Tips for Designing a Stunner Settee

I’ve said it before, I’m a sucker for a pretty settee. Anytime I see one on Craigslist or Marketplace, I’m messaging the owner! These settees I love aren’t necessarily any harder to upholster, they are just bigger chairs to me. And while the size presents a few challenges in my studio as I work, the final result is always worth the hassle.

This latest transformation all started with this settee. It was gorgeous even in its original state. But up close it was smelly, lumpy, and dirty. It had to be updated.

My client had seen another black settee I did years ago on my Etsy shop, and wanted something similar. Luckily, we found the discontinued fabric on Etsy, and I went to work stripping, repairing, and redesigning. Here’s my top recommendations for redesigning a settee that will blow your socks off.

Here it is up close.

First, be open to reimagining it. As I said before, I love the old gold leaf. I’m typically more prone to keeping that and working with it. Having a black frame would change so much about this settee, but it would also allow the fabric to pop. And most importantly, it’s what my client wanted. I had to put aside my wishes and see if I could make it work.

Second, think about pattern mixing. This floral was amazing, and so we went with it all over the front side. But what about adding a little personality for the backside?

When you have a floral, you have lots of options for pattern mixing: stripes, checks, dots, geometrics, etc. We went with a pink check for the backside.

Even the arms provide an opportunity for personality.

Third, watch the fabric placement. I always design the top first, making sure I can get the fabric where I need it because it is the part that that we see first. The purple cluster of flowers hits that top corner just right making the pink flower a little off-center. The golden flower wraps up the other side.

The seat always comes last, and I focused on getting the flowers to hang over the front towards the legs. Again, the purple cluster was my focus first, and then everything else fell into place. When you design this way, the patterns on top of the seat are of less consequence.

Take your time as you play around with the fabric, trying out different positions to see which looks best. It often takes me quite a while before I’m ready to staple it into place…I play a lot!

If you are open to reimagining it, adding in some pattern mixing, and paying close attention to fabric placement, you’ll end up with a settee that is sure to be a stunner in its new home.


I'm Wendy Conklin, The Chair Stylist.

What brings me joy is helping others live more creatively. I design antique-inspired, boutique chairs, and I teach others how to do what I do. Check out my shop, services, and courses to bring more whimsy into your home and life!

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