Give your bar stools a new life with these step by step instructions for doing a bar stool makeover.

Bar Stool Makeover Restain + Recover - before and after
After redoing our kitchen last fall, I had originally planned to just get rid of these bar stools. The longer they sat in our basement though, the more I considered attempting to give them a second life. I’m so glad I did! This bar stool makeover was really easy and turned out better than I expected. Can’t get much better than that!

These stools were given to us more than 10 years ago when a friend of ours was moving and wanted to get rid of them. At the time, we lived in an apartment and happily accepted most cast-off furniture if it was in good shape. I never really cared for the faux wood color or the seat cover, but they worked functionally. After so many repainting and re-staining projects last year, I started to look at these stools with a new eye and decided a re-stain and recover was in order.


I highly recommend General Finishes Gel Stain. I have no relationship with the company, I have just had really good luck with their products. I bought mine locally at the Woodsmith store, but I’ve included links above if you don’t have a local store that sells it. (Product links are affiliate links from


My bar stools were not solid wood and the original finish wasn’t going to sand down well, so I didn’t bother. After removing the seats, which were just screwed down underneath, I gave each stool a thorough wipe down to remove any kitchen grime. Then I took out my foam brush and started staining. I applied it as evenly as I could. The initial application was fairly streaky, but I didn’t panic as I knew more coats were in my future.

staining faux wood

When I previously used this same stain to redo my mantel and trim, I applied and then wiped off. I was interested in a darker finish for my chairs and with it not being natural wood, I knew all the stain would likely just wipe completely off. I tested it though and that was in fact what happened. So I proceeded with applying the stain all over the chair and letting it dry completely (4-6 hours). This is what it looked like after the first coat.

bar stool makeover - apply gel stain

I applied 3 coats to each chair. Then I used the polyacrylic top coat to set the stain. I applied it also with a foam brush as evenly as possible. I did just one coat of poly but touched up later in the few spots I missed.

bat stool makeover - re-stained

For recovering the seats, I used fabric from a curtain I purchased from Target. I originally bought it to make a roman shade for the kitchen window. I haven’t tackled that yet, but based on my measurements there was more than enough material to also use for the bar stool seat covers.

bar stool makeover - chair cushion recover

I started by removing the old cushion cover, pulling out the staples with a pair of pliers.


After that I used the old cushion cover to cut my fabric to the right size. I just cut it as a rectangle figuring I’d trim it after I got it stapled on.

bar stool makeover - cut cushion fabric to size

I pulled the fabric tight around the corners of the cushion first and stapled down, kind of like wrapping an odd shaped present. The goal was to keep as smooth as possible on the front.

bar stool makeover - staple fabric on to cushion.

I stapled all the way around and then trimmed the excess fabric that was mainly at the corners. I probably went a little staple crazy which I may regret if I ever decide to recover these again!

bar stool makeover - staple fabric on to cushion.

But, it looked great from the front, so I’ll worry about that some other time.

bar stool makeover - staple fabric on to cushion

Finally, I screwed the seats back onto the bar stool frames. My husband may have helped me with that part as he thought I was taking a little too long. Maybe I’ve figured out a way to trick him into helping with my DIY projects! Here’s a closer look at one of the finished stools.

Bar stool makeover - finished

And with them back in their rightful place in our kitchen. I forgot how nice it is to have stools there!

Bar Stool Makeover

I have yet to do a full reveal of our kitchen. You’ve seen most of it already, but I’d like to do an actual show-off one day. I know I keep promising, but I’d really like to get the roman shade done for the kitchen window first. I’m actively working on my game plan for that, I just need to find time to tackle it.

Linked Up At: Made By You Mondays; Create Link Inspire; Whimsy Wednesday52 MantelsThe Party Bunch;


  • Grace Quijano
    Posted January 20, 2014 7:59 am 0Likes

    They look amazing!!!

  • Heather
    Posted January 20, 2014 8:48 am 0Likes

    Look great & I’m sure they come in handy!

  • Bobbie
    Posted April 18, 2015 11:23 pm 0Likes

    I ran across your blog today. You are the first person I have seen who has tried gel stain, Cabinet Transformations and
    regular paint over top of an existing golden oak finish without fully removing the old stain and lacquer. It has been 1-2 years
    since you did these projects so I was wondering how they held up, compared to each other. It sounds like the gel stain is
    the easiest to do since you do not need the prime coat or the glaze coat. I would be using a glaze coat if I go with
    paint or cabinet transformations. The gel stain also looked easier to apply. Is that a correct assessment (assuming I do two clear top coats with any of the methods)? With the gel stain you used deglosser on your first project, brillo pads on the second and just a wipe down on the third before applying the stain. Which prep caused the stain to stay on the best with the least amount of chipping or scratching off? Which of the products (gel stain, Cabinet Transformations and regular paint) gave you the best results? Do you have any other comments on comparing the three products or application methods? I have a whole lot of golden oak in this house to redo (3 bathrooms and a large kitchen) so I would appreciate your advice.


    • Erin @
      Posted April 19, 2015 9:49 am 0Likes

      Hi Bobbie – I think gel stain vs Cabinet transformation or pain comes down to what kind of finish you want to have. To be honest, all are holding up great in terms of no chipping! With Gel stain you’ll see the wood grain and it will look like stained wood still for lack of a better term. Painting and cabinet transformations have a different finish than stain. I still like the look I did for my cabinets and if I were to chooses between regular paint and cabinet transformations, I’d pick cabinet transformation. It may just be the top coat I used on my bathroom with the paint, but I find it a little harder to clean. Still looks pretty good though. For the places I’ve used gel stain, I wanted to keep the look of the stained wood like my trim and mantel. I haven’t tackled the rest of the trim in our house. I think I’ve resolved to let the next owners do what they want! Let me know if there are any questions I haven’t answered.

  • Kellie
    Posted August 3, 2015 11:38 pm 0Likes

    I have these exact same chairs. Ran across your blog and started staining them today! Can’t wait to see how they turn out. I used a fabric shower curtain to reupholster the seats. 😀

  • Lindsay
    Posted June 30, 2016 1:34 pm 0Likes

    how much stain/top coat did you need for the 2 chairs? They look great!

    • Erin @
      Posted June 30, 2016 10:44 pm 0Likes

      Thanks Lindsay! I had a quart of each and I used them for 3-4 small projects. I’d say this project used maybe 1/4-1/3 of the quart.

  • jen nielse
    Posted September 3, 2016 4:21 pm 0Likes

    I have barstools ia trying to figure out the best method of staining them. They look like these, though not the same brand. they somewhat look the same as the wood you began with. Would you agree? I am looking for the easiest method to stain these and have read many different things. Yours look wonderful, by the way!

    • Erin @
      Posted September 3, 2016 5:24 pm 0Likes

      Yes, I agree the finish looks similar. For me, I was about ready to throw them out or donate them, so I didn’t have much to loose by trying to restain them. Good luck!

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