Reupholstering Old Office Chairs

My experience in reupholstering is slim. Mostly I have just done the simplest of projects: there’s a hunk of wood, with a layer of padding, and then fabric stretched over the padding and staple-gunned to the underside of the wood.

It is a simple matter to remove the bad fabric, use this bad fabric to make a pattern for the new fabric, then staple on the new fabric. You put in the first staple, pull the fabric a little taut, then put the second staple directly opposite the first. Rotate the item and keep doing this “opposite stapling” until you have worked your way around the item.

I got to wondering if I could reupholster our two old office chairs. They’re almost 20 years old, and made of metal, plastic and upholstery fabric. The plastic parts have cracked or are worn, so these chairs have limited life left anyway. However I was most bothered by the fabric which had gotten grubby and developed holes over the years. I’ve held off buying new ones, hoping I will find something good at yard sales.

In the meantime, this upholstery was a major eyesore. I decided to experiment and see if I could reupholster them. I actually needed my husband’s “umph” to take apart the chairs, which was mostly a matter of unscrewing the fabric/padding/wood units of the back and seat, removing them from the chair frame. Then it was hard work to remove scores of old staples. By the time I stapled on the new fabric, my hands were really tired. But the project was successful. The chairs will last a few more years, which will give me time to try to find “new” chairs.

With this success, I will look at used office chairs differently when I go to yard sales. In the past I have passed them over when the upholstery was bad. Now I will inspect these chairs carefully, to try to decide if they can be easily taken apart. I would attempt reupholstery only if the chair was free, or near-free, because I would not know until I tried to take it apart, if the chair could be saved.

I will also be looking for suitable chunks of upholstery fabric and other durable fabrics. Upholstery fabric is quite expensive when purchased new. So I pick up chunks at yard sales, and save them for projects that may come up.

In part I’ve resisted new office chairs because they are a bit cold-looking for the home. I don’t want to spend a lot of money on furniture I dislike for home use. So reupholstering old office chairs intrigues me. If I use some fun fabric, it is an opportunity to make an office chair warm and unique, and blend in with my home decor.

Photo credit: emdot