Saturday, July 2, 2011

Chair makeover

Several years ago, when I started freelancing from home, my father-in-law, knowing I needed a better desk chair, picked one up for me from a sale our local school district was having to get rid of surplus office furniture.  It was a well-made Steelcase chair still in great shape, cheap, and though the color wasn't the best, it would certainly do.

Fast forward eight years, two more kids (who can't avoid using my chair, it seems), and lots of abuse later, and it was a sorry mess.  Still in great shape structurally, but stained and the blue was, well, not "doing" anymore.  I tried slipcovering, but it always bunched, shifted and came off.  Time to devise plan B.



Having seen some tutorials on how to recover similar chairs, I finally knew how to get around that plastic "piping" and other troublesome spots that I thought would prohibit me from making this a manageable DIY project.

The fabric store down the street has a fantastic remnant/clearance room with lots of upholstery-grade fabrics.  What I walked away with was $3/yard, 54" wide, unbleached cotton duck and an idea of something like the French-printed burlap furniture and accessories trend.  Surely the duck would be a better choice than burlap for something one was actually going to sit on daily, and often in shorts.

Draping the fabric on the chair, I figured out how wide and deep each piece had to be and cut them out as rectangles as opposed to matching the seat/back shapes.  I'd be stapling these underneath and could cut off the excess after, so following the shape wasn't important. 

I found a graphic I liked on Graphics Fairy's blog.  Fantastically, she'd already made it available the right size and in reverse, saving me the effort of doing it in photo editing software.

I used HP's inkjet transfer paper purchased some time ago for another project, positioned it on the piece for the back, forgetting to cut off the excess transfer.  Using a hot iron and lots of pressure, I slowly applied the transfer.  After it cooled a bit, I removed the paper and found it wasn't applied quite as well as it could be, so I laid the paper back down and continued to press.  And I repeated this for what seemed like forever in an effort to lessen the floating, rubbery effect of the transfer paper.  I finally reached a point where I decided it wasn't going to get better and it would certainly do; let's move on.

I then centered the fabric on the back piece, flipped the chair over with the back on the floor so I could apply pressure with my staple gun, initially stapling top/bottom and sides enough to hold the fabric in place and taut while I worked on the rest.  I just covered over what was already there instead of deconstructing things further.  Then I stapled around the perimeter and trimmed the excess fabric.  Popped the back plate on again in reverse process of how I took it off.

Inside, I found the names of those who originally upholstered
it at Steelcase.  It took three people to do it,
but only one to redo it.

Then I tackled the seat the same way.  Sprayed it all with some Scotchguard for some safeguarding against those kids.  Voila!  Done.


I was rather disappointed in the "wet" look where the excess transfer paper was.  Although I goofed in not trimming closer to the graphic (they recommend leaving a quarter-inch around the graphic), I would not have been able to remove all the excess and I still would have the discoloration wherever the excess was still intact.  It may look less odd/messy as a rectangle; I don't know.  I do know I'd prefer not to have the slightly "wet" coloring of the fabric.

I'll be testing the Citrasolv/Orange Glo/paint thinner method before tackling the next one, I think, to see if that comes out with a better "printed" look and less "transfer" look.  I'll let you know!

Total project was less than $5.  Woot!



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