Friday, February 18, 2011

Mid-Century Modern Desk Chair

Part of my planning for moving to our apartment, is having a furniture plan. I've been thinking through what furniture we are taking and what furniture we are changing and what furniture we are saving or getting rid of.

Since we basically will only have two rooms(living/kitchen and a bedroom), our office will be a corner in the living room. I'm kinda looking forward to this for two reasons.

1. When Matt is on the internet, he won't disappear into the back of the house.

2. It will finally motivate me to organize our desk and office supplies and keep them that way because I'll have to look at them all the time.

Our current desk is embarrassing to show you. Matt bought it in college for the large table top area. My main problem with it is that it has NO storage! No drawers! No NOTHING! Matt added some shelves himself, but they don't function very well. It almost goes without saying...THE DESK ISN'T COMING WITH US!!!! It's huge! We do not have that luxury of space to spend on an office area. And it's ugly! And completely non-functional for our needs.

I have cute white desk from my childhood that we will be using. It doesn't have as much space on top, but Matt doesn't use the desktop except as a place to collect junk and papers. If he needs space to spread out something like our houseplans, we have the kitchen counter AND the kitchen table.

Now on to the chair issue...

Matt was fine with the idea of using a different desk. And in MY head it was obvious that if we are getting rid of the giant ugly desk, we are also getting rid of the giant ugly chair. This was not so obvious to Matt. How could he think I was going to put this chair with my cute white desk?

That was not going to happen. That would mean from every area of the room, whether it be the kitchen, the dining area, or the couch, you would see this:

I envisioned something more like this:

Except not $400 from Pottery Barn. Maybe more like $50 from a flea market or Craigslist.

So, I started searching Craigslist to see what was out there and to check out the prices. Found a few wooden options, but then I came across this ad.

And the aluminum one caught my eye. I sent it to Matt at work and his response was "It's freakin' sweet. I want it!" I've never actually heard him use the phase "sweet", but it was no surprise that he would love it being a metal worker himself. So I called the consignment shop where it was and made plans to go see it the next day.

I also browsed around the internet and ebay doing a little research on this baby. I saw many others in great condition listed from $150-$400. It's made by Goodform(you can google "goodform aluminum chair" and check out images...if you want). They make a dining chair version which is called the "navy chair" because it was made for naval ships because of it's lightweight and durability.

You might recognize this chair. I know I did. The originals, along with lots of remakes, are gaining popularity and making lots of appearances in decor magazines lately. I've seen them countless times in magazines you wouldn't think would have a chair like this, such as Better Homes and Gardens and Country Living. They are usually paired with a rustic farmhouse table. It's all about blending styles together.

Hard to see them, but they're there. I couldn't find any better pictures right now. Here's one with different industrial chairs(can be purchase from pottery barn or sundance).

Ahhh. I just love that dining room.

Ok, let's get back on subject. We bought the chair and I set out to buying supplies to recover the seat.

1. one yard of vinyl from Mary Jo's Cloth Store in Gastonia(a yard was way too much by the way) $8
2. one yard of 1/4 in' foam to add some padding to the metal seat $3
3. spray adhesive(I used Super 77) $5
4. aluminum polish(from a car parts store) $6

And there are leftovers of everything but foam for another project.

Close-up of chair before:

Because the seat is "butt-shaped", I couldn't cover it the way I usually do. And I couldn't use staples like you normally would attach new fabric. I decided to use spray adhesive so that you could still see the butt shape, rather than having the fabric stretched tightly over the top. I added the foam to give it a little padding, since there was none.

I'll try and talk you through it, but I did a really bad job of documenting my work.

First, I flipped the chair upside down and unscrewed the nuts that held on the seat. I used needle-nose pliers to get into the hard to reach places. Once the seat came off, I needed to clean the chair. Under the seat had a lot of red/orange dust collected, which I can only assume was rust or decomposing adhesive and dirt, or a combo of all three. I used the vacuum attachment to clean all this up. It was a lot. Especially under the seat liner that immediately crumbled when I touched it. I ripped it off to expose the metal underneath to make sure it was all clean.

I polished the frame using the aluminum polish and a rag. It didn't make a big difference. It basically just cleaned the metal a little. It's not really any shinier and all the scratches are still very apparent.

I took the seat outside and sprayed it with adhesive. The directions say to wait at least 30 sec for it to get sticky. Then I laid the foam on top and smoothed it out. Once moved back inside, I trimmed the foam to fit around the seat.

Next, it was time to spray the vinyl and attach it to the seat. Because the seat is concave, getting it wrinkle free was impossible without heating up and stretching out the vinyl, so I just did my best to spread out the wrinkles(shown in the after photo below).

Then I trimmed it and sprayed the edges with glue. Folding the sticky corners was also tricky and they don't match each other perfectly. Once it was attached, I placed it back on the chair, flipped the chair over again, and reattached the brackets that hold it on(sorry, no pictures).

I did make one mistake with my trimming. I didn't leave a flap to fold over to hide the foam. There is a raw edge where the seat meets the arm of the chair. It will probably always bother me, but I think once it's in the room and being use, no one will notice it(shown in the photo below).

Over all, I'm very pleased with how it came out.

Close-up of a corner

Close-up of wrinkles

Close-up of my cutting mistake

Total money spent: $72 (with leftover supplies, so you almost can't count some of that)

Once Matt fixes the hydraulic thingamajiger on his old chair, we will sell it on Craigslist, so that will help with the cost even more. It won't pay for the whole thing but that's ok.


  1. Wow! It looks amazing - and very comfy! Love it!

  2. Love it!!! The chair is too cool! And I LOVE me some mid-century. You can find it all over my blog lol.

    Cat @

  3. Sweet chair!!! Love that you preserved the "butt" imprint.



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