How to Dye Leather Chairs

Hello friends!

I’ve got a fun project to share with you today and it’s been awhile since I’ve had a really good DIY project to share with you so I hope you enjoy this one.  I get some crazy ideas sometimes and this seemed like it might be one of those.  Dying leather chairs was something I never thought I’d do and I’m going to share how I dyed the chairs with you.

I’ve had these leather chairs since 2003 and in my first house.  I bought them from a local furniture store who was going out of business, Furniture Craftsmen.  Those of you who have been in this area for a long time probably remember this company and they had some gorgeous higher end furniture in their very down to earth warehouse setting in Marietta. I lived close to them and used to enjoy browsing things I couldn’t really afford at the time.

DIY dying leather chairs

These chairs were in the sale and so I fell in love with their stately shape and classic looks, even though the leather wasn’t my absolute favorite color, it worked well with the Tuscan look that was so trendy back then.  They have found  a place in my living rooms ever since I brought them home and they are still beautiful chairs.  But,  I’ve grown very tired of the gold leather shade they were in.  I did some research online and heard about a leather dye by Fiebing’s and decided to give it a try.  For less than $50, I bought all the products needed and got to work.

Here’s my thought process on something like this. What’s the worst that can happen?  I ruin the leather and hate it?  OK then, I’ll just get them recovered in fabric which was on my list to do anyway.

I figured the worst that could happen was that the leather would be ruined and I’d go to Plan B.  But, I’m happy to say that Plan A worked so well and I’m thrilled with the outcome of these dyed leather chairs!

Let’s get started and I’ll show you exactly what I did!

The leather is in great condition, but I read that it needs to be deglazed to open up the leather for the dye to penetrate, so I followed those directions.

The chair has a million nailheads all around the edging, so I taped it all off to avoid getting dye on the nailheads.

Here’s what I bought, all from Amazon (affiliate links used for your convenience). This was a pretty inexpensive project for the impact.  I ended up buying 3 bottles of the Show Brown Dye, but one bottle of the Deglazer and the Resolene (finishing coat to seal).  I did run out of the deglazer, but read that Pure Acetone works too and I had that on hand so finished off with Acetone.  I also read that the Pro Dye was best to use instead of their regular dye, so I chose a color from that line.  To see all the colors do a search for Fiebings Dye and the color charts will come up. 

Step One:

Tape off the wood and nailheads that you want to protect.  Those wool daubers do a good job of spreading and you can control them well. That’s just a shadow on the pic above, I hadn’t started on it yet.

Step Two:

Use the wool dauber to deglaze the leather.  Just brush it over all the leather and it will soak in and dry pretty fast.  I waited until it was dry before I started adding the dye, because if it’s wet it will grab the dye darker in that spot.  It did dry very fast, since it has alcohol in it.

Step Three:

Use another wool dauber to apply the dye.  It will be scary at first, but then exciting as you see it change before your eyes and your leather will change colors.

The first coat will look splotchy and you can see the overlap marks of the dye as you work your way across the leather.

And after one coat it looks like this.  Don’t worry, the 2nd coat will blend it all together!

After 2 coats, it will look like this.  This was outside and still a bit splotchy, but it all blended together in the end.  If there’s an area that looks lighter, just add more and it will start to blend together.

Here’s that same chair, inside the house.  This is the first back of the chair that I finished and my first attempt after 2 coats.  I was highly pleased with this and motivated to keep going.  Loving it so far! I was glad it didn’t completely get rid of the grain of the leather, but let’s it shine through.

After 2 coats all over the chair, this is what I ended up with.  Love at first sight! What a difference, don’t you think?  The dye dries fast as well. It looks like a high end distressed leather chair.

Step Four: 

I took an old terry cloth and manually wiped on the Resolene sealer over the dried leather dye and it gave it a nice sheen.  That took no time and went very fast.  I just rubbed it in and buffed.

The second chair went fast and before I knew it, I was done with this project.

DIY dying leather chairs

Both chairs, sealed and ready to use. Late afternoon lighting outside.

I removed all the tape and any nailheads that had dye on them, I used a cotton pad and acetone to remove it and it came off easily.

I’m totally in love with my chairs all over again and they look like new again.  I had a few dings on the wood and used a wood pen to fill those in and they will be ready to use in the living room soon.  Can’t wait to get that room finished and all the furniture in place.

OH! And one important question I know you’ll all ask.  Is it colorfast and does it come off on your clothes?  NO, it does not!  I tested it out with a white towel and nothing came off on the towel.  It’s completely smooth and dry. 

I’ll have to move things around for Christmas as the living room is front and center and where the Christmas tree needs to be, but I couldn’t be happier with how this project turned out.  Definitely would do it again and I highly recommend dying your leather furniture at home if you have something that you no longer love or the leather is fading.  I think it would be a great fix for old leather that needs refurbishing again.

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- Rhoda

Comments

  1. Wow Rhoda , I saw these at your open house. And they look amazing. How fun. It’s like gettting two new chairs for free and some work . I think I just might have to try this diy.

