Tutorial: Customizing Your Ikea Slipcovers

You guys have totally blown me away with your awesome feedback on our breakfast room chairs – thank you so much!  I feel like I’ve had a perma-grin on my face for the last few days.  :)  (And a huge thanks to Centsational Girl for including my chairs in her “best of the blogosphere” feature!)

Tutorial: Customizing Your Ikea Slipcovers

So now to the million dollar question – how the heck did I spiff up these slipcovers?

To be honest, I’m a little hesitant to tell you guys.  I think some of you will be jumping for joy that it’s so darn easy, and others will be a little disappointed that it didn’t involve any sewing or new fabric.

Here’s all you need to try out this project for yourself:

– fabric that you want to make more awesome (in this case, I used the plain white slipcovers that came with my Ikea chairs)

– fabric paint in the color(s) of your choice (I mixed together 2 colors, and wound up using a total of 22 ounces of paint)

– 1 small artist brush

– 1 slightly larger brush

– a bowl for mixing/holding the paint

– a digital image of a pattern that appeals to you

– a few small pieces of cardboard (like the size of a matchbox)

– a washable fabric pen

Step 1:  Create a paper stencil of your pattern. You may remember this fabric that I blogged about back in February when I was considering recovering the Ikea chairs:

Fabric Choices for the Breakfast Nook

Well, I’m kind of in love with it.  And while I didn’t like that the pattern on the fabric ran horizontally, that was no problemo since I was making my own stencil.  I just printed out a full-page photo of the fabric on typing paper and then cut out the pointed oval shapes with an exacto knife.


Now I had a stencil that I could use to create the pattern vertically on my chairs!  (I made a few of these stencils since the process of tracing the stencil onto the fabric caused the edges of the stencil to get a little wonky over time.)

Step 2: Trace the stencil onto your fabric. Pick a starting point for your stencil that will act as a guide to keep the repeating pattern level – I chose the seam along the top of the chairs and it worked really well.

The Saga of the Breakfast Room Chairs: Finished!!

Tip: If your pattern will be wrapping around a corner, think about where you want the pattern to stop.  As you can see in the photo below, I let the pattern wrap around the top of the chairs from the front to the back, and from the bottom seat cushion onto the lower sides of the chair – but I stopped the pattern at the vertical seam between the front and back of the chair (if that makes sense).  Deciding where to break the pattern will help prevent the pattern from meeting up in an unattractive or weird way.

The Saga of the Breakfast Room Chairs: Finished!!

You don’t have to use a fabric pen to trace your pattern, but I highly recommend it – I’d never used a fabric pen before but now I’m a believer!  All of the marks left behind on my slipcover from the great chevron incident came right out with a wet cloth, so it’s great for those “oops” moments.

By the way, this is also a good opportunity to entertain your cat.

Tutorial: Customizing Your Ikea Slipcovers

Step 3:  Mix your paints. Don’t fret if Michael’s doesn’t sell the exact color of fabric paint that you want – you can just mix it up yourself to create a custom color. I mixed 1 part Marine Blue with 2 parts Turquoise to create the deep teal color for my chairs.  Tip: When storing my bowl full of paint between painting sessions, I like to cover the bowl with plastic wrap and press down the plastic wrap so that it is touching the paint and the sides of the bowl, and then stick it in the fridge.  This helps keep the paint from hardening.

Tutorial: Customizing Your Ikea Slipcovers

Step 4: Fill in the stencil with paint. This is the part that takes f.o.r.e.v.e.r. Like for reals.  Tip: Here’s what worked best for me – I used the small artists brush to do the outline of 2-3 ovals, then filled them in with the larger brush.  Do only a few of them at a time or else the outline will get kind of thick and crusty and you’ll be able to see it even after the paint dries (I learned this trick after I took the photo below).  Using a small brush was great for the outline because it lets you get really crisp lines.  Also, when you reach creases in the fabric (like where the back rest meets the seat cushion) those small pieces of cardboard come in handy – just stick them in the crease to keep the paint from smudging.

The Saga of the Breakfast Room Chairs: Finished!!

And that’s it!  Easy, right?  And since all of this was done using fabric paint the slipcovers are 100% washable.  I’m incredibly happy with the results – most people assume that the slipcovers were made out of new fabric, so it’s really fun when you get to say that you just painted it on there!!

The Saga of the Breakfast Room Chairs: Finished!!

All in all, this was a super gratifying project – it would be perfect for sprucing up pillow covers, blankets, curtains or even duvets (I’m kind of itching to try that one).  Let me know if you give this project a try, I’d love to see it!

Psst!  Check out this other project I did with slipcovers and fabric paint.

Related Posts with Thumbnails


  1. Lisa says:

    I”m inspired! I bought fabric paint today, I’m going to attempt a shower curtain. I hope it comes out as nice as your chairs did.

