French Bench Makeover {Using Drop Cloth And A Sharpie}


I’m happy to report that another project from my unfinished project list is checked off! This happened to be probably the easiest one of all and turned out to be really fun.

Remember this French-style bench I found at a local thrift store:

This style is actually hard to find here where we live, so when I saw it I snapped it up and paid more than I normally do for thrift store items – $40.00.

I went through a lot of ideas as it sat in my workroom:  Should I go with a bright fabric? Use a transfer method on plain fabric? I even thought about making a fabric from upholstery webbing – until I saw the price of webbing…gah! I thought it would be cheap.

And then I got tired of looking at it. I found some fabric in a Ballard’s catalog with French writing and, since I only needed a yard, was all set to pay $24.99 for it.

But I had paid $40 already…and I did have a piece of painter’s drop cloth left over from another project, so I thought, “why don’t I just write something on it that’s meaningful to me rather than something I can’t read?”

So I grabbed a Sharpie and wrote a favorite verse on the piece of drop cloth. I purposely filled the fabric, knowing that some of the words wouldn’t show after upholstering the bench, because I wanted it to look like printed fabric.

I also didn’t care about perfection – I didn’t make sure the sentences were straight and I just wrote in my best flowy script – which isn’t artistic to say the least. But I love how it turned out – it’s personal and meaningful.

Here are the steps I took to transform this thrift-store bench with my Sharpie marker fabric:

1. Remove the staples holding any fabric that can’t stay. This bench had a black fabric covering the bottom that was torn, so it needed to come off. The original fabric, however, was in good shape, didn’t smell, and wouldn’t show through the canvas drop cloth, so I left it on.

2. Remove edging material. Since the piping was glued and stapled, I found a pair of pliers worked best to pull it off.

3. Paint the legs. Two coats of semi-gloss enamel that I already had covered the rough wood finish (I didn’t bother with a primer). After drying completely, I lightly distressed the legs with a sanding block. I don’t like a lot of distressing – just enough so that when it gets chipped, it looks like it was supposed to be like that. {wink}

4. {not pictured} Center the fabric piece over the bench (making sure there’s an even amount of fabric all around), flip it over and use a staple gun to secure the fabric in the center of all four sides. Start with a couple of staples on the first long side, pull the fabric tight to the opposite side and secure with a couple more staples. Repeat with the short sides. Tip: Make sure the fabric is as tight as possible to achieve a professional look.

5. Set the bench back on it’s legs and make a pleat on one corner, centering it over the middle of the leg. Make it as tight and even as you can and put one or two staples in the pleat to hold it.

6. Flip the bench again and carefully trim the fabric close to the inside of the leg, making sure to leave enough to staple.

7. Trim the fabric as close the the top of the leg as possible, below the first staple. I found it easiest to do this with the bench flipped back on it’s legs again.

Yes, there’s a lot of flipping with this project.

8. Staple all the way around the front of the leg, securing the fabric into the wood. Repeat with the remaining legs.

9. With the bench on it’s back (last time – honest!), finish stapling all the edges, including around each leg.

10. Hot glue gimp, cording, or covered piping around the top of each leg to conceal the staples.

Ta-da, that’s it! Why do I put these things off for so long?

I love it in our entry, that it says something meaningful to us, and that I used what I had. Which makes me feel a whole lot better about paying 40 bucks for it.

And if I get tired of it, I know how quick and easy it is to transform now.

This is linked to:
Furniture Feature Friday, Frugal Friday, Saturday Nite Special, Weekend Wrap-Up, Thrifty Treasures and Tutorials & Tips


  1. says

    You inspired me to buy a piece of furniture to redo. I found it for $8 at a local thrift shop in the winter. It’s a beautiful mahogany table that’s the size of a nightstand. I’ll have to search your site on suggestions of how to refinish it. If I can do it this summer I’ll send you a picture. I love the table and want to incorporate it into my bedroom once it’s redone.

  2. Diana says

    Sharpies are often on my Gratitude List — at least once my kids were beyond a certain age 😉

    Great project — and your handwriting is beautiful!

  3. says

    Hi Jami!
    I love it. I must say it would drive me crazy if it couldn’t all be read…If I were to copy you (out of shear flattery, of course) I’d probably choose a list of words that were common; and fill the fabric.
    Following your theme…for example, Fruits of the Spirit, or Names of the Father; Wonderful, Counselor,Prince of Peace, Everlasting Father…

    Because not being able to read the sentence in it’s entirety…WOULD MAKE ME BONKERS. I have the same problem with decoupaged pages! silly… I know.

    Love your project– I have something similar, though quite cheaply made and not near as pretty as yours–but this would look great!

  4. says

    Jami~ This is a gorgeous and creative transformation! I just love it!!!!
    It has great personality and is certainly a one of a kind piece!
    Your project would be perfect to share at TUTORIALS TIPS AND TIDBITS, my new weekly linky party! It is live every Wednesday evening at 8:00. Come on over and join in!

  5. says

    Jami, that was a perfect idea for the space and fantastic execution. Making a home your own is such an important skill to have. I am grateful every day that the contents of my home reflect who I am. Now if I could just redo my kitchen to keep that theme going…because all bloggers who create recipes should have fabulous kitchens to photograph them in, right? 😉

  6. says

    What a fabulous transformation! Wonderful job! It’s such a nice and creative way to display meaningful words! Check out my projects at!

  7. says

    I love all your practical ideas. I’m not naturally crafty but this looks likes something I could do!

    And I love your new blog header too! At least this is the first time I noticed it!

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