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Modernizing an Old Cane-back Chair with Tufting

I picked up a set of 3 of these old caned chair’s for $40. I totally scored a deal!  I loved the style, but the caning was so dried out, when I tossed the chairs in the back of my van, they cracked all over. I decided it would be easier to make it an upholstered piece instead of trying to re-cane it. Modernizing an old cane back chair with tufting is a great way to save those chair backs that you don’t want to re-cane.

Cane back chair makeover with upholstery
To give an old cane back chair a makeover, start by painting the chair frame first.


Giving an old cane back chair a  makeover
I love the look of caning, but it can be expensive to do a set of chairs. If you have rattan caning left over, you can try replacing the glass with it in a cabinet door, making a caned vase, or even  giving an old  headboard a makeover. I first took the seat off and painted the frame, and recovered the bottom seat. You can see a tutorial from a few years ago on how to do that here.
Add fiber fill against the old caning to reupholster
For the top caned part, I used quilt batting to stuff the back which I laid on top before I stapled it to the front. All. The way. Around. I think I went through about 400 staples. After stapling use a button to create a tuft. You’ll pull the button thread through the back and secure it by knotting behind the caning. Then add more batting to the back side and staple the backing fabric on the chair.
Staple around the edges of the caning and farbic to reupholster and old cane back chair
I then hot glued on trim to cover the staples.
Moderinzing an old cane back chair with tufting
 When I did the top I used plain linen. I thought it might look busy to do both the upper and lower the same pattern.
 I actually really like contrast of the top and bottom.
The tufted  vintage button added a pretty touch to the front side of the upholstered cane back chair.
Add tufting to a chair to add a ncie accent
A single chair like this is perfect for a desk chair or just to have around when you need an extra pretty seat.
Since there were three chairs and not 4, I need to decide if I am going to do the other two chairs the same way, or if I want to mix it up a little. 🙂

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  1. Wow Jen that chair is gorgeous!! What a transformation! Congratulations on taking a bigger space!I am now taking on a partner to help with my rent.Things are starting to look better 🙂

  2. Wow Jennifer the chairs are coming out so beautiful. What a beautiful choice of fabrics too. They really look great. I need to get down to Naperville and check out your space soon.

  3. Jennifer, great idea and I love it. I also have old cain/french chairs and the cain part is very tired….my creative juices are flowing from this wonderful post. Your end result….beautiul. Blessings, Karen from A Cape Cod Nest.

  4. The chair turned out beautifully! Love the fabric especially since I’m using it for our bedroom curtains, a lovely fabric. so on the back of the chair do you still see the cane painted white. Lovely

  5. Jen!!!!! This is so amazing! I love it! I have seen so many chairs at yard sales that would be perfect for this! Thanks for inspiring me today!


  6. This is so pretty.. how did you change the wood color?? I have a favorite chair of my mom’s I need to refinish and it has the dark old wood. Thanks for any help! xx

  7. Hello, I am a new follower, spotted your chair on Thistlewood Farm. It turned out beautiful and has really inspired me to rethink my own project! I just bought 6 cane back chairs for $75! The cane is in great condition, but I’m really liking this look with the padded back. My question is for the button tufting, how did you finish that on the back side? Did you pull it through the cane and paint the thread to match the chair? My chairs are long straight back, so not sure if I should do two tufts or 4 or maybe even 6 with 3 pairs of two?

  8. my cane back needs replaced on at least 2 chairs as it dried out and split, any suggestions, recaning is too time consuming.

  9. Excellent!!! I will be transforming my entire dining set now. This is just what I was looking for to update my dining set. Thank you!!!

  10. Hi Jennifer, I see there have been several requests for a back pic! I would love to see what you did for the back tufting and covering… 🙂

    1. Hi Nicole. I don’t think I took a picture of the back and the chair has already sold. 🙂

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