Strip, dye or clean and make do?

Tuesday, 10 June 2014


I have a thing for Eames.  Not expensive, shiny ones in tip-top condition.  I like to leave those to the serious collector, the connoisseur, the money-is-no-object kinda folk.  Instead, I plump for the less expensive option … the DIY project.  And so, prompted entirely from seeing a picture of a living room containing not one, but two black armshells each sitting atop a cats cradle base, I headed over to that well-known auction website … 'cause that's how I get my kicks.  It wasn't long before I spotted a pair of 'vintage armshells (LARs) on low rod lounge black bases … rare examples of black fibreglass featuring snow white fibres swirling through pure black resin …".  Dreamy or what?  I needed them in my life, but they were perfect (read pricey) so I kept looking, and bingo.  A couple of 'Herman Miller made, Eames swivel desk chairs, brown fabric covering - stained,  fiberglass shells, good honest condition, perfect for restoration'.  They had my name written all over them.

I am cheap.  I have no shame.  I'd strip the brown upholstery, loose those bases with their shiny castors - check out those castors if you will - and bag me a couple of cats cradle bases from somewhere.  Life would be sweet, I would feel smug.

In my rush to formulate a bidding strategy which would involve winning both chairs (they were listed separately, and the auction end times were minutes apart … pressure) I overlooked the due diligence.  I'm usually thorough when it comes to the DD, but in all the excitement I made a few rash assumptions.  Like, the bases will be attached to fixed shocks.  And, cats cradle bases are probably fairly easy to come by.

There is good and bad news.  The good being I won both chairs.  The bad being the bases are attached with loose washers and cats cradle bases are about as rare as hen's teeth.  My original plan had been to end up with perfect shells - and by perfect I mean hole-free.  This ain't gonna happen as there are four screw holes lurking beneath that brown hopsack which by my reckoning equals dashed plans.  I could of course cover up the holes in a 'PUT A SHEEPSKIN ON IT' sort of way, but deep down I'd still know those blasted holes were there.

Back to square one?  I'm not so sure.  I don't do brown.  But I do do black.  I could dye the hopsack.  Black.  Yes, that's right.  It's been done BEFORE and the results look pretty good. And I'm tempted to give it a go.  But then I'm tempted to give it a go about as much as I'm tempted not to bother.  It looks messy, not to mention hit and miss.

I'm still in a state of turmoil, as are the chairs.  To strip, dye or clean and make do?


  1. I'd strip! As for the wholes, there are ways to fill them up and make them almost invisble. Sadly this won't really work for the bigger airing hole which most hopsak shell have at the bending.

    As long as the bases do not necessarily have to be Herman Miller ones: I get my cats cradle bases from – they sell reproductions from Modernica and ship internationally.

    1. Thankfully neither of the shells have the air holes, but I'll look into how to go about filling the screws holes. And thanks for information about the bases, you may have solved my dilemma!

  2. In my opinion, without fabric and black, such as your Plastic Armchair Wire Base on Flickr or that of Manhattan-Nest. She is very pretty, nice restoration work.

    1. Thanks Bianca - I think that's the route I'll take. Sadly the LAR you refer to doesn't belong to me, it's just a reminder of how I'd like mine to end up looking!



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