New Office Chair

By Kate Riley October 11, 2010

Hiya! I hope you had a lovely weekend!  As gorgeous as the blue skies were around here, I confess I spent little time outdoors.  Shame on me, wasting a perfectly fine October weekend indoors.  Well I didn’t completely waste it.  I just ignored those beckoning blue skies because there is some major fall housekeeping going on around these parts.   Plenty of filing kept me occupied.  Approximately 93 lonely socks found their mate, and my closet transitioned from blue sky to gray sky weather. Out came the sweaters and scarves and boots, and away went the flip flops, tank tops and swim suits.  They live to unflatter another day.

Thankfully my fabric from Tonic Living arrived last week, and I was able to work up a little office chair revamp.  I’ve been wanting a swivel chair for some time, and also to add another fun fabric to the space.

I found this dated swivel chair at the thrift store for $5 bucks!  I stripped it, painted it, and reupholstered it with a P. Kauffman ‘Soho’ graphic fabric in deep espresso.  I was really close to choosing a glossy white crocodile fabric, but with all the white furniture in the room I thought that might be overkill, so I opted for the fun punchy pattern in chocolate and cream.

office chair before and after


The first thing I did was remove the base and tape off the rolling feet.  I wanted to paint over the oak wood and brass trim because I prefer the legs a more modern glossy cream color.

spray paint base


While the paint dried, I removed the peachy tan tweed like fabric.  It was old and oh-so-icky.

seat close up before


It was a surprise and a relief to find the foam underneath was covered in thin plastic, so I saw no need to replace it, since there were no odor issues.  All it needed was a little batting.  I didn’t feel like adding more tufted buttons like the ‘before’ version because the new fabric was busier plus wanted a sleeker look, so I filled those holes with more batting too.

foam and batting


I fitted the back of the chair with a slipcover in stain resistant outdoor fabric by P. Kauffman that I found at Tonic Living for $10 a yard (they give a 10% discount if you use the code CENTSATIONAL).

I liked the idea of piping where the seams met, so I created enough to go around the back with the zipper foot on my sewing machine.

piping trim

For a helpful step-by-step guide to piping, read this article on how to create your own cord piping.

I then stitched up a slipcover for the top of the chair, paying close attention to keeping the geometric pattern straight.  Always a challenge with patterned fabric ~ you can fudge more with solids but not stripes or squares !  I pinned the piping in between the seams and sewed it all together. 


stitch slipcover inside out


For the last step, I stapled the new fabric to the bottom seat, then screwed it all back together.

staple new fabric to seat


Now it sits in my office, adding a fresh modern graphic pattern to this space.

cg office chair

There’s my new office chair, isn’t it so fun? 




  1. Yes, it is! It is SO fun! And it looks comfortable as well as cool.

    You make piping look easy, which makes me think that perhaps it is easy if one is just not scared to death of it. I’ve always been solidly in the “scared to death” camp, but perhaps I should give it a try!

  2. BEAUTIFUL job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have a horrid faux leather computer chair of my husbands that is in DIRE need of rescuing. hmmmm….


  3. Waaaay better. You are coming along well as a seamstress. You will be tackling a ouch in no time ;-) That fabric before was awful. WOWSERS. You made it oh so mod! Love it friend. You coming to Blissdom again?

  4. Wow wow wow! Love the finished product!!! Thanks for the Tonic Living recommendation. I just checked our their site and and it’s awesome! Plus, I love that their fabric is so affordable. I went into Joann Fabric the other day and almost had a heart attack at their price per yard on some of the fabrics. Thanks again!

  5. It is cool! I love the fabric and I’ve got to get over my fear and just reupholster something already! Thanks for sharing. :) shaunna

  6. Amazing! Love the fabric and it looks absolutely perfect = what an incredible transformation!

  7. Somewhere, the manager of a high-end furniture store is squirming – now we know what’s possible! What boring (presumed IBM employees) decided office chairs can come in black – or black!?

  8. Fantastic transformation!! Looks like a $500. chair now! Great tutorial. I will just be sighing all day now thinking about it. :)

  9. Kate would you please move to Kansas City. I have some projects that only a genius DIYer like you can do!!

    Art by Karena

  10. I am pretty sure I would never get out of that chair if it was mine! You’ve got talent! Not sure I could pull something together that gracefully! Gorgeous!

  11. Hi! Love the chair (and the site)! any chance you could do a really slow, in-depth step-by-step tutorial on how to do piping? I have a chair that I would love to re-do, I just don’t know that I “get” piping yet. Help?


  12. What a great new look! I love the tailored look that piping gives. I use a cotton clothesline to make mine – you get 10x the amount of cording for about the same price as the stuff in the crafts section!

  13. nice fabric choice. i envy you because i think i’m going to end up paying someone to do my chairs and sofa for the living room. i just don’t think i have the skills…you make it look so easy though:) i love the finished product!

