diy wednesdays: office chair upgrade

the office space in our new shoppe isn’t entirely private. we don’t mind if customers peek in every now and again, but we don’t want to be embarrassed by what they might see. so we’re trying to keep it nice and tidy, and as easy on the eyes as possible. the first glaring opportunity for improvement was our office chairs. maybe someday we’ll be sitting pretty in matching aerons, but right we’re rocking a pair of mismatched ikea castoffs. fortunately, we had a couple yards of an alexander girard-esque wool fabric laying around—just enough to cover both chairs, since they only take a little over 1 yard each. with no need for new foam or batting (we upholstered right over the old stuff), this turned out to be a super simple, super cheap way to dramatically improve our office decor. just click “more” for the full project instructions!

Here’s what you’ll need:

-Approx 1 1/4 yards fabric, depending on the size of your chair. We used a 24″ x 24″ piece for the seat and a 24″ x 18″ piece for the back.
-Flat head screwdriver
-Allen wrench
-3/8″ staples

First, remove the hardware that connects the back rest to the metal frame and set the back piece aside. Depending on your chair, you may need an Allen wrench to remove the screws. Turn your chair upside down (you can rest the seat on a table or desk for extra support) and using a flat head screwdriver, remove all the staples from the piece of canvas or muslin hiding the ugly stapled mess underneath. We pulled back the canvas just enough so that we could attach our striped fabric over the existing black fabric and cover it up again.

Next, turn the chair upright and place your 24″ x 24″ piece of fabric over the seat, making sure to center the pattern if necessary. Flip it back over and put one staple along the top, followed by one on the bottom. Finish securing the fabric with staples on the left and right sides (4 staples total).


Now you need to gather the fabric around the corners, making sure no creases are visible from the front or sides, and staple it all the way around. It helps keep your fabric taut and in place if you alternate top, bottom, side, side. Trim off any excess fabric when you’re done.

Fold the canvas piece back down and staple it back onto the bottom of the chair. (see detail shot)

Next, use your flathead screwdriver to pry the back piece out of the plastic frame it’s wedged in, and line up your 24″ x 18″ piece of fabric the same way you did on the seat. Insert 4 staples to hold the fabric into place, making sure to pull it taut and even. Then gather up the edges and staple all the way around as before, trimming off the excess fabric when you’re done.

Reinsert the back piece into its plastic frame, attach the hardware and connect it back to the rest of the chair, and voila! A fun, modern (and totally painless) facelift for your office.

  1. mo says:

    not to detract from your wonderful project, but i have to know where you got the print in the background of the picture!

  2. colleen says:

    i second that.
    what an amazing piece!!!!!!!!

  3. kelly says:

    Looks like Ryan McGinness:

  4. lauren says:

    hi! the print in the background of the shot was a gift- it is from a series that ryan mcginness made a few years back, and i believe they were available at printed matter in new york. hope that helps!!

  5. katey says:

    I love this project. I’m doing it. I also have to mention that I love your floor. :)

  6. My says:

    This is a great project and I must chime in and say that I am loving the floor as well….

  7. Anna @ D16 says:

    AHH! I’ve always wondered if it’s possible to pry off that plastic frame for this very purpose. So happy to see that it can be done easily! Thank you!

  8. joy says:

    love it! you guys are doing a great job for DIY wednesdays!

  9. Raven says:

    I have switched out the fabric on my kitchen chairs a couple of times now. It’s a cheap, easy way to change up your colors!

  10. Vanessa says:

    the site redesign in gorgeous.

  11. Sequana says:

    I’m doing this tomorrow. I’ve been wanting someone to tell me exactly how to take this chair apart….*S*

  12. Colleen says:

    That looks very snazzy, I really like the stripes :D

  13. Jocelyn says:

    The room looks great. Can you tell me where you got the fabric? I think it would look good on an armchair.
    Thank you.

  14. ho!!y says:

    I have one of these IKEA chairs (the one with the camo cushions). The pattern has been bugging me for a while because it doesn’t match what I’m doing in my new house. I’ve recovered my kitchen chairs, but it didn’t occur to me that I should cover the IKEA chair. Now I can’t wait to find a fabric and do this!

  15. Alisa says:

    What is the name of the book under the journal?

  16. Sequana says:

    I couldn’t wait. I finished this project late last nite. My chair was made a LOT better than yours apparently; there were way more parts to deal with as I took things apart. However, I”m pleased with the results.

    If you’d like to see how I was inspired, check out the pic here:

  17. Kharma says:

    Coming from an Interior Designer, pass on the aeron chairs. They’re not comfortable, and for a while (I don’t know if it’s still true) the mesh used would rip up the fibers on wool garments causing them to pill excessively.

    I have to sit in one of these awful chairs all day at work, and I’d give anything to get a different type. Check out Haworth’s Zody chair – it is MUCH more comfortable and it is Cradle to Cradle certified to boot!

  18. lauren says:

    the fabric came from discount fabrics in berkeley (but i think we bought all that was left on the roll…) and the book on the table is called “robin and lucienne day: pioneers of modern design”. we highly recommend it!

  19. ho!!y says:

    Here’s mine!
    I found the fabric at JoAnn’s and I LOVE the results!

  20. Ben says:

    What a great idea for my office chairs. I never had even thought of that. I love the site by the way.

  21. Jennifer says:

    Is wool itchy to sit on? I am looking at purchasing a similar fabric…do you know where I could find something similar? Thanks!!

  22. Leigh says:

    Mine are very amateur since this is the first time I’ve ever tried it. My chairs had very thick plastic backing that was hard to unscrew, but it does hide some of the flaws on the back. Thanks for the idea!!!

  23. Mik says:

    I just finished refurbishing my office chair (I am sitting on it this very moment!). It looks wonderful and I really like the fact that it cost me near nothing to have a new chair in my home office ;)

    Thank You ever so much!!

  24. Sylvia says:

    The chair is lovely. The floor is spectacular!! :D

  25. ariane says:

    my office chair came from the back alley (dangerously close to the dumpster). It was ugly but free and functional.

    I bought a super graphic printed fabric at Ikea.. and now it’s a stunner! Thanks for the idea ;)

  26. Jillian says:

    I recovered my UGLY office chair with a neutral floral and I LOVE it. I have had MANY people offer to BUY it from me!

  27. This is a really cool chair! I love the fabric. It gives me some great idea for the old office chairs in my office. For some reason it never came to mind to just re-cover them. What a money saver!


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