How to Re-Cover an Ugly Office Chair

I’ve been wanting to re-cover my office chair for a while… to match my bulletin board.

Then, this post from Design*Sponge reminded me recently, and I finally got off my butt to do it. However… I wish I had a chair like theirs, because the top part (the part your back leans on) on mine cannot completely snap out of the plastic frame. WISH IT COULD.

Also… I am very much a visual learner. SO… I like to cater to visual learners too. I needed WAY more photos than two “after” shots. So here is my version.

To begin: One Ugly Office Chair

Turn it over, and unscrew the seat from the base. Very simple, indeed.

Rip off the ugly useless cardboard if you feel like it, then lay the seat on your fabric, making sure the fabric is facing the right way if it is patterned.

Staple the straight sides using a staple gun.

Don’t work clockwise or counter-clockwise… work with opposing sides (like left, then right, then top, then bottom).

After that, pull each corner point as far in as it can go…

and staple the four corners with one staple each.

At each corner, now you have two “pockets” of fabric. Put your finger in the center of each pocket, then flatten it to the bottom of the seat to make a pleat. Staple each pleat.

Now you will have two pleats at each corner, for a total of eight.

Do some extra stapling wherever you feel it’s necessary, then trim your fabric pretty close to the staples, but not too close.

Now, cut a piece of muslin about the size of the chair bottom. Folding the edges under, staple the fabric to cover up the edges of your pretty fabric. Again, do top, bottom, right, left (or similar).

I folded the corners under separately too, because I felt like it.

Feel around for the screw-holes and then poke some holes in the muslin with a pair of scissors.

Now you’re ready to screw on the base again. (See the holes?)

So… screw it on!

If you’re lucky, like the folks at Design*Sponge, you will be able to pry the backrest of your chair off for its makeover. If you’re unlucky like me, you’ll need to use some biceps. I borrowed some biceps for my chair-prying.

The backrest doesn’t actually pop off… it’s still connected in the middle. So this stinks.

But it’s workable. Lay your backrest on some fabric, or some fabric on the backrest, and trace around it. Then cut around the tracing, giving yourself several inches on all sides. LEARN FROM MY ERROR: leave more wiggle room than I did! It will make life MUCH easier.

Make a running-stitch around the edge of your backrest fabric with some heavy thread (I used embroidery floss). The thread color doesn’t matter, because no one will see it.

Sit the fabric on the backrest, and pull the string to gather. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to tie the string ends together when it’s nice and gathery. If you’re unlucky, like me, your string will break.

Starting at the bottom, and working your way up both sides (and then to the top of course), tuck the fabric edges in-between the cushioned part and the plastic part of the chair back. A flat-head screwdriver is good for this. Then, snap the plastic back in place (just squeeze really hard and it’ll snap).

Voila! Your office chair is no longer ugly!

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47 Comments

  1. Kristin
    Jul 28, 2013 @ 15:34:20

    I sure hope you don’t mind, but I linked your tutorial to my blog post (my very first blog post!). I also recovered an ugly office chair, and used your tutorial to help me through! Thanks so much for such a great post!!! :)

    Reply

  2. Ugly office chair re-do: NO SEW! | yepididthis
    Jul 28, 2013 @ 15:32:36

    […] props to Joyful Abode for the great tutorial.  If you’re using my post as a tutorial, I’d recommend visiting this site to see what […]

    Reply

  3. Lacey S.
    Jul 26, 2013 @ 08:59:53

    I need to do this immediately–my cats just broke one of those glass Galileo thermometers, and there are teensy shard of glass in the seat fabric. One thing I might add: If the chair could use a little more padding, buy some thick batting or thin foam, and add it before you measure your fabric. I think I’m going to cover mine in oilcloth (for spill/cat-related messes).

    Reply

  4. Helsj
    Jan 30, 2013 @ 04:34:14

    Wow – that was so easy! Thanks for the instructions – genius. Am now feeling very productive on my maternity leave!

    Reply

  5. Hari
    Sep 14, 2012 @ 08:54:48

    Awesome tutorial. Thanks much!