  14. Girl, if anyone (!) could take a nasty old chair like that (which reminds me of my Nannie’s kitchen circa 1985) and turn it into something fabulous, it would be YOU. LOVE the new look and the fabric is pretty hot.

    Slightly envious of your cool weather clothes making their debut. It’s 86 today in my area of Virginia. I did some shopping this morning and bought a sweater and some new skinny jeans, but my heart wasn’t in it….Wishing for cold!

  15. You have such an eye for seeing possibilities! I would have completely overlooked that chair. It looks amazing!

  16. I am SO impressed with your upholstry skills! I’m sitting here in a very comfortable office chair with oh so worn fabric. I actually gave away my expensive leather chair because it didn’t have the support I needed and replaced it with this ten dollar find at an office supply resell store. Never thought I could recover it myself…THANKS for the idea! No where as talented as you obviously are, but it’s at least a thought now!

  17. Wow it looks great! I was considering reupholstering a chair for my office, but I could never do that piping (considering my sewing machine is still in its box…)

  18. Love how the chair turned out! Sadly, I’m old enough to remember when those chairs were popular kitchen chairs! You could order little dining sets from places like Sears or Wards, with upholstered, swivel chairs and faux wood-grained Formica tables. I like your version of the chair so much better than the original!

    I just bought a little office chair at the Goodwill Outlet this weekend, thinking I would do the same thing (because I need one more project to procrastinate)….

  19. Very clever and I love that fabric! Now your chair is modern as can be and no one could ever tell what it looked like before.

  20. YOU – girlfriend – are TRULY gifted!! AMAZING transformation!
    LOVE the fabric you chose for these fab lines on this find!

    :D Lynda

  21. You make it look so easy—I think I could paint the base but that’s about it…the chair look so stylish. Way to go.

  22. Oh! I love that pattern, it really wakes that chair up :-) So cute & fun!

  23. Your chair looks great! I need a new office chair so bad!! I have been keeping an eye out at GW, but no luck so far. I love the fabric you chose!

  24. It looks fabulous and very modern and chic now! Beautiful job, Kate! Your upholstery job looks very professional. I love the mix of patterns in your office! Looks great.

  25. Gorgeous job! I have a chair almost exactly like it in my new desk area of my bedroom that is so sick and needs recovering and I’m up for the job but have been trying to figure out the best way to keep the slipcover for the back on, did you use elastic or something else. I would love to know since you did such a wonderful job.

  26. Fabulous! Just a quick note to say hi – I am a huge fan (followed you for about 2 years now).
    I’m from Cape Town South Africa, which is just like were you are – amongst the vineyards & surrounded by gorgeous nature.
    You really do inspire me every day! Thank you for your Centsational tips – my life will never be the same again after you introduced me to spray paint;)
    best wishes from WAAAAAAY down South,

  27. Love that fabric and love that chair!! You did an awesome job. It works perfectly in your office.
    I say “Wow”, too.

  28. This is an awesome transformation! I’ve always thought this would be a simple way to get a stylish desk chair for cheap. The shape and fabric complement one another perfectly.

  29. Love it! You did a fantastic job. I never would have looked twice at that chair, now after seeing what it can look like I feel like I have to have one.

  30. That is AMAZING. Really well done. I have not mastered upolstery yet, but your post makes me want to try! I also have a smaller version of your round Target rug in my living room. LOVE.

  31. Great job! You’re a very resourceful, creataive woman and an inspiration to all of us. It’s much more rewarding to buy at thrift stores, restore as opposed to going to a retail store and buy new. Plus it’s “green”! Pat yourself on the back for a beautiful finished product!!

    Lois Black

  32. Wow! Now THAT is some serious creative work right there.Beautiful ! Great work ! :-)

  33. You have some serious skills! My younger self spent many unhappy hours grappling with piping – these days I steer well clear.

  34. Hey great job…..BUT….was that an “Heirloom” gloss I saw there ?? tee hee.

  35. I cannot believe you did that yourself. I’m clearly not using my sewing machine to the fullest *head bowed in shame* Thanks for the piping link. How long did it take you to recover this chair?

  36. I am in envy. I want this chair. It would look perfect in my new office. Thanks for sharing.

  37. @ Laurie – I just used one of those spraypaint nozzles – makes it WAY easier! You can get them in the spray paint area at Home Depot or Lowe’s

    I love this idea for making over an ugly rolling office chair. I’ve been searching for a Louis 14th style chair to recover and paint and put wheels on the legs to make a cushy yet attractive chair, but this might be a cheaper and similarly attractive way to go. Sweet!

  38. Wow, You made that look easy as pie. I know it had to be a challenge. Your vision for that chair turned out perfect!

  39. Yes!!! It is SO fun! Your pictures are FREE and better than any magazine I pay good money for! Thank you so much for sharing your gifts and talents with us. I’m inspired and I need a new office chair right now! You make me think I can do this, too!

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