|Image: Apartment Therapy|
Thought I'd share a reader email exchange about re-doing Eames-style chairs on the cheap:
I am a recent college graduate, and I live in Washington DC. I am a big fan of your awesome blog. I am emailing you because I recently found a lovely Eames style chair for $80! However, the leather on the seat is quite damaged, some buttons are missing, and the wood is slightly scratched.
I saw on your blog that you have done some projects doing the upholstery of a similar chair. I was hoping I could get some advice from you. As a recent college graduate my budget is super tight right now, but I love to start fixing this chair somehow. Do you have any tips/links of places where I can purchase the buttons, the leather, and any other materials I need use?--hopefully on the cheaper side. I don't have any experience nor have any materials (i.e. sander, sawing machine, stapler, etc), but also don't have the moeny to get someone to do thing kind of job.
I will appreciate any help/advice. Thank you for your time!
And my response:
Buttons - you can get self coverable buttons at JoAnn's or Michaels's craft stores for a few dollars, but since there's a lot of stress on the them, I'd use epoxy or another strong glue when you put them together. I didn't want to risk them popping off, so I had an upholstery shop make them for $40 through a connection at work. You could ask around local upholstery shops to see if they will make your buttons - you might get lucky with a nice shop owner.
Materials - this can really range depending on what you're doing, if you're interested in "restoring" the chair, you'll have to find leather - I don't have a secret source for leather unfortunately, but I do know people sometimes get lucky on ebay. If you are okay with making the chair to your own liking, there's a lot of option for fabrics or vinyls at all different costs. Heck, you could use a heavy canvas drop cloth from Home Depot for $20, or discounted upholstery from online retailers like Modern Fabrics - keep in mind that you could always use cheaper fabric now, and re-do it again in the future with leather. If you want to stick to the original look on the cheap - I'd suggest using vinyl which you can find or at local sewing/hobby shops. (JoAnn's has a decent selection of vinyl and if you sign up for their online newsletter, they send you 40% off coupons)
Wood - stain/poly are fairly reasonably priced, you should be okay there, and as far as tools - you can use a heavy duty hand stapler (they're about $20 I think) and also sand by hand, it will just be more sweat and labor on your part! You could also probably skip the sewing machine if you glued your cording instead of sewing, since it's all stapled in anyway.
It's been a while so I thought I'd also link to my post that summarized my costs - Eames Lounge Upholstery Project DONE!
I also wanted to re-post the link to buy replacement Plycraft swivel/tiliter parts: Swivel Chair parts.com, and a great forum post on these projects from Design Addict.