Eames Lounge Chair Restoration

Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman Replica Restoration

About a year and a half ago, I had purchased an Eames Lounge Chair replica from a second hand shop here in Seattle. It was in relatively decent shape, cheap, the leather was original/real and the wood was not splitting or delaminated at all. Still, it needed some love. I didn’t know much about restoring furniture, upholstery, or many other minor, but necessary, aspects in renovating this chair. But, what I did know was that I REALLY wanted one, and that I could never afford a new or original model.

When I first started this restoration, I didn’t have a real camera, nor did I have the shop space I do now. So this Blog may have gaps or steps with little or no imagery. Sorry, but again, I will try to include as much as possible. Also for the material purchased, I went to Pacific Fabric, which is really close to my house here in seattle.

Materials needed

4 yards of upholstery of your choice                                                                                       4 yards of batting                                                                                                                 4x6x2 sheet of polyurethane – x2 if you want both durometers of thickness                              1 24×17 sheet of black matte board (for backing of the armrests)                                         8 buttons and 4 ft of line to string them in                                                                                       1 pint of stain of your choice

Tools required/recommended

Staple gun – with a ridiculous amount of staples – easily used over 1000. EASILY                Hand Sander – trust me saves you a butt ton of time, just invest in it, its worth it.                   Gloves and sponge brushes for stain                                                                                       Screw driver                                                                                                                     Bondo – just in case you may need it for filling holes.

SO! First thing I did was sit in my chair! I mean, when purchased, it was fully working and somewhat mostly comfortable. I didn’t actually get to work until about a month after purchase. There were two major problems, right off the bat: the leather was super smooth making you slide EVERYWHERE and the cushion buttons had ripped off in the past and someone simply glued them back in place. So you slid all over glued hard round knobby thingys. If I had been hunting for a chair simply to put in my living room, I would not have purchased this one. But thats not the case. Here is the chair as it sat in the store before any restoration.

If you know what to look for you will see immediately this is far from an original model.

Restoration

I did this restore in 2 stages, the cushions and armrests, followed by the wood stripping and restain at a later point. I also build the armrests twice. The first time was to replace the original style which was the kidney shape shown below; the second was replicate the original style as best as possible, I’ll touch on this later. Disassembly is pretty straight forward on these – look for screws or bolts and lefty loosy. Below are two images of the armrest removed and started to be taken apart.

All of those staples had to be pulled out. There had to be at least a 1200 plus staples on this chair. Unfortunately I dont have many images of the disassembly. I’ll try my best to explain what they consist of and how i took it apart.

Every part, except for the wood had five layers: the outside leather upholstery, a thin cotton padding called batting, foam, the internal bent wood frame and the external bent wood frame.

All of the, foam, batting and leather attach to the inner bent wood, which intern screws to the external wood frame. Honestly I pulled this all apart and didn’t concern myself with keeping much knowing it was all going to be replaced. If you plan on reusing anything make sure to note which part of the chair it is, its direction (up or down) and sizes.

The original foam for most of the chair was actually in pretty good shape. If you get one and its crumbling, toss it and get new material. Its no good.

I ended up going out and buying some new foam anyways. The seat cushion seemed to have no bounce back and simply stayed squished when pressed. When I bought more I discovered there were two main polyurethane foam densities for upholstery, thick and thicker. I bought both. The reasoning for this – I placed the thick foam on top of the thicker foam for a softer yet firm feel when sitting in the chair. The only place I didn’t do this was the arm rest, using the lower density only.

The reason for the angled cut of the foam was to fit bent wood best yet still add height and body. Once the foam was in place next goes the batting.

The purpose of batting is to protect both the foam and the upholstery from rubbing against each other ruining them. I suggest not leaving this material out, it will add to the longevity of your chair and its relatively cheap.

Next is the upholstery. This is really personal preference, to color, texture and material. I chose a microfiber like cloth that felt super soft to the touch but thick and durable. I think it was 13$ yard from Pacific Fabric, here if Seattle. If I remember correctly, I ended up using about 3.5 yards of upholstery on the entire project.

Before stapling on the upholstery I centered the material and punctured 2 holes large enough for the bases of the button and thread. I had the lady helping me at the Pacific Fabric cover the buttons in the same upholstery for me for about 6$. Once punctured and in place they were pulled through and stapled down.

I used the old leather upholstery to give me a general idea of the size I needed to have for each cushion the added another 6 inches or so to that for wiggle room. Since the buttons essentially help keep the fabric centered, all thats left is to pull the fabric tight and staple down. I also wanted to keep a billowing look the the cushions so I didn’t pull too hard on the fabric. Below are some images of the refinished cushions next to the older leather.

Essentially all three cushions that made up the main part of the chair all restored the same way.

The arms came next. Since I had a little extra material I was able to do them twice. I didn’t do the staining for the chair right away so while I didn’t have the chair completely disassembled I did the basic kidney shaped armrests then.

I used the original 1/2 inch original piece wood piece. Another major reason why I went with a second set were the internal nuts were stripped and failing, not holding the arms on the chair. This was extremely annoying.

When I did finally take it apart I was able to get a real adjustment for the shape and size to try my best to match the original Eames style armrests. I tried to get them as close as possible with only one major difference, which reflect for the entire chair, stitching in cord.

