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Classic Chairs Made Simple

January 23, 2011 |
posted by Ana White
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Simple chairs with an upholstered seat. Comfortable and oversized with base supports.

Classic Chairs Made Simple

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Classic Chairs Made Simple
Dimensions are shown above. This is a BIG chair . . . just a little warning. You can easily modify the size by simply cutting the aprons to a smaller size.

Materials and Tools

Shopping List: 

1×6 @ 3 feet long
1 – 2×2 @ 8 feet long
1 – 1×4 @6 feet long
1 – 1×2 @ 8 feet long
1 – 2×4 @ stud or 8 feet length
1 – 1/2″ scrap plywood for seat top, 19″ x 19″
1 yard of fabric
1 piece of foam, 19″ x 19″ 1″ thick
3/8″ staples
1 1/4″ pocket hole screws

measuring tape
safety glasses
hearing protection
circular saw
countersink drill bit

Cut List

Cut List: 

2 – 2×4 @ 38 1/4″ (Chair back legs)
2 – 1×4 @ 17 1/2″ (Side Aprons)
2 – 2×2 @ 17 1/4″ (Front Legs)
2 – 1×4 @ 16″ (Front/Back Aprons)
4 – 2×2 @ 4″ (Supports – both ends cut at 45 degrees off square, NOT parallel to each other)
1 – 1×2 @ 16″ (Seat Back Top)
2 – 1×6 @ 16″ (Seat Back)
2 – 1×2 @ 19″ (Longest point, one end cut at 8 degrees off square)
1 – 1×2 @ 16 3/4″ (Center Support)
1/2″ plywood @ 19″ x 19″ (Seat top)

Step 1

Classic Chairs Made Simple

Back Legs

If you follow these steps carefully, you can cut back legs that are straight and symmetrically to each other. Mark the legs as shown in the diagram. The front – where the chair leg connects to the side aprons – needs to be cut in 1/4″ to account for rounded edges on 2x4s. The goal is to make as many cuts as possible with a circular saw, but you will need to finish inside cuts on the back with a jigsaw. Follow the diagram above carefully. I advise taking the scrap piece of 2×4 and cutting a leg first from it to get some practice. Once your legs are cut, lay them together, and check to make sure that the top, bottom and front sides all match. The other parts are not as significant. Sand your cuts smooth.

Step 2

Classic Chairs Made Simple

Side Aprons

Attach the side aprons to the back legs, flush to the bottom of the front cuts on your chair back legs. Make sure the two leg pieces still match up – if not, your chair is going to be crooked!

Step 3

Classic Chairs Made Simple

Front Legs

Attach the front legs to the side aprons as shown above. The tops are flush, and your chair part should match up at this point.

Step 4

Classic Chairs Made Simple

Front/Back Aprons

Attach the front and back aprons, carefully predrilling. I used pocket hole screws and glue. Top is flush.

Step 5

Classic Chairs Made Simple

Cross Supports

The cross supports will not only add strength to your chair, but it gives you something to screw your seat to.

Step 6

Classic Chairs Made Simple

Seat Back Top

Attach the seat back top as shown above.

Step 7

Classic Chairs Made Simple

Seat back

I used pocket holes from the back but you can also use predrilled screws from the legs. Attach as shown above.

Step 8

Classic Chairs Made Simple

Base Support

The base supports will add considerable strength to your chairs. Attach as shown above.

Step 9

Classic Chairs Made Simple

Base Center

Attach the base center to the sides as shown in the diagram above.

Step 10

Classic Chairs Made Simple


Spray glue the seat cushion to the seat top plywood. Lay fabric facedown on table with seat top on top of fabric, foam side down. Staple fabric carefully to the underside of the chair, tucking corners neatly. Use 2″ screws to attach the seat to the cross supports or use pocket hole screws.

Step 11

Classic Chairs Made Simple

This chair was painted with Valspar Antique White in Flat Enamel, three coats. A top coat (Valspar satin finish poly) was added. The fabric is from Joanns, and is part of the Home Decorator’s 45″ wide fabric, and was on sale for $5 a yard. For a foam pad, I used a discarded chair pad cut to size. Total cost of this chair was under $20.

Finishing Instructions

It's not that I didn't believe in you.  Because on a daily - sometimes hourly- basis, you blow me away with your capabilities.