    • Thank you, Carole, I’m glad you got to see them in person and now the reinvention. I’m so happy with them now and glad I saved them!

  2. wow that took some nerve to try! I guess you were right you didn’t have anything to lose – lesson learned take the plunge they look really good!

  3. Wow! This is by far the best before and after project I have seen in years! Great job, I didn’t know it was even possible to dye leather yourself.

  4. They look fantastic! And yes, they would have been my first question, are they colorfast. Guess the sealer does the trick.

  5. You are brave😀 I would never even consider doing this because I would end up with a huge mess!
    The chairs look fantastic!

  6. I don’t think I’d be brave enough to try this even if I’d thought it possible, but they they look absolutely beautiful! I’d have worried about whether or not they’re colourfast so it’s good to know they’re not.

  7. I love the outcome! Keeping this in mind for an old leather pocketbook!

  8. Rhoda to the rescue of a leather couch. Thank you for this great tip, the price is right too. Love these chairs so much in the darker color.

  9. Donna Vaughn says:

    Does the dye come in different colors?

    • Yes, check out the link and you can search for all the colors. Just do a Google Search on Feibings Dye. I read that the Oil Dye was the best one.

  10. Becky in 'Bama says:

    You are a courageous explorer and did an excellent job with a great outcome. Do you remember in the 1960’s – people were able to dye their leather shoes at home? I remember my mother dying some of her shoes – using last year’s pumps to match her new Easter outfit (that she had hand sewn). With four children and being a stay at home mom – she could not always afford new shoes – so tah-dah. She’d tackle the project; she was a regular do-it-yourselfer! Not so sure I’m as brave as you OR my mother!

    • Hey, Becky, I do remember the 60’s well and seem to remember leather dye. I also remember dying fabric shoes was a big thing too and everyone had their bridesmaids do that to match the dresses!

  11. Beautiful job! They look fantastic. We have a leather couch and love seat that are showing wear on the corners, It’s just fading, no tears or rips, and I’m wondering if re-dyeing is the solution. Thank you for this tutorial and product info. You have a flair for decorating and great sense of style!

    • HI, Linda, if you get the right color, you could probably just touch up the faded areas and get it to blend in better. Definitely worth a try.

  12. WOW! Rhoda… The chairs came out fabulous!!! Pinning

  13. What an amazing project! The chairs look great!

  14. Most impressive project ever! I did not know you could dye leather furniture! Great job!!!

  15. I, too, didn’t realize this was an option. Beautiful outcome!

  16. These are just stunning! Who would even guess that they have been dyed as a DIY project!! They look original and very expensive, classy and elegant! Great job!

  17. Audra L Taliaferro says:

    They look amazing!!!!

  18. Love them!

  19. WOW!!!! Just gorgeous!

  20. Brilliant! And gorgeous!!

  21. I love it when you work your DIY magic and share the amazing results with us! The chairs look amazing!
    Vix

  22. That may be the most amazing project I’ve ever seen! I’m thinking about leather purses too. Wow, just wow!

  23. Wow, this is so timely! I bought an Ethan Allen leather love seat and sofa on Craigslist. They looked like a beautiful brown. In our home, they look decidedly olive and I HATE it, I can’t print my name for the color, you would ban me. Actually, I researched some leather dye but the experts make everything sound so complicated. Dark brown is in my future, I hope, a test on the back would be a good idea. It will be more like than $150 or so of supplies if I do it but who cares? I’m so excited about this. Thanks so much for this DIY.

  24. Love how the chairs came out, Rhoda! Great job & will look great for years to come!

  25. Ooh la la❣️
    Simply fabulous! Love it and so classic for your living room! They are gorgeous! Great job and yes, you are brave! Love your chairs! Classic!

  26. They look very rich and new. I am starting to bring back my original wood furniture instead of painting everything white! I am starting to dig the British colonial look of natural wood furniture with plants and white decor accents. Those chairs are perfect.
    Maria

  27. April Edwards says:

    WOW!!!! I have two questions. Please tell us about how long the process to dye both chairs actually took from start to finish. Also, can you dye the leather a lighter color or only darker than the original?

    • HI, April, I’d say from start to finish, it took me probably 3 hours total for the actual process, about 1 1/2 hours per chair and I didn’t do them both at one time. I had to wait for more dye to come in and then got back on it and finished up. Once I got started it went really fast. The last step of the sealer went very fast and then it was all done.

      As far as going lighter, I have no idea, but I’d say no on that. The dye doesn’t completely cover the color, it just darkened mine, so I don’t think that would work to go really light if you’ve got a dark color already.

  28. Rhoda this looks like a great product. It really gave a new life to those tired leather chairs. And the best part, it looks like it was quite easy to do.

  29. Angela Mahnke says:

    Those chairs look absolutely amazing! What I love the most is you always take good pictures in stages thru out the project, thank you so much, I am a visual person and it really helps! Can’t wait to see your finished room with these cool looking chairs!!

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