I wanted to make sure there were no major creases or pleats in the fabric from folding it over and stapling. This was difficult to do, since I am rather inexperienced. It was also hard to get the folds on the other side not to be too thick and out of control at the same time.

I still need to place the matte board backing to these to hide the cloth folds. I also could use a lesson on how to fold fabric and staple properly.

I was able to easily take these off of the chair and shoot them. I used 1/2 pine, cut the 2 shapes out and mitered them to fit, screwing them together and filling with bondo. I may have said this before, but just incase, I’ll say it again, Bondo is an amazing adhesive agent and ask as a great glue.

The second part of this project was the bent wood exterior shell of the chair. I wanted to strip the existing stain and replace it with something a little darker and deeper. To do this I have to disassemble the entire chair and sand the wood down. The shot below shows the chair with no backing cushions the original armrests and the newly finished seat cushion. Sorry for the low quality, I think I had to take this with my phone.

This part made me a little nervous about sanding down the woods and not knowing how well it would turn out. I used the Ottoman as the guinea pig and tested that out first. Luckily it worked great. So, I went to town sanding the rest. Below are some shots, sanding, before, during and after.

Once I was happy with the sand job, it was time to stain. I used an old hand towel to apply. I also wore some basic nitrile gloves. This is highly recommended! Otherwise, your fingers come out looking like someone tried to wake you up by putting your hand in a wine box. Below are shots of staining with comparisons of before and after.

I did this part over a couple of days so I could get 3 coats of stain applied. I also did NOT apply a layer of Polyethylene clear coat. I can’t exactly remember why, but I remember it either being unnecessary for indoors or unimportant. So I didn’t do it.

Below are some finished shots taken at my house lit by the christmas tree.

I still need to apply the Matte board to cover the fabric folds here. Out of sight, out of mind.

The black struts that hold the head piece had a few knicks in them so I used a black upholstery marker I got from Ikea a while back that worked great. You could also use a sharpie as well.

Im stupid happy with the results and have already purchased another replica to attack and do it again. I hope this helps you if your working on a similar project. If there are any questions please don’t hesitate to send me an email and will do my best to answer them. If you have a chair and am interested in having this done for you, I am help you plan for cost and quoting or even do it for you. Thanks for reading!!

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10 thoughts on “Eames Lounge Chair Restoration

  1. This is a total shot in the dark, but, you don’t by any chance have the original leather from your headrest, do you? I’d love to purchase it if you do.

    • You know, I actually just might. I know I have a box of stuff left over from that project and it may have some leather in it. I just moved and things are packed away but I will take a look when things get unpacked.

  2. I just purchased a similar chair- missing two buttons, needs new staining, might change arms from kidney shape to more eames style armrests, etc.. I was wondering though, how easy was it to remove the seat cushions and back cushion? Are they just attached by screws or glued/stapled as well? I want to try to preserve the leather for the time being as it is in pretty nice condition but to stain the chair I want to remove it temporarily and did not know how difficult this would be. Thanks!

    • Hi Emily,

      Let me see if I understand your question correctly. If your wanting to get the wooden backs off the cushions its pretty easy. Each back panel is held on by only a few screws that can be undone from the outside. The cushions are on their own wooden backing that come right off. On the other, everything else is stapled to the inner wooden panel, even the buttons. Those staples would need to come out if your interested in replacing any of the components. There are about a thousand of them in total. If your interested in only replacing the buttons they are strung through a hole in the middle of the wooden panel through the foam.

      I hope this answers your question. Let me know if there is anything else i can help with. all the best.

    • I actually made them myself using the same cloth material as the rest of the chair. I went to a local fabric shop and told the people there which fabric i wanted, and how many buttons i needed. I got them at the same time and they did it for me there for next to nothing. I dont remember the specific dimensions, but i believe they are either 3/4 or 1inch. All i had to do was put them on 🙂 hope that answers your question

  3. Hi! Very inspiring and helpful post – thank you! Do you recall the thickness of the foam for each (or any) of the sections? Should I just measure the depth of the inner shells and get foam of that thickness, or add a half-inch or so? And now that some time has passed, do you have any suggestions on how to make it super comfortable, e.g. firmness levels of the sections, amount of batting, tightening the fabric to compress the foam a bit, etc. Sorry for the deluge of questions 😛

    • Whoa. Let me see if i can answer all of that. If i can remember correctly there were two types of foams available at the fabric store – a thicker/denser one and a softer/less dense one. I believe i ended up replacing the existing foam entirely and used both. I put the thicker one down first and the softer one on top of that.

      I used a regular batting. Nothing too thin otherwise it’ll rip when you pull it. This is important to keep the fabric from crumbing the foam.

      As far as the thickness i think i used maybe 1 inch for both, sorry i cant remember that clearly but it sounds right. You don’t want to go too much thicker than the original size. It’ll deform the true shape. The combination of both foams worked very well for me as far as comfort goes. I didnt tightening the fabric much beyond enough to get a nice snug fit for the cloth and to remove any unwanted excess or wrinkles.

      Outside of that, super compfy is rather subjective. Pick a fabric you like and play with the foams at the store. I chose a micro fiber upholstery fabric that would last and was super soft. Combined that with both foams, now i have friends that come by and fight for the chair. Naps galore. Thanks for reading. Good luck in your rebuild, i hope this helped you out some more.

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