But I've resisted putting simple chair plans up because cutting back legs can be such a challenge.  And while many of you have the skills, tools and abilities to make complicated cuts, I take great measures to simplify any design, and every effort to consider the most beginner skill sets, tiniest budgets, and the limited tools of the rest of us.

I will cut anything with a compound miter saw.  I even cut that cushion foam with one (not advisable).  But ask me to cut without it?  I'll admit, it's not my favorite task.  Because when you cut with a handheld saw, the results are not as precise and smooth as with a miter saw.  Especially with 1 1/2" thick stock.  But I'm so proud to tell you that these chair legs were cut by me, on the very first time, with a handheld saw.

And I couldn't be more pleased with the end result.

While those back legs may appear to curve, it's actually a straight cut with a circular saw, so no funny beveling and rough edges, telltale signs of a jigsaw blade.  I did have to complete the cuts with a jigsaw, and then sanded the back legs with coarse sandpaper, but it really wasn't a ton of work.  We are talking about an hour to build this chair.

And who can't use a classic chair?  The padded seat was actually an afterthought, but a super simple modification that I will walk you through in the plan below.

And this photo may help someone conceptualizing the chair better, so I thought I would post.  I used pocket hole screws (highly recommended so you don't end up splitting your legs and a stronger joint) and inset the aprons slightly on the legs to point the pocket hole screws directly into the meat of the legs.  Also I highly recommend adding corner braces or chair braces (metal) to the corners for added stability.  I attached the cushion with pocket holes predrilled in the top edges of the inside of the aprons, with a 1" screw.

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I've been searching for an

I've been searching for an old chair to refinish and recover....for under 20 bucks..it might just be better to try this! I'm a newbie at this, but I think with my husband's help, I might be able to get this done!

posted by TheDabblingCrafter (not verified) | on Sun, 2011-01-23 21:55

Ana, has anyone ever told you

Ana, has anyone ever told you how much YOU ROCK?!? of course they have, but I'm here to tell you again. ;)

I've been wanting to ask for a chair similar to this, but with all of the website struggles lately, I wanted to wait til you were a little less occupied. But look, you read my mind-woo hoo!!

One question-I would really like to make the seat out of boards running front to back (2x4maybe?) would you mind offering suggestions on how to do that?

Thank you so much again! You have really changed my thought process on furnishing my home. :)

posted by Gerri (not verified) | on Sun, 2011-01-23 21:57

These are great! I was

These are great! I was wondering how long it traditionally took you to post a brag blog submission. I submitted it on Friday and i am really excited to share my build with the world. Thank you so much for your inspiration and giving my husband something we can do together.

posted by Jess (not verified) | on Sun, 2011-01-23 22:22

You never cease to amaze

You never cease to amaze us...

posted by dananryan (not verified) | on Sun, 2011-01-23 22:29

Yesterday I was looking at a

Yesterday I was looking at a photo in Coastal Living magazine, where some simple chairs very much like this had been custom built for a room - and wondering aloud if I could design some like them. I don't have a miter saw - only a circular saw or a handsaw when I want to be more precise...
Ana, now I am convinced you are writing this just for me ;-)
Can't wait to get started on these!!

posted by Sophie (not verified) | on Mon, 2011-01-24 06:27

Awesome - as usual!

Awesome - as usual!

posted by Carrie (not verified) | on Mon, 2011-01-24 06:28

I made a similar chair about

I made a similar chair about a month ago and made it with a wood seat. I used 1x4's (5 of them), and I glues and pocket screwed them together from the underside. Turned out great if I do say so myself :) Here is a blog post about it: http://passionforwood.blogspot.com/2010/12/merry-christmas.html

posted by Whitney Smith (not verified) | on Mon, 2011-01-24 07:01
whitney_smith's picture


Blog has changed! Please follow the new link. Thanks! http://whitneysworkshop.blogspot.com/2010/12/merry-christmas.html


posted by whitney_smith | on Mon, 2012-12-03 13:50

I really like it! I've been

I really like it! I've been wanting a simple chair. We built the lap desk for a Christmas present for a brother and the chalk board for my son for Christmas. I truly enjoy your plans and love seeing your new designs everyday. With four month and cold garage, I can't build now, but am hoping to do so when the weather warms up. Thank you.

