My $20 Office Chair Makeover

My $20 Office Chair Makeover | A Mother Thing

Recently I have been in the process of creating myself a beautiful home office. My tastes are quite eclectic, and I’m not one to be very matchy matchy, but I’m working on it, and I’m pretty happy with what I have so far. But one thing that wasn’t working for me was my office chair.

Now, I will tell you that as part of my office beautification, I did spend a buttload of money on some new furnishings. I’ll write about it all another time, but one of the biggest splurges was when I bought this amazing Fuchsia Nina Chair from World Market. It was $300. Woops! So you can imagine my mortification when, after a month of trying to make it work, I realized that I just wasn’t going to be able to keep it as my desk chair. All was not lost, however. I was able to re-purpose it as part of a reading nook, but my hubby was not best pleased that I’d spent so much on what is now essentially a very pretty cat bed.

But having blown my budget on that chair, I knew I couldn’t justify the expense of getting a new one. I couldn’t bear the thought of getting one of our cat-scratched, yogurt-coated old ones in my beautiful new room. So I did what any crafty woman would. I decided to DIY it.

Here’s what I started with. I have better chairs than this, but my husband said that I was not allowed to brutalize the good chairs in my quest to make them pretty.

My $20 Office Chair Makeover | A Mother Thing
Yah, it’s not the prettiest thing, but it’s pretty comfy!

Having no experience at all with reupholstery, I decided to try and wing it. I knew that I would have to take the chair apart and recover it with… something. I was brainstorming for a few days when we had to make a run to Walmart for something. As I was rushing around trying to find batteries, I came upon the craft section. There were two aisles dedicated to amazing fabrics! I immediately spied several that I thought would work, and I bought several yards of four different fabrics. At less than $3 a yard, it’s amazing how much you can get for your money! I also bought some batting on a whim, as I thought it might come in useful.

My $20 Office Chair Makeover | A Mother Thing

I’ll be honest. I probably could have used a print from my own fabric stash and saved some money, but I fell in love with some screen print fabrics and just had to have them. Whoops!

I finally got a spare couple of hours this afternoon where I could try and figure out how to make over my office chair. I tried to take pics because I knew that if it turned out well, I’d want to share it. But I wasn’t able to get photos of every step because it’s very hard to work one handed.

Besides the fabric and batting, I gathered together some fabric scissors, a staple gun (with extra staples), an allen wrench, and some pliers.

I began by taking the chair apart. It had four bolts on the bottom, holding the legs on. It also had four bolts on each arm rest, which held the whole chair together.

My $20 Office Chair Makeover | A Mother Thing

My $20 Office Chair Makeover | A Mother Thing

Weirdly, the back of the chair had a zipper on the bottom, and when I unzipped it, I found that the whole piece of leather came off, exposing the padding and the wooden support. This made me very happy, as until then I wasn’t totally sure how it was made.

My $20 Office Chair Makeover | A Mother Thing

I decided to keep the existing padding as it was quite durable foam. I then sort of covered it in the batting, wrapping and stapling it until the whole thing was covered tightly.

My $20 Office Chair Makeover | A Mother Thing

My $20 Office Chair Makeover | A Mother Thing

Now I knew that the best thing would have been to figure out a way to sew the cover so that everything was nice and neat. But my sewing machine hasn’t been unpacked since our move in November, and I’m not totally sure where it is. Plus, my hand sewing is not the best. Finally, I’ve never sewn anything like this, so I figured I would just wing it again.

My $20 Office Chair Makeover | A Mother Thing

Here’s what I did. Firstly, I cut off enough fabric to cover the front and back of the chair with about two feet of extra just in case. Pulling it taught and starting at one end, I stapled the fabric to the back of the seat (where the wood was most easily accessed) about 2 inches down. I made sure it was secured with about 8 staples across. I then made my way all around the seat back, pulling fabric so that it was tight and even. I folded the corners as neatly as possible and made it all the way around. I removed all the excess fabric.

My $20 Office Chair Makeover | A Mother Thing

Here’s where I had to stop taking photos because I literally could not manage to photograph and think at the same time. It took me several tries to figure out how to make the back work. As I said, sewing would have been preferable, but you work with what you have. I wanted to make it look as finished as possible, but it is surprisingly difficult to do that! But with my trusty staple gun in tow, I did my best.

First, I set the fabric over the back of the chair, making sure it was long enough to cover all of the stapled bits. Starting at the top, I folded a 1 inch seam all the way across. To secure it, I placed a line of staples all the way across INSIDE the seam. I knew that I’d only be able to do this for one side, so I chose the top as it would have the most eyes on it. Then, I made my way around the rest of the back, folding each side/seam and then stapling as close to the edge as possible. It actually isn’t very noticeable that there are staples there, so I am happy enough. The hardest part was the top corners. When folding and stapling, it’s hard to see if you are even. Mine came out VERY uneven, but again, it’s not something you will notice.

My $20 Office Chair Makeover | A Mother Thing

The finished back looks pretty good, and it’s hard to tell that it’s not sewn. Putting the staples underneath the seam at the top REALLY made it look as if it had been sewn, so I am happy with it.

