Melissa DIY refinishes and reupholsters her 1950s dinette and Cosco high chair: Fabulous!

1950s dinette cleaned up and reupholstered -- DIY


Remember this recent story about how to reupholster vintage dinette chairs affordably? Well, reader Melissa used the video shown to tackle doing the upholstery herself — both on the dinette chairs and a vintage Cosco high chair she found for $3.12. Melissa also used steel wool to polish the chrome, and achieved what looks to be perfect results. Oh my goodness — her DIY project turned out beautifully — you go, girl! Read on for Melissa’s story of triumph…

Mel writes:

Very impressive job, Mel!


I’m always checking out your website, because I love retro and mid century modern style. I know your always putting people’s projected on your site. And I thought you might like to put mine up 🙂

I have refinished a 1950’s table and chairs as well as a high chair. I bought the table and chairs off craigslist about two years ago for about a $100… I bought the fabric for about $50… and then the steel wooling started. I thought it was going to be much harder than it actually was, and I was pretty worried it was not going to turn out well. But I surprised myself. and everything turned out better than I could have ever imagined.

vintage cosco high chair reupholstered
Yes, who among us has not purchased and refinished a vintage Cosco high chair — before we actually had a baby for it?

Then a few weeks ago I spotted a retro high chair at the thrift store for $3.12. I thought to myself well I don’t have any kids, and that would be stupid for me to buy. But I could just couldn’t resist it for only $3.12. So I thought, well, I could refinish it and sell it. But now that I have it done and it looks so good, I feel like I need to save it for when I have a child lol.

I asked Melissa whether she used the video I featured on my site, and also quizzed her on where she got the supplies. She said:

I did use her video. But I did not know it was on your site, I just googled “reupholster retro chairs” and eventually found that video. I bought the fabric from Beatrice, the lady in the video. I had originally emailed her to find out where I could buy that type of vinyl, because the only kind I was finding was the kind with backing or non plyable. Then she just told me I could buy it from her. So I did 🙂 I also got the white piping-piece from her. I had my mom help me with them, I thought four hands would be better than two. And we did it in the middle of the hot summer on my front porch with the heater on us — lol it was HOT.


Thank you, Mel, for this inspiration. Of course, I asked Mel what else she had going on in her house. More to come maybe! 🙂

  1. Lynne says:

    I do not know where else to look and have been trying to research this, and it may be a very stupid question, but I am trying to disassemble my 50s vinyl and chrome chairs to reupholster but there are no screws! Every instructional site I go to says to just easily unscrew the pad from the chair but there are none. Pam, I have pictures of this if you would like to see. The brand is Douglas Furniture Corporation and I’ve researched the model with no luck. If anyone knows how these operate I would greatly appreciate the help.

  2. Shauna Wise says:

    I have my old high chair from when I was a child. It is very similar to the one you refinished. I am wondering how to refinish the chrome pieces (legs, etc). They have quite a bit of rust on them. Any suggestions?

  3. Lucy says:

    Does anyone know a line of vinyl that is smooth and matte (like the original upholstery on the Cosco chairs) and not made to resemble leather? I’ve looked around on the websites mentioned in other posts (and a lot of others) and it seems like if it’s not sparkly or patent leather, it’s pebbled or has some kind of fake leather grain… Am I wrong?? Thanks!

  4. Jamie says:

    One way to polish chrome legs that worked really well for me: Get chrome wheel polish wool from an auto supply store. I used something similar to Luster Pad. It came in a metal tin and was chunks of wool impregnated with a buffing cream. It was not as abrasive as steel wool, it cleaned all the crud and rust off of the legs without scratching them and once it was buffed with a clean cloth, it polished and protected the legs from further corrosion.

  5. Richard says:

    Please, do not really use the high chair for children. That is the same model I fell out of twice as a kid. (you would have thought my parents would have learned after the first fall). I still hate hearing “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth” which was “my song” for years.

  6. Chutti says:

    Wow! This looks so great. LOVE IT.
    And another vote for the cheapo aluminum foil-hubby’s family has used that for years-works great and easy, cheap. The foil actually rubs off and fills in the little scratches so it all looks nice.
    CLR-have to try that one.

    I especially like the Marimekko-esque shade. Did you make that yourself?
    I’ve been looking for instructions to make/cover shades. There used to be a family owned store near here that gave classes, but the chains ran them out of business. How I wish I had taken the class.
    Need to make a custom shade for our kitchen.

    Thanks for sharing-this is super cute.

  7. Marc says:

    I just completed a project where I used aluminum foil to remove rust from chrome chair legs. A roll of the cheap stuff from the 99 cent store worked wonders. Use the non-shiny side and a little soap and water. It will crumple up on you, so you’ll use a few sheets. Who knew!?!

  8. David Waldo says:

    Another trick for polishing chrome is fine pumice powder. Can be found at most hardware stores. Use a soft moistened cotton cloth and dip it in the powder. Rub on chrome and let dry. Polish with another cotton cloth. I suggest using car wax to maintain the brightness as you would on your car. Doing this helps prevent oxidation that builds up in time. Fab job on the restoration!!

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