    Reply

  6. Reine
    Jun 25, 2012 @ 00:28:49

    Thanks! :) I have been meaning to do this for ages! Now that I have a great, easy to follow tute I might actually get to it … maybe after the wedding .. lol

    Reply

  7. Deangelo Wagg
    Apr 10, 2012 @ 09:29:14

    Reply

  8. ipad 3 wallpaper
    Mar 23, 2012 @ 13:45:26

    I relish, lead to I discovered exactly what I used to be having a look for. You have ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

    Reply

  9. Canopy Construction reviews
    Mar 23, 2012 @ 13:44:48

    Sometimes, blogging is a bit tiresome specially if you need to update more topics.,,:'”

    Reply

  10. Theresa Forge
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 15:02:54

    Just followed your awesome tutorial. My chair was gross and now its like new!! Thank you.

    Reply

  11. tor
    Feb 01, 2012 @ 11:52:03

    this is great, I didn’t think the internet would hold the answer to my ugly chair dilemma but there it was! I’m going to try as soon as I can, thanks for the pictures I too need plenty of visuals!

    Reply

  12. In which a desk chair gets a new lease of life « Postcards from the Edge (of the West Country)
    Nov 21, 2011 @ 09:38:53

    […] match my spare room, so turned to the magic that is the internet. Lo and behold, a plethora of blogs and sites came up to show me that it was entirely possible and actually rather easy. In fact, the […]

    Reply

  13. Michelle
    Sep 13, 2011 @ 07:28:38

    Brilliant idea! Our office chairs are so ugly. And I’m trying to make the office pretty right now and could not figure out what to do with the chairs without buying new ones. I hope it will work for mine!!

    Reply

  14. pokerfacebook
    Sep 04, 2011 @ 11:06:19

    Neat blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere? A design like yours with a few simple tweeks would really make my blog jump out. Please let me know where you got your theme. Thanks a lot

    Reply

  15. Weekend DIY: Un-boring Office Chair « one amazing year
    Aug 06, 2011 @ 13:29:35

    […] the Internet for ideas and I happened upon this charming blog post from Joyful Abode called How to Re-Cover an Ugly Office Chair. I’ll let you head on over there for the instructions since they did a great job of […]

    Reply

  16. Karen
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 17:48:24

    Great Job!!! Also thanks for the great instructions.

    Reply

  17. boston
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 05:34:57

    Thanks for the tips. I had purchased fabric to cover my chair and thought that I would have to sew a slipcover. I didn’t think that I could take the chair apart, but followed your instructions. I used upholstery tacks instead of staples since I had taken a reupholstery class several years ago and did not bother covering with muslin since the plastic base covers the bottom of the chair. It didn’t seem as if the back of the chair would come off, so I just used a small bamboo spatula to push the fabric behind the cushion and it worked beautifully! It took less than 10 minutes since I skipped the stitching. The chair was recovered in much less time than I had planned and it looks much better than I thought it would. Thanks again!

    Reply

  18. Curtain Panels ·
    Nov 13, 2010 @ 05:59:28

    when using desk chairs, i would always prefer to use wood instead of plastic desk chairs ,”,

    Reply

  19. Barbara
    Nov 13, 2010 @ 05:46:40

    What a great make-over! THANK YOU SO MUCH for the wonderfully clear photos and directions, and glitches to avoid. We’ve been stuck with having one of these chairs in our living room for a temporary home office – now I can’t wait to cover it!

    Reply

  20. Top Posts of 2007
    Nov 07, 2010 @ 12:16:13

    […] How to Re-Cover an Ugly Office Chair: You know, to match your gorgeous bulletin board. […]

    Reply

  21. Jeni
    Nov 04, 2010 @ 09:37:55

    I love this post. I have a horribly ugly chair too, and I don’t think the back rest comes out either. I will try to remember this and link back to you if I ever get around to doing it.

    Reply

  22. Charles Davis
    Oct 01, 2010 @ 06:13:00

    i like to use wooden desk chairs in comparison with those plastic ones,,~

    Reply

  23. Anon
    Jul 30, 2010 @ 22:26:44

    I thought the after picture was the ugly chair… x.x

    Reply

  24. Victoria
    Dec 07, 2009 @ 13:27:06

    Brilliantly clear – thank you!

    Reply

  25. Victoria
    Dec 07, 2009 @ 05:27:06

    Brilliantly clear – thank you!

    Reply

  26. Pilar
    Oct 28, 2009 @ 08:25:43

    Thank you so much for the instructions! Especially the pictures. My own set of “biceps” has been fighting me tooth and nail on this – telling me that my chair is not meant for recovering and that it can't be done. Now I have proof that it can!

