Tuesday, August 12, 2014

DIY Office: How To Reupholster Your Office Chair

Before Chair Makeover

Not everyone has the money for a fancy new office chair, but even if you do, why not get creative? It's impossible for even the most versatile chair manufacturers to meet the needs of every individual, and with limited patterns, design is limited too. Thankfully, the great DIYers of the world have devised a solution! If your office chairs are old or boring, today's article on how to reupholster your office chair is for you. Enjoy!

Gather Some Tools

Chair Tools

When reupholstering an office chair, the first step is fairly obvious - get a chair. If you don't have an old one of your own to use, never fear. There are plenty of affordable chairs from Flash Furniture and similar brands to give you a cozy ergonomic chair without breaking your bank. In fact, a quick perusal through a brand like the versatile RFM Seating (the offer office chairs in nearly endless fabric options) may render your project moot. However, for those of you set on something creative, know that gray and white upholstery office chairs are very popular now, so you may want to consider them! To get started, hopefully these tools are laying somewhere around the house:

- A Desk Chair

- Fabric
* (This is a tricky one. Most smaller, affordable chair will require around a 1/2 yard of fabric, but take the safe side and measure the backrest and seat. Add 4" so there will be enough fabric to wrap around each cushion.)

- Scissors

- Staple Gun

- Screwdriver
* (Look at the screws already on the chair to determine whether you'll need a philips or a flathead.)

- A Buddy
* (To help you stretch the fabric.)


- Hot Glue Gun or Super Glue

- Spray Paint

- Chair's Instruction Manual
* (This is why it pays to save instructions. If you know the brand, make, and model of your chair, instructions are fairly easy to look up from the manufacturers website. But if not, digging out the instructions the chair came with will help you assemble and disassemble the chair properly.)

Pay Attention

Instruction Manual

 Office chairs are delicate pieces of equipment. Improper assembly and disassembly could leave you with a very beautiful, but non-functioning seat, and you don't want that. Every chair is different, so be sure to consider your particular model from every angle. If you don't have the instructions around, try to determine what each piece and feature does with a buddy beside you to help you remember. If you must, videotape yourself tearing the chair down so you're sure how to put it back later. Thankfully, most discount fabric task chairs aren't as fancy as high end ergonomic models, so there's less risk of losing important characteristics when breaking it down.

Break It Down 

Broken Down Chair

Well, okay, don't break it…
Proper disassembly is one of the most crucial parts of this project - you don't want long term damage to this chair. Grab the screwdriver, and when you think you've figured out the best way to take it apart, turn the chair on it's side.

Typically, seats and armrests can merely be removed with the screwdriver. For more ergonomic chairs with fabric, a knob on the back (usually to adjust tilt or height) will take of the backrest when unscrewed.
Though every chair has a different construction, the goal here is to get the backrest and seat separate from the chair's frame (for reupholstering).

If there's a plastic frame on the cushions, try to pop it off there as gently as possible to expose the fabric staples.

Figure Out the Fabric

Hopefully we mentioned this project requires a trip to the fabric store, but if we didn't, we're saying it now. If you didn't take our advice to measure the chair cushions, do it before going so you have a rough idea of how much fabric you'll need. When that's done, it's time to measure again!

Step 1 - Roll out the fabric on the floor and lay a cushion over the top of it. Before cutting, make sure you have enough for the other parts of your chair. Next, cut around the cushion, with at least a 4-inch diameter so there will be enough fabric to wrap around the cushion's edges.

Step 2 - Grab your buddy and have them hold down the fabric, stretching as tight as possible so as to prevent wrinkles. We recommend stretching the fabric either vertically or horizontally first (one and then the other) across the cushion, then stapling the fabric on the sides that are across one another (the way an artist would stretch a canvas). This will help to prevent wrinkled or loose fabric across the cushion, and help the finished product look more professional.

Step 3 - When the horizontal and vertical edges are stapled a few times, work around the rest of the chair. Make sure to accommodate the chair's corners as best you can. If the corners are pointy, a stapling technique may be easier, but be careful not to tear the fabric when stretching it. If corners are rounded, try a hospital-corner folding style before you staple. The ultimate goal is no wrinkles in the cushion fabric after stapling.

Step 4 - Trim the excess fabric.

"Autobots Assemble!"

Now that your seats are newly reupholstered, perfect, and beautiful, it's time to reassemble the chair. It's  a good idea to start by snapping the plastic backings back onto the cushions to cover up the stapled crime scene, but once that's done, your cushions will look amazing. Try to retrace your steps by remembering what you did to take the chair apart. If you have trouble, try consulting the reputable office furniture dealer who might have sold you the chair, or you can contact the manufacturer's hotline for advice. Again, if you get lost, consult the old instruction manual or that video we recommended you take if you're not construction savvy.

Final Touches

Simply look over your new office chair to check for flaws. Touch up scuffs with a marker, trim unwanted fabric, remove exposed staples - the works. Lastly, it's important that you carefully sit down in your new chair for the first time. Be ready to jump up for joy... or out of the way if it starts to fall apart. Check adjustability and features to make sure they're still working properly. Break out the screwdriver and make final tweaks if need be.

Beautify Your Office!

Now, your newly made-over chairs are complete. All that's left is to add this amazing accomplishment to your home office, your work office, your front yard, or anywhere you want. Finally, sit back with your glass of lemonade and reel in the compliments! You certainly deserve them!

After Chair

*Special thanks to Grace Duval's tutorial on Instructables!

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