The Church Pew

I was originally thinking of titling this post, “Reupholstered Church Pew DIY” until I remembered that my dad is a third generation upholstery tradesman.

My great-grandfather, George Constable, lived through the Great Depression. He used to find discarded pieces of furniture and use them to make ends meet. He would reupholster a couch he found for free on the side of the road, and then he would have a raffle for it. He’d sell tickets for 25 cents a piece, and once he had enough money to cover the cost of labor and materials he’d draw a ticket and someone would leave with a newly recovered couch for 25 cents.

George had 6 children: Clayton, Dale, Clyde, Orele, Helen and Marcella. He taught his sons the upholstery trade. When my grandfather, Joe, married my grandmother Helen, Clayton taught him the upholstery trade.

So then my grandfather, Joe, owned a furniture factory and all 3 of his sons (including my dad) worked in the factory doing upholstery. Grandpa Joe believed that every man should know a trade whatever he ended up doing for a living, a trade was something that he could fall back on. My dad paid for college by working as an upholsterer during the summers.

My dad never worked in upholstery when I was around, that was before my time, so sometimes I forget. Of course, I always remember when I find an upholstery project! Ha!

My husband found this small church pew at a Deseret Industries thrift store for $20. I’ve always wanted a church pew. I asked my dad to help me reupholster it when my parents came to visit this Christmas. While we worked at prying out hundreds of tiny staples, I learned that Grandpa Joe’s last job was reupholstering the pews at a church in St. Helena, California. He had his 3 sons helping him on that job when he unexpectedly died of a heart attack at the age of 55. I never met my grandpa Joe, but I like to think he’d get a kick out of us all working on this $20 church pew over Christmas break.


I believe it is original orange fabric from the 1960s or 1970s. The end pieces, back piece, and legs are solid oak and the seat and back are upholstered partial board.

I learned this next idea from an interior design book on a coffee table at my Aunt Nancy’s house in Palm Desert, California. I can’t remember the title or author of the book but the idea wasn’t mine!

A drop cloth from Home Depot, washed and dried, looks strikingly similar to raw linen. So that was what I chose to recover the pew

My oldest son (age 11) is an engineer. It’s a God-given talent that we hope to help him pursue and strengthen. If he hadn’t remembered how to put this silly thing back together, it would’ve been sitting in my house missing pieces to it. Seriously. Four adults couldn’t figure it out. Thanks to him, it’s finished! Whew!

finished Christmas pew 2021

We’re using the reupholstered church pew as our front entry bench. It’s perfect to sit on while we put on and/or remove our shoes. There’s room underneath for shoe storage baskets. We got the pineapple art at a local furniture resale store and the doorknob coat rack at Idaho Youth Ranch thrift store.

For some reason, this church pew reminds me of my blogging friend Mrs. Shecky. She has some very fun posts to check out, gorgeous photographs, and often features “pull up a seat”.

Have you ever tried an upholstery project? If so, how did it go?

Do you like thrift store shopping? If so, what was one of your favorite thrift store finds?

16 thoughts on “The Church Pew

  1. You all did an awesome job! The pew looks very nice. The pews I sat in growing up did not have any cushion to them. I did recover our kitchen chairs several years back. It really updated the chairs, and I was pleased how they turned out. I like Mrs. Shecky’s blog, too. Her “pull up a seat” posts are very charming. Enjoy your new bench!

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  2. Oh, it’s so good to see you and your precious family. This post warmed my heart (it’s 10 degree with 10 inches of snow ❄️💙). I LOVE the church pew. I love the history in your family and seeing everyone work together is so precious. It turned out beautiful! Church pews are special to me. My Grandfather Wilson was a Baptist Minister for over 50 years. He would be 112 if alive today. I had a church pew, similar to yours, at one of my former houses with the original green velvet from when I was a child. I’m glad to know you are all doing well! Blessings!

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    1. Fantastic to know someone else had a church pew used as home furniture! I wasn’t sure if some might think it sacrilegious. I felt like I was rescuing the pew! It’s fun to think of all the sermons that might’ve been preached to such a variety of people who might’ve sat there in years past. Velvet would have been a lovely choice. Maybe next time I’ll redo it in velvet!

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  3. Thank goodness S. was part of the demolition crew, and remembered the process. I am certain that your dad would have eventually figured out the re-construction of the pew, but he was ‘saved by his grandson.’ BTW, that drop cloth is easy fabric to sew, and I think it was pretty easy to upholster with as well. It really does look like raw linen fabric. Glad you are enjoying the pew.

    Liked by 1 person

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