    Reply

  27. JoyfulAbode
    Oct 16, 2009 @ 20:01:28

    Using upholstery or drapery fabric is good. A little heavier weight is probably a good plan.
    And yes, the muslin on the bottom is just to cover the edges and make it a bit neater looking.

    Good luck and have fun!

    Reply

  28. JoyfulAbode
    Oct 16, 2009 @ 20:01:28

    Using upholstery or drapery fabric is good. A little heavier weight is probably a good plan.
    And yes, the muslin on the bottom is just to cover the edges and make it a bit neater looking.

    Good luck and have fun!

    Reply

  29. JoyfulAbode
    Oct 16, 2009 @ 20:00:41

    That's all right… I guess if that fabric is tacky I like some tacky stuff occasionally. :)

    Reply

  30. JoyfulAbode
    Oct 16, 2009 @ 20:00:41

    That's all right… I guess if that fabric is tacky I like some tacky stuff occasionally. :)

    Reply

  31. JoyfulAbode
    Oct 16, 2009 @ 20:00:20

    Thanks! I liked it too. It matches my homemade bulletin board too (link at the top of the post).

    Reply

  32. JoyfulAbode
    Oct 16, 2009 @ 20:00:20

    Thanks! I liked it too. It matches my homemade bulletin board too (link at the top of the post).

    Reply

  33. JoyfulAbode
    Oct 16, 2009 @ 19:59:38

    You're welcome! It really does make a difference in the way the room looks and feels. I hope you enjoy your newly-covered chair. :)

    Reply

  34. Gigi
    Oct 16, 2009 @ 15:20:09

    Thanks for doing all the hard work, now it'll be easy for me to do. :)

    Reply

  35. Dawn
    Oct 16, 2009 @ 15:14:54

    Nice job! I liked the fabric. Coordinates nicely with the wall color behind it adding a pop of color and pattern without overwhelming.

    Reply

  36. Anny
    Oct 16, 2009 @ 14:43:36

    I think you actually ended up making it uglier. That fabric is super tacky.

    Reply

  37. Sarah
    Oct 16, 2009 @ 14:13:05

    Does the fabric have to be of a certain quality or type? I have plenty of pretty patterns at home, but I think they would be too thin to wear well on a seat bottom.
    And why the muslin? Is it to cover up the fabric edges on the bottom?

    Thank you for posting this, I've been wanting to do this for awhile, I was just too new and too scared to the world of sewing to attempt it on my one computer chair.

    Reply

  38. Cathy
    May 12, 2008 @ 14:19:16

    Thanks for this amazing tutorial!!!
    You have totally inspired me to do this with my really old and ugly office chair :)

    Reply

  39. Kristen
    Mar 02, 2008 @ 13:31:24

    Thanks for the great tutorial! I finished this today, and now I love my old office chair!

    Reply

  40. Michelle
    Feb 24, 2008 @ 09:19:00

    I love your i borrowed some biceps. lol
    very cute idea!!!

    Reply

  41. Shaky
    Feb 18, 2008 @ 09:06:33

    How wonderful! Ok, I got my list and I’m off the door to go get all the stuffs I need for this. My husband thinks I’m crazy! lol
    P.S~> Thank you for thinking of the visual people like me and adding all this pictures to your tutorials. :thumbs up: ;)

    Reply

  42. Patty
    Jan 13, 2008 @ 00:20:28

    A couple of years ago, my friend made cute covers for her desk chair but she sewed them. I don’t sew so I gave up on making covers for my chair. Thank you so much for sharing how to do this! I’m going to attempt it this week.

    Reply

  43. yayanana
    Oct 30, 2007 @ 06:25:00

    VERY cool. I like how you (unlike me) put the fabric on the backrest behind the plastic. Go you!

    Reply

  44. Wendy
    Oct 29, 2007 @ 21:54:33

    That’s GREAT! I seriously want to do that to my dining room chairs!

    Reply

  45. Sarah
    Oct 29, 2007 @ 12:47:45

    bravo! that looks awesome!

    Reply

  46. pfirsch
    Oct 29, 2007 @ 11:03:59

    I read the post at Design*Sponge, too, but I couldn’t “see” how they were doing it. Thanks for the photo tutorial!

    Reply

  47. mub
    Oct 29, 2007 @ 07:10:21

    I want to cover my entire house in that fabric! It’s fabulous!!! Ok, maybe not the entire house, but lots of it ;)

    Reply

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