posted by Tasha (not verified) | on Mon, 2011-01-24 08:29

Ana, what a GREAT chair! I

Ana, what a GREAT chair! I have one almost like it that I have done in Sketchup. Your other chairs are wonderful, but as most of the people in my family are on the hefty side, and I needed one with more size and structural supports. I am despirately in need of everyday kitchen chairs. So I also put the cross members for the legs on the bottom, and the corner braces under the seat. I have been however, trying to decide what material to make it from when i get to that point. Like I said, as my family members are on the heafty side, I have seriously been considering using a good quality plywood. Making my own 2x4's by cutting 2x4 sized pieces of 3/4 ply, then gluing the together for the legs. Then making the cuts for the back legs / back of the chair. Ply is SO strong! And as I will probably paint the chairs not stain them, plus with some thorough sanding, the ply layers would prob not show anyway. I know that cutting all those pieces will be a lot of work, plus I am adding additional cost to the chairs by using a good quality ply, but thats ok. I have a straight edge that allows me to make pretty precise straight cuts on plywood with a circular saw. Thanks again for that wonderful chair!!

posted by Bonnie (not verified) | on Mon, 2011-01-24 10:04

This is fantastic! I'm

This is fantastic! I'm getting ready to build a breakfast nook into our new kitchen (bench window seats and all). I'd been planning to buy chairs for it, but I think I may try these instead! You rock :)

posted by Sara (not verified) | on Mon, 2011-01-24 10:17

I love this chair! I've been

I love this chair! I've been looking for something easy to clean PB&J off of! Thanks.

posted by Vanessa (not verified) | on Mon, 2011-01-24 10:29

I get intimidated just

I get intimidated just THINKING about building a chair...but I'm getting very close to just going for it! I better finish up 2 other projects that I'm working on right now and then maybe I'll have the confidence to do it!! I love the simplistic style of this chair!!

posted by Michelle (not verified) | on Mon, 2011-01-24 10:58

I think your chair looks

I think your chair looks great and I personally like the filler not matching the chair perfectly. It gives it a yesteryear kind of look when the plugs always stained as a different colour. Very nice

posted by jdub (not verified) | on Mon, 2011-01-24 13:13

This is great! Now how would

This is great! Now how would I modify it to make it bar height? I made the craft table, but need a chair that height to go with it and this would be perfect!!

posted by Rebecca R (not verified) | on Mon, 2011-01-24 17:53

Love this plan thank you! I

Love this plan thank you! I have chairs like this in my dining room and in addition to fabric, I got a clear plastic vinyl (you can get it at Walmart) and put that over the fabric (attached with staples just like the fabric). With five kids, it makes the chairs so much easier to stay clean. It has been over five years and they are just starting to have wear issues.... which is perfect timing because after five years I need a fabric change! :)

posted by Kayla (not verified) | on Wed, 2011-01-26 07:18

I have been working on the

I have been working on the same thing, just for counter height...not sure if just changing the angle works??? I like the tapered leg versus straight, but don't want too much of an angle. Hmmmm???

posted by Anneke (not verified) | on Sun, 2011-01-30 02:02

Saw your chair and LOVE it!!

Saw your chair and LOVE it!! Looks so good. Did you use the pocket-hole plugs on your chair, or wood filler? I was a bit confused and unsure as to which you used. We (my hubby and I) are in the process of building a console table (plans to come shortly to Ana-White.com) and are using the pocket-hole plugs that came with our Kreg Jig. I'm just wondering if ours will seem mis-matched too. Not that big of a deal, just curious before the stain goes on. Great job on your chair though, our next project is Ana's Classic Chair!

posted by Tracy Smith (not verified) | on Tue, 2011-02-15 19:02
amywerttn's picture

Love this!

I have needed new dinning chairs for a while but haven't found any that are "my style" for a price I'm willing to shell out. ;) I can't wait to try this!

posted by amywerttn | on Wed, 2011-09-07 21:46

Weight Capacity?

I know this is a late post, I am new to the site and totally addicted. Just curious if there is an estimated weight limit? My immediate family is fairly small to average but some fairly frequent visitors are rather large. I would hate to make these chairs and have them possibly not withstand some of our heavier guests. They look fairly sturdy, just curious!

posted by Mommyof4 | on Mon, 2012-03-26 20:57


I know you crazy yanks have a weird lumber dimensioning system, but shouldn't the cut list be accurate? It would have been OK if the 4" was really 3-1/2" if I hadn't already drilled the pocket holes*... sigh... start again, (cry)

(edit: *and glued and screwed...)

posted by bundaboy | on Tue, 2012-05-29 04:35

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