Restoring a Vintage Desk Chair

restoring a vintage desk chair

Last week I shared my office make-over and told you about how I scored a vintage chair on Craigslist.  It looks so similar to the more expensive vintage chairs made by GoodForm.  I spent many hours restoring this vintage desk chair, but it was sooo worth it.

Here are a couple of photos of the chair before:

As you can see, it was in decent shape, it just needed a make-over.  I didn’t feel too guilty about changing the look since it isn’t a highly valuable antique. The great thing about this chair is that it’s virtually indestructible since it’s all made of metal. I started by removing the paint from the metal base and back.  I used Citristrip, which is a safer, less-toxic paint stripper.

After using the paint stripper to remove as much paint as I could, I resorted to sanding with 120 grit sandpaper to get into all the nooks and crannies. I wore a protective mask and took lots of breaks for this because with anything made prior to the 80s, I always worry it could have lead paint…and I seriously didn’t want lead poisoning.  Sanding worked very well and gave the aluminum base a brushed look.

Next, I moved onto the cushion.  I wanted to keep the original fabric in tact so I decided to cover it without removing the old fabric.  The fabric I used for the seat was from a shower curtain I found at Target on clearance and the vinyl (or faux leather) was from JoAnne’s for only $4.00 per yard. I only needed about a yard and a half.  To recover the seat, I traced around the perimeter of the cushion, first with a pencil and then a marker because I couldn’t see my pencil line.  I’m not much into making patterns, so I traced right onto the back side of my fabric.  I did however trace the shape generously to give room for a seam allowance. 

The seat only measures 17″ and the traced image was over 18″ so I had at least a 1/2″ seam allowance in all directions. Perfect.

After checking my measurements several times, I cut out my “pattern” for the seat bottom.  To make the edge of the seat, I cut a 6 inch band of vinyl measuring the circumference of the cushion.  I added a couple inches for the seam allowance and it came to 65″ long.  I pinned the two pieces of fabric together, with right sides touching, before sewing it into place.

Ignore the fact that my pins are running parallel to the seam…I always forget to pin things perpendicular when I use a sewing machine.  A long time ago, in a home ec. class of all places (do they even have those anymore??), I was told that if you don’t pin perpendicularly, the head of the pins can break the sewing machine needle as you try to sew over them…and I have done that before.  So, just to be safe pin perpendicularly to the fabric edge when using a sewing machine… or you can be brave like me and feverishly yank the pin out right before it reaches the needle. Scary! Back to the project…lol.

Luckily, It slid right on to my seat cushion and I was able to wrap the remaining fabric under the seat and staple it in place with a staple gun.  The hardest part was making lots of little folds at the corners to get them as smooth as possible.

The back rest was actually much easier.  I simply stretched the vinyl over the frame without removing the original vinyl and pinned it with binder clips to hold it in place.  The way the back plate attaches, it holds the fabric in place by mere compression.  I used the binder clips to “shape” the vinyl around the frame so that when I removed the clips I could put my back plate on without my vinyl falling off. I left the clips on for about 24 hours and it worked really well.

Here it is all put back together and with a fresh new look.  I still wanted a vintage feel but I wanted it to go with my color choices and decor.  Overall I am thrilled with how it turned out and it compliments my office just perfectly!

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