Instructions for Building Parsons Chairs

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Parsons chairs have a classic design, with a flat or rounded back, four legs and a covered back and seat. Named for the Parsons School of Design in New York City, where they were first created, Parsons chairs work well when grouped around a dining room table, but also look good as an accent chair in the living room. Building your own Parsons chair -- from a strong, smooth wood appropriate for furniture, such as cherry -- provides your home with a new functional and decorative piece of furniture you'll be especially proud of.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 boards, 18-by-2-by-2 inches
  • 2 boards, 16-by-2-by-2 inches
  • 2 boards, 15-by-1-by-2 inches
  • Circular saw
  • Wood glue
  • Clamps
  • 2-inch wood screws
  • Electric screwdriver
  • 2 boards, 14-by-2-by-1 inch
  • Wood board, 13-by 2-by-1 inch
  • 3-inch screws
  • 4 boards, 16-by-2-by 3 inches
  • 2 boards, 14-by-1-by 3 inches
  • 2 boards, 13-by-1-by 3 inches
  • Plywood
  • Upholstery foam
  • Scissors
  • Spray adhesive
  • Fabric
  • Staple gun
  • Staples
  • Sewing pins
  • Sewing machine

Build the Seat and Back

  • Cut the end of each of the two 18-by-2-by-2-inch boards with a circular saw, creating a 15-degree angle at one end. Repeat this step with the two 16-by-2-by-2-inch and the two 15-by-1-by-2-inch boards.

  • Apply glue to the slanted surface of one of the 18-by-2-by-2-inch boards. With slanted surfaces aligned together, press a 16-by-2-by-2-inch board onto the glue on the first board. Clamp the two pieces together and repeat this step with the other two boards of this size. Remove the clamps once the wood glue dries.

  • Coat the right-hand side of one 16-inch board with wood glue. Set a 15-by-1-by-2-inch board on the glue. Slide the 15-inch board down until you line up the back edge with the corner where the 16- and 18-inch boards meet. Repeat this step with the other 15-inch board, placing it on the left-hand side of the other 16-inch board.

  • Sink a 2-inch wood screw into the back of the pieces, where the sloped sides touch. Sink one screw into the inside edges of the pieces, where the 15- and 16-inch boards touch. Sink one screw into each end, and anchor additional screws every 2 inches across the boards.

  • Lay a 14-by-2-by-1-inch board down flat. Set the boards from the previous step next to it. The new board should sit even with the 16-inch boards and in front of the 15-inch boards.

  • Use wood glue and 2-inch screws to attach the front board to the main piece. Repeat this step with the second 14-by-2-by-1-inch board attached to the top between the two original pieces. This is the frame of the chair.

  • Slide a 13-by-2-by-1-inch board on top of the chair frame. Push the piece back until it sits flush with the wood. Press down, sliding it between the wood pieces at the back of the seat. Sink a 3-inch screw through each end.

Make the Chair Base

  • Lay two 16-by-2-by-3-inch boards down flat and set a 14-by-1-by-3-inch board between them. Slide the 14-inch board up until it sits even with the edges. Sink wood screws into the sides and through both pieces of wood.

  • Turn the base onto one side and attach, with wood screws, a 13-by-1-by-3-inch board to the side. Attach a second 14- and 13-inch board with the remaining 16-inch boards together. The 16-inch pieces serve as the legs, while the other pieces create the base. Use wood screws wherever the wood meets.

  • Set the base on the legs and place the chair on top. Sink wood screws through the chair and into the base. Cover the base and the seat with pieces of plywood cut to their sizes and attach them with wood screws.

Cover the Chair

  • Cut a piece of upholstery foam into two pieces: one the same size as the back and one the same size as the seat. Spray the seat foam piece with adhesive and wrap it with fabric. Coat the seat with wood glue or spray adhesive and press the foam piece down on top.

  • Spray the back of the chair and press the foam piece against it.

  • Drape a piece of fabric over the front and a piece over the back, with the right sides of the fabric facing the chair. Pin the two pieces together along the outline of the chair. Mark where the hem should be at the bottom.

  • Take the fabric off the chair and stitch along the edges, removing the sewing pins as you go. Fold the bottom edge of the fabric over and stitch, creating a hem. Turn the piece right-side out, slip it over the back of the chair and smooth it flat.

Tips & Warnings

  • When you want to change the look of the chair, just replace the fabric cover.

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