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RISMEDIA, July 7, 2009-(MCT)-The quickest way to freshen a piece of furniture and lift the spirits is through fabric. I feel years younger – and so does my dining room – now that I’ve re-covered the seats of chairs I inherited from my great-grandfather. The shield-back style of the chairs is classic; the upholstery featuring a frumpy fruit pattern definitely was not.

So I found some hip fabric (a gray cotton with a modern graphic print), took an upholstery stapler et voila! A whole new look for the dining room in less than two hours for about $40.

“Shouldn’t you take the chairs to a professional upholsterer?” a dubious friend asked before I started my DIY project. For a sofa or even a whole chair, yes. But for a few seat cushions, no. It’s so easy and more affordable to do it yourself. (Check below for step-by-step instructions from Betsy Blodgett, owner of Bon Bon Atelier in Kansas City, Mo.)

Fabrics are a way to set the mood of the room. Want sophistication in the bathroom? Create a tall fabric shower curtain that hangs from a rod close to the ceiling. It makes the room feel larger, too.

“A tall shower curtain is an expensive designer look, and it’s so easy to make,” says Eddie Ross of New York, who was a contestant on Bravo’s “Top Design” reality show. A book and his own television show are in the works. “You don’t even have to sew.”

Ross suggests taking an existing fabric shower curtain and finding a coordinating fabric for the bottom, fusing the fabrics together using Stitch Witchery, which works as an adhesive when it’s ironed. Sure, the fabrics can be sewn together instead.

This year Blodgett, a fashion designer, made her own shower curtain from a pink Asian-style fabric with metallic gold threads she found on sale at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores.

“It transformed the room, really setting the tone,” says Blodgett, whose bathroom now has a boudoir look. “The vinyl shower curtain before was hideous, definitely not very inspiring.”

Designers say fabric reflects personal style more than paint does. That’s why Karen Roark, owner of Urban Arts and Crafts, likes the idea of fabric as wall decor. For a modern look, fabric can be wrapped around square wooden frames and stapled in back. The fabric frames can be hung in a horizontal series of three or four or a grid pattern of nine. Placed inside garage-sale frames, fabric takes on a more vintage, feminine style.

Fabrics also can give a nod to trends without breaking the bank. Besides modern graphics, current looks include ethnic-inspired ikat (pronounced e-cat) and suzani motifs, says Jan Jessup, spokeswoman for Calico Corners, which sells hundreds of decorative fabrics. Wood grain-pattern prints also are becoming popular.

Don’t forget to shop your linen and clothes’ closets for fabrics, Ross reminds us. A towel can make a plush terrycloth ottoman cover in a bathroom. A flat sheet can be turned into a duvet cover. A quilted matelasse bedspread can become a chair slipcover. Men’s suit jackets, such as gray flannel or navy wool pinstripe, can be converted into handsome accent pillows.

Even classic summertime seersucker can look fresh. Check out the fun window display of seersucker-upholstered chairs at Brooks Brothers.

Room by Room: Other fresh fabric projects

Dining Room: Use outdoor fabrics to make tablecloths and banquette cushions. They are easy to bleach and clean.

Family Room: Create a junior ottoman by stacking three 26-inch boxed pillows that can also be floor pillows for television viewing.

Bedroom: Make a modern canopy by hanging bed drapery panels on swing-arm rods at each side of the bed.

Bathroom: Cover a wastebasket with a decorative fabric using spray adhesive. Add gimp or braid trim with a glue gun to hide the edges.

Closet: Upholster the walls and ceiling of a tiny closet using Mod Podge as an adhesive.

Step by step: Reupholster dining seat cushions

Supplies and Equipment Needed:

– 3 yards of fabric for four chairs
– Tape measure
– Upholstery stapler with heavy-duty staples (about $15 at fabric stores)
– Scissors
– Screwdriver

Betsy Blodgett, owner of Bon Bon Atelier and a fashion designer, knows the ins and outs of working with fabric. She showed us how easy it is to reupholster seat cushions. We kept the old upholstery on to preserve a decades-old history of the chair and gain a bonus: extra padding. From start to finish, it took less than two hours to cover all four seats.

Step 1. Turn over the chairs and unscrew the cushions.
Step 2. Measure 3 to 4 inches extra per side of seat and cut the fabric.
Step 3. Wrap the fabric on the seat and padding as you would a gift. Pin the fabric in place to anchor it.
Step 4. Pulling the fabric as tight as you can, staple along the edges.
Step 5. Screw cushions back in place.

©2009, The Kansas City Star.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.