Update a Nasty-looking Office Chair

Introduction: Update a Nasty-looking Office Chair

The upholstery on this chair was pretty ratty when I bought it at a second-hand office furniture store. I got by with a slipcover for about seven years, but when it started shedding I decided it was time for an upgrade. If I'd known how easy and cheap it could be done, I'd have done it long ago!

This is my first instructable, so any suggestions are welcome. Likewise, I'm not a professional upholsterer and was pretty much making it up as I went along, so tips from more experienced users are appreciated.

Step 1: Supplies and Tools

What you'll need:
  • Heavy-ish fabric, synthetic recommended
  • A throw pillow

  • Screwdriver
  • Staple gun
  • Pliers
  • Something to open seams with (seam ripper, utility knife or razor blade)
  • Spray glue

For fabric, I found a valance in the bed-&-bath section of my local thrift store for $2, along with the pillow for 99 cents. Mine still had tags, so the store probably got it new as overstock. Be VERY choosy, especially regarding smells, if you choose a used one. I used the seam ripper to, well, rip out all the seams on the valance, then ironed out creases before starting with the real action.

Step 2: Out With the Old

This will vary depending on your chair. For me, the seat and back unscrewed easily. On the seat, the plastic base on the bottom popped right off. The back was a lot more snug; I had to jam a screwdriver in to open it up, then used bicycle tire tools to "unzip" it. (Sorry, I didn't think to start taking pics until after I'd done this.)

The old cloth was so rotten it ripped right off. You may need to cut along the side or pull out a few staples to get it started. There's always a few staples that aren't flush and pull out easily with pliers.

Step 3: Clean Up and Glue Padding

Use your pliers to remove all (or at least most) of the old staples from both pieces. This was really easy since the chair was so old that the plywood had dried out. The naked wood also had a cool [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eames_Lounge_Chair_Wood_(LCW) Eames-y] look but wouldn't have been too comfortable, so we proceed.

Open a seam on one side of the pillow and pull out enough stuffing to cover the back piece. The stuffing in this pillow seemed to be folded up, so I tried (with limited success) to pull out longish continuous pieces. This makes gluing it down smoothly easier.

Spray a light coat of spray mount or glue on the front surface of the back piece. Press sections of padding down, leaving a couple of inces hanging off the edge.

Step 4: Time to Staple!

If your fabric has a pattern or stripe like mine, lay out both pieces so that you can cut a large enough square for each piece centered along the same line in the pattern. In my case I centered on the wide green-and-red stripe. Cut squares of fabric about three inches larger all around than the back piece and the seat piece.

Turn the smaller square right side down and center the seat back puffy side down on top of it. Fold the top of the fabric down over the piece and staple it once in the center, about an inch below the top. Flip the piece right-side up and spread the fabric out above it (as in third picture). Smooth the padding around the top edge of the wooden part, bunching it up and leaving a bit extra hanging over.

Fold the fabric back down the right way, making sure it fits neatly over the top edge. At the bottom, bunch the padding up right along the edge. Grab the fabric opposite the first staple and pull it around and over the bottom edge. As you pull the fabric taut, "massage" the padding down and around to cover the bottom edge. Feel along the top to make sure you haven't pulled the padding off the edge. If all feels right, staple the bottom edge in the center.

Step 5: More Stapling...

Staple your way out from the center towards each corner across the top and bottom, pulling your fabric evenly. Check as you go that the lines are straight and centered. Stop about two inches from the corner. If you have a lot of excess fabric, trim it now, about in inch out from the row of staples.

Now staple the sides in the same manner, again starting in the center on each edge and working your way out. Trim.

Pull down one corner towards the center back. Check that it folds smoothly over the front, then flip and staple once in the center of the corner. Pull and fold the opposite corner, staple. Do the other pair of opposite corners. Staple any floppy corner fabric, and trim.

Step 6: Repeat With Your Seat

OK, here's where I must confess: I did the seat first - twice - and made lots of mistakes, some of which I learned from for the backrest and some which still baffle me. The main problem I had was getting it centered and straight along the curve, which in cross section is kind of a stretched-out tilde. I started in the center on the sides, but couldn't get the fabric and padding to follow the curve very well.

So I pulled all the staples, trimmed down my oversized fabric square and started over. I also pulled out about half the padding, which I'd overdone as you can see in the third pic. This time, in contravention of all conventional wisdom, I started at the center front, then moved up the sides, then the back and corners.

Somehow, it all went back together and came out OK and fairly comfy to boot. In fact, I'm sitting on this very chair as a write this!

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    9 years ago on Step 3

    Actually, you could buy an old car seat and adapt it to take a swivel chair stand too.