiquitous at thrift shops and internet bargain sites, used chairs like these may be particularly easy on the wallet — I recently scored four for a customer for only $60 — and therefore are insanely easy to upgrade. And unlike most dining chairs, their seat cushions are often affixed with only a couple of screws, making it effortless to add new cloth. They also look fabulous in only about every color.

Let’s take a look at these traditional chair fashions and how they can help your home look new, whether you’re on a budget or ready to splurge.

Sarah Greenman

These cane chairs were given new life with red paint and inexpensive cloth to dress up the seating. If you’re afraid of red overload, pair it with black and white to tame the powerful effects of reddish.

Hint: When picking cane chairs, make sure the woven back and bottom are in good condition. If the cane weaving is worn or torn, it is going to cost you to have it mended, meaning it may no longer be as funding friendly as you thought.

Red isn’t the only bold color that works for these chairs. These yellowish Chippendale chairs add a little bit of pop to this exact darkened area. A more pricey version of these can be scored from Jonathan Adler. But if you don’t have that kind of money to burn off, then put in some elbow grease and find some in the regional flea market or on Craigslist. Once you’ve bartered your method into a steal, haul the chairs home and give them a light sanding and some primer, then spray paint them an electrical hue.

If yellow and reddish feel too bright for you, attempt high-gloss black. The graphic stripes of the rug add comparison, as do the white and beige chair cushions.

Hint: Considering that the backs of these chairs make such a stunning statement, you can save a lot by utilizing inexpensive cloth to upholster the cushions. Look for $1-a-yard cloth in the clearance bin at the regional fabric store or use cloth remnants from previous projects to upgrade the seats inexpensively. Each pillow will take about 1/2 yard of cloth, which means you can upgrade six chairs for $3 bucks. Translation: a slip.


Equally fab in white, Chippendales function as additional seating in this banquette area. To upgrade the cushions of a Chippendale-style chair, just unscrew them from beneath, cut your cloth to size, wrap the new cloth tightly around the pillow and staple it in place using a staple gun. Twist the pillow back in position, and a brand new chair is born. I do this often with chairs; changing out the cloth one or two times a year is a simple way to liven up decor.

Step-by-step directions to reupholster a chair seat


Cane chair backs come in several forms — high, low, straight, curved. These curved whitewashed chairs shout feminine chic in this country chic dining room.

Not in the mood for a cushion fabric DIY? Add a cushion on top of the present chair and mix it in position. Look at placing two upholstered chairs in the ends of the table or throw a slipcover on two of your present chairs for a small comparison.


I adore the formal curves of the strong cane chair. These are fitting in a conventional dining room — proof that these chairs are a versatile group. Notice the addition of the lumbar pillows for additional back support. This homeowner also added color to the chairs with new cushions that didn’t need to be stapled or screwed in place.

Hint: Decide early on which lines you want highlighted on your cane chair. Do you want a curved back for a fun and living room; a round shirt, which is versatile enough for almost any decor; or a back for a more formal setting?

Michael J. Lee Photography

This chamber is layered with color and texture — from the fabrics, wallpaper and cushions — and the Chippendale chairs weren’t to be outdone. These were painted white to offset the diverse colors in the space and were adorned with two distinct fabrics.

Hint: Spray painting is usually much easier than brushing or rolling paint on chairs. It ought to provide you a cleaner finish, too.

Design Manifest

These glistening black cane chairs get a pop of modern fun paired with a chevron cloth. They get even more dash by being paired with another classic, the Tulip Table.

Hint: Any solid upholstery cloth will work nicely on those chairs. Remember you’ll need to pull firmly on the borders when stretching the cloth to staple it under, so be certain you’ve selected a cloth that can handle being stretched. Silks and thin cotton cloth are not well suited to most dining chairs, because they see a lot of wear.

Terrat Elms Interior Design

This lime-green Chippendale chair carries a desk. It can be easily dragged to the dinng table for additional seating.

Perhaps you have purchased a Chippendale or cane chair recently? What color and cloth did you transform it with, and are you still in love with it? Please share!

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