  2. Jen Rames says:

    I want these chairs! They are amazing. You are so artsy and creative!
    Jen Rames´s last blog post post ..Turkey and Black Bean Enchiladas

  3. I totally didn’t know they were painted. That’s awesome!

  4. Katrina says:

    I so though you found fabric & sewed — but its even better that you used fabric paint because this makes it so much more doable — and they turned out amazing!!! for sure never would have guessed:)

    • Liz - It's Great To Be Home says:

      Definitely more do-able! I must admit, the thought of reupholstering them did make me shake in my boots a little . . . :)

  5. lisaroy says:

    wow those look amazing! you did a great job :)

  6. christy says:

    I am blown away! Truly! They look amazing! You are so crafty Liz. I seriously want to do this now…but I know that I’ll have to wait about 19 years, until this baby in my belly is in college, before I’ll ever that kind of time on my hands again! Or maybe just when all the kids are in school! Regardless, I am so, so, so impressed. They came out WAY better than if you had ‘just’ reupholstered them!!!

    • Liz - It's Great To Be Home says:

      Thanks, chickie! :) And ha, it’s true, this project took a LOT of time!

  7. Elena says:

    That is so fantastically clever! Way to go!

  8. Wow Liz! So much effort and they look SO GOOD! Our painted shower curtain took me like 6 hours, so I can’t even imagine how long this intricate pattern must have taken. You are a trooper!

    P.S. Your cat is pretty much the cutest little thing ever! Totally reminds me of our cat Tina and how she loves to be Right. There. when I’m doing a project. Sometimes I wonder who’s the boss – me or the cat!

    P.P.S. I’m glad you linked back to your other painted chair project! That was the first thing I saw at IGTBH and the reason I started following your blog. :)

    • Liz - It's Great To Be Home says:

      This cat, Riley, is the king of sitting on computer keyboards, laying on pillow covers while you’re trying to sew them . . . I think he and Tina would be good buddies. :)

  9. Joi says:

    Girl! These look great! I am so loving your handiwork!
    Joi´s last blog post post ..Whats Good In Your Hood Wichita

  10. Krista says:

    They are so beautiful! Now that it’s over you can simply forget about the hours and hours you labored over those chairs. It was soooo worh it! Now my wheels are spinning trying to figure out where I can do this too!

  11. Mrs. Foot says:

    That is truly amazing. I would have never known it was just fabric paint. GENIUS!!

  12. LOVE,LOVE,LOVE………………’nough said.

  13. Emily S. says:

    They look GREAT, Liz! Very creative. Just curious–do you think painting or sewing new covers takes longer?

    • Liz - It's Great To Be Home says:

      Hmm, excellent question! I think it would take me an eternity to do either, but an experienced sewer could probably whip out new covers fairly quickly. Maybe?

  14. Jen says:

    I looove your chairs! You did such an amazing job! It makes them look so much for fab than simple IKEA chairs!

  15. Kristy Swain says:

    Wow, wow, wow. I emailed your original post to a friend who wanted to do something with her chairs… but I thought you had slip covered them!! This is even cooler and easier! Awesome.
    Kristy Swain´s last blog post post ..Didn’t Go So Well For Me…

  16. Kristy Swain says:

    Actually, mind if I mention them on my blog at some point soon? :)
    Kristy Swain´s last blog post post ..Didn’t Go So Well For Me…

    • Liz - It's Great To Be Home says:

      I would love that! How fun. :) Although I think they have some stiff competition with your gorgeous painted chair!

  17. Wow, those chairs look great! It was gutsy to take a paint brush to them – and it totally paid off. Congratulations!

  18. Rachel says:

    Wow! I am super impressed!! Cant wait to try something like that out for myself!

  19. Oh my goodness. I must have missed the part in your previous post about how you MADE THE UPHOLSTERY! What?! People do that?! You have once again inspired me beyond believe. Looks beautiful.

  20. Rebecca says:

    Just heard about your blog from YHL, and I love your ideas! As someone living on a tight budget, it’s great to learn about inexpensive projects to brighten up your home. Your stuff looks fabulous.

  21. ALittleBite says:

    LOVE IT! I saw it the other day through CG but didn’t realize they were painted until I read your comment at YHL… they turned out fantastic. I haven’t painted Ikea chairs (yet) but I have painted an Ikea rug and I really like how it turned out: http://alittlebiteofeverything.com/2010/09/an-ikea-rug-makeover/

  22. By FAR the best fabric painting results I’ve ever seen!! Great job :)

  23. Sarah K says:

    Just hopped on over here from YHL.com and I LOVE your chairs. They look AMAZING!
    PS I also share your obsession with chevron but am yet to incorporate it into my home.

  24. Andrea says:

    Your chairs are fabulous. Thanks for the tutorial and the inspiration! I love that it is all washable.