As for the seat, I’ll tell you, it was pretty easy after the struggle with the back! I simply pulled more batting over the entire seat, stapling it to the underneath. I didn’t remove the leather here, partly because it did not come with a zipper like the back had, and partly because I knew there was no need. Once the batting was in place, I placed another bit of fabric across and stapled it into place, as well. The hardest party (and it’s not even that hard) is making sure you have your pattern going the right way and that it is fairly centered. I just trimmed off the excess fabric at the end, and voila!

My $20 Office Chair Makeover | A Mother Thing

One thing to remember on both the seat and the back support is to make sure your bolt holes are uncovered. I did this with the batting AND with the fabric. The holes need to be clear so that you can reattach the arms (which are what hold the back and seat together in this chair).

My $20 Office Chair Makeover | A Mother Thing

Double check the holes are still clear before you bolt. On one of my holes, a TINY bit of batting was in the way, and as I screwed the bolt in, it twisted the batting until it was impossible to get the screw in! I had to remove the arm and re-clear the holes. It was frustrating, but easily solvable.

And that’s it! Once you replace the arms (I cleaned mine thoroughly first to make sure there were no more yogurt stains!), the chair is a chair again. In the future, I MAY try and sew some padded arms for it (staples wouldn’t work on the hard plastic), or I might even try painting the arms and legs. But for now, I am very happy with the seat, and I think it looks great in my new room!

What do you think?

My $20 Office Chair Makeover | A Mother Thing

Check out some of my other projects:

My Home Office Makeover | A Mother Thing

DIY Triple Aspect Inspiration Boards | A Mother Thing

Sideboard project - made over with two cans of Valspar spraypaint

Make a Plain Bulletin Board into Something Beautiful with Faultless Premium Starch

Amazing $5 Table ReVamp Using Mod Podge and Wrapping Paper

Cute children's table and padded stools. A DIY charity shop project by @snugglebubby


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Katie Reed

Katie Reed

Katie Reed is a 38 year old mom blogger from Salt Lake City, UT. She is married to the man of her dreams and together they have four beautiful boys. Dexter is 9, Daniel is 7, Chester is 5 and Wilder is 2. She writes about living with mental health issues while navigating motherhood. Her blog focuses on tips and tricks for moms, information and parenting news, kid-friendly recipes and crafts. She loves to reflect on the humorous side of parenthood and shares the reality of her life, with a "warts and all" attitude.

12 Responses

  1. I don’t like the fabric choice (not my style) but i do really like the idea of covering the shredded leather up. I;ve got an office chair that’s looking pretty sorry. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. I have an office chair that I’ve been collecting ideas for, but also I’ve had cold feet! My question is -How durable does the fabric need to be? This looks like regular fabric and upholstery fabric is soooooo expensive, but I don’t like to do work and then have to redo it (unless by choice of course).

    1. Hi Glenda,

      To be honest, the fabric I chose was super cheap, and quite thin. And so far it’s had no issues! I think the trick is to use a nice batting underneath and to secure it firmly but not too tightly. You could also choose a plain white (or whatever color) thicker fabric underneath to line it so that it has extra durability. I found some nice fabric (again at Walmart!) for about $2 a yard, and I originally intended to line mine, but it turned out not to be necessary.

      Hope that helps!

  3. I’m not getting how you did the back, did you cover the back side first, and then do the front, or the other way around. And when you say you stapled ‘inside the seam’ is that similar to a ‘stich in the ditch’ form of sewing?

    This turned out great, and you’ve got me thinking about my comfy, but scratched and beat up chair, too.

    1. I covered the front side first, securing in the back. Then I used a piece of fabric slightly more than the size of the back. I held it upside down so the top and then stapled across the top. I then folded down the fabric so that the staples were hidden inside. Then I folded each side/bottom seam and stapled as close to the edge as possible to make it look almost like stitching. I hope that makes sense!

  4. I read this as I am sitting my office, completely frustrated and wanting something new. Can you come over please? 🙂
    I really love what you did and how everything looks. I do my full time office job from home a few days a week and have to be fully functional in that aspect but also use it as a home office and craft area. Will be doing my chair and more with your ideas! Thanks

    1. Aw Martha. I’m glad you like it. I also work from home, so I’ve redone my whole office/craft room from scratch. It is amazing how many things you can do yourself and how much easier they turn out to be than you think. You can also find some great deals at places like Ikea or Big Lots. Even flea markets or yard sales can score you a major bargain so you can remake it into a one of a kind piece. Good luck! I’m sure you will find some amazing ways to make your space feel awesome. 🙂

  5. Popped in from Hometalk and I absolutely love how you’ve recovered your office chair. It gave me some hints on how to recover mine. The arms are faux leather which is peeling and tears up my skin….not cool! So if I’m going to recover the arms, might as well go all the way! Thanks for sharing this great tutorial.

    1. Oh I’ve been there! Peeling faux leather is awful, and I’ve had bad rashes from them. Lol. I hope it goes really well! I’m so happy that I took the plunge to refinish this chair! I can’t wait to attempt another one soon!

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