Reupholstered Steelcase chair project

I paid my first visit to Jubilee Furniture a couple weeks ago and returned with a car full of projects. Jubilee is a giant furniture resale shop in Carol Stream, a Chicago suburb. You'll find mid-century goodies mixed with more contemporary pieces—a whole lot of awesome combined with some things that look like hopeless cases to my non-expert decorator eyeballs. It's a treasure hunt. And somehow Jubilee has assembled a staff made up of the nicest people on the planet, so go visit them! Highlights from new inventory are posted regularly on their blog.

But anyway. While I was there, I came upon two 1982 Steelcase task chairs begging with sad puppy eyes to be rescued. They could replace the not-very-comfy wooden dining chairs Alex and I use at our desks. The challenge was figuring out how to get them apart and re-cover them, because the stained, scratchy burlap-like upholstery had to go. After studying them in the store it was still a conundrum, but Susan the manager cheered us on. (Hi Susan!) So into the car they went.

And we conquered! Say hello to our refurbished woodgrain office chairs. We're in love. In case you, too, ever encounter a Steelcase task chair begging for a re-do, read on to see what we did.

We were champing at the bit to get started on the chairs, but lacked enough free time. So we brought them along on a visit to my family in Minnesota last weekend where they turned into a family project. Everybody had a hand in this chair makeover, which you'll see in the following photos. A disclaimer: We don't know anything about reupholstery, so our method is take it apart and copy what the people before us did.

We easily removed the screws from the underside of the chair to get the pedestal (leg? foot?) off. Then we discovered the front of the seat was attached to the back with small screws hidden underneath a strip of plastic edging (casing? trim?). Let's call it edging. We pried the lip of the edging up with a flat screwdriver to get at the hidden screws to remove them. This involved a lot of wrestling. Good thing Alex was on the team in high school.

See? These screws go in through the back of the chair, pass through the edging on the front side, and screw into the plastic back of the seat. A mystery solved.

When the screws are removed, the two halves come apart. (Leave the edging attached to the back piece or it'll be a nightmare putting it back on again.) The arms are easy to detach; each is held on by two screws.

Approximately 378,920 staples secured the fabric around the edges of the seat. We removed those.

Mystery number two: there was a seam across the fabric where the vertical backrest met the horizontal seat. And somehow that seam was anchored to the chair.

Turns out two pieces of fabric were stitched together, leaving a 3-inch seam allowance. This extra flap was tucked down into the crack between the foam pieces and stapled to the bottom of the chair.

We removed it and pinned the fabric onto the new woodgrain material. (Monalis from IKEA.) Using the old fabric as a pattern, I cut out new pieces and Mum sewed them together, mimicking the seams and the topstitching from the original fabric.

Pa stapled the new fabric down into the crack while I squished the foam down. (Yeah, I call him Pa. It's the most suitable name for dads on farms.)

Then we stretched the fabric around the edges of the chair, stapling it in place. The old foam and batting were in fine shape, so we reused them. Then the arms and front and back pieces of the chair were screwed back together again.

Because these chairs will be used on our hardwood floors, we put felt discs under the feet so they'll slide without scratching the floor. I'm opposed to wheels and floor mats because they're ugly.

Here they are in all their glory!
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