  25. There are simply no words to describe how truly amazing this project turned out.

    I’m stunned.

  26. Love it, so simple and inexpensive (two of my favorite words in the English language!) I thought you’d sewed the covers yourself.
    karen@strictlysimplestyle´s last blog post post ..Guest Post- Staging Tips from Home Stager Karla Davis

  27. These are fantastic! I love everything about these chairs – what a great idea!

  28. Lisa says:

    OH me OH my!!!! WOW, that is unbelievable!!! I just found your blog…..I am liking what I see!!!

  29. WOW wow wow you must have lots of patience and definite skills. I bow to your DIYness. They look great!

  30. Oh my goodness! They are so pretty but a lot of work. I also admire your patience and talent.

  31. Meridith says:

    I loved the tutorial, and ALSO the comments. I enjoyed seeing the tutorial on the shower curtain and the rug. Fabric paint gives a whole new perspective to DIY projects. Thanks for a beautifully illustrated and informative post!

  32. Lisa says:

    Wow! They look wonderful!! Great job.

  33. Claire Rose says:

    Oh I so love these chairs- I can’t believe they are painted-amazing!! I’m your newest follower!!

  34. Sharon says:

    Now thats what I call thinking outside the square, amazing!!!!!
    Sharon´s last blog post post ..Im Back!!!

  35. These are absolutely amazing! Do you do any freelance consulting work? I bet you have some pretty creative ideas for some kitchens that we design. : )

    • Sherri says:

      I would love see Liz help design a kitchen with you. What a great combination to consider.
      I just checked out your website, which is pretty awesome!

  36. Janelle says:

    This is pretty amazing!! I mean I know they sell fabric paint for a reason but this is really creative stuff. Thanks for the inspiration!!

  37. Those are awesome! I am glad your chair painting experience went so much better than John and Sherry’s :)

    Your photos of cat crack me up–I’m pretty sure that I would have to paint in another part of the house or lock Woods up because he is so disruptive when I am creating things!
    KT @ KT’s Refinishing School´s last blog post post ..Friday Friday Friday

  38. This is a really cool project! And i’m totally impressed with your patience level – I’d have been over that stenciling after one chair. ;) But the end result was totally worth all the work.
    Kim@NewlyWoodwards´s last blog post post ..Renovation progress report – week 36

  39. Ack! I missed the reveal!!!! But I love them Liz, absolutely love ’em. And the teal is a wonderful color choice. Brava!

  40. Wow fantastic chair slipcover! The finish slipcover really looks elegant. I love the teal and white color combination. Thanks for sharing!
    Alberta@freethemepark.com´s last blog post post ..Free Theme Park Tickets

  41. Love the chairs. Love the flowers. Love the colors. Love, love, love it all!


  42. tracie says:

    nicely done! might have just inspired me to keep my parson chairs a little longer.. :)

  43. I commented on IKEA hackers but I had to come back and comment here too. You did an amazing job! I love how they turned out!
    Steph @ BirdHouse´s last blog post post ..My new craft room desk

  44. Just found your blog via IKEA hacker, and I’m so glad I did! I love this tutorial, and your blog looks fab. I’m your newest fan!

    Allison @ House of Hepworths
    Allison @ House of Hepworths´s last blog post post ..Create a Spa Bath Mat using IKEA outdoor decking

  45. Deb says:

    Found your site thur IKEA Hacker
    so inspired I can’t wait to start my project. Can you tell me where I can get a washable fabric pen and the brand you used. I tried Michaels and Walmart but no luck. Thanks again
    This amazing

    • Liz - It's Great To Be Home says:

      Yay, so glad to have you here!! :) I got my washable fabric pen from Joanns, and there doesn’t appear to be a brand name but it’s a light blue pen that says “water erasable fabric marking pen.” Here’s a link to one that looks similar: http://www.daystyledesigns.com/finelinepen.htm. Hope that helps! :)

  46. Rebecca says:

    Hello, I love your website and all your ideas, especially this Ikea chair DIY makeover! I loved this idea so much that I had to post it to my blog. Check it out! http://www.frostyourparty.com/2011/07/ikea-chairs-makeover.html

    Best wishes, Rebecca

  47. Karen says:

    Love the chairs! I hope it’s not to late to find an answer — the stencil itself is regular printer paper? Didn’t the edges get wet from the paint, from so many uses? How did you affix the stencil onto the chair so it wouldn’t slip?

    • Liz - It's Great To Be Home says:

      Hey Karen! Yep, the stencil is printer paper – I avoided the wet edges by tracing the stencil onto the fabric with a fabric pen, and then going back and filling in the outlines with paint. As for affixing the stencil to the chair, I just held it in place by hand. There were 4 of the little oblong shapes on each sheet of paper so that helped me to keep everything all lined up. Hope that helps!