I was driving by the intersection of 16th and South Van Ness in San Francisco one day when I spotted what looked like an Eero Saarinen side chair (with metal legs) sat in a pile of discarded furniture. I turned my car around to take a closer look, and turns out it IS an authentic Knoll Saarinen side chair(!!!). The upholstery was in poor condition with rips and stains, but other than that, the chair looks like it’s in a solid condition.
I brought my treasured find back home and did a little more research into re-upholstery of the chair. Below are the resources I found:
The takeaway is that the reupholstery job is not particularly straightforward — I can either do it myself by taking apart the existing upholstery, make a pattern, then sew the whole thing together. Even though I have worked on some soft goods / sewing projects, the tasks involved seemed way too advanced for my undertaking.
The second option is to have it professionally reupholstered, the cost of which could be at least $200. I took the chair to two local upholstery shops. Both of them gave me a quote of ~$400 plus the cost of the fabric. I was not ready to spend $400 on a chair.
A month or two passed, and the chair was just sitting in my garage, staring at me — I had to do something about it. I kept wondering what it would be like to take the upholstery apart and work with whatever there is. I figured I had nothing to lose, since I got the chair for free.
This instructable details the process of taking the chair apart and turning it into something that Eero Saarinen might not approve of, but I think is not too shabby and fits in with the mid-century modern decor. The best part about it was that it costed me close to nothing.
The outside upholstery was nasty, but wait until you see the inside! It appears that the foam used underneath the chair back had hardened and crumbled over the years, producing this super nasty yellow powder. The fabric was held onto the chair by these tiny nails. I had to use a prying tool and the prying end of a hammer to get them off. Do this on a piece of large butcher paper because that foam dust gets everywhere.
As for the chair seat, it's another level of nastiness. Underneath is this sticky greenish soft foam that needed scraping off from the plywood base. This plywood (I imagine from the 60's or 70's) is actually quite nice, and as soon as I saw it, I imagined showing it off somehow in the final product.