Eames Redux

I know there are some purists out there who think it's sacreligous to alter an Eames chair in any way. Even when I reupholstered a knock-off I drew some heat. So without reading any further, if you are one of these people. STOP READING. You will not like what lies below this sentence.

I painted an Eames chair.

I told you, you wouldn't like it.

I got up early to go grab a Craigslist Eames Arm Shell chair. It had been painted over but was in excellent structural condition. No chips, no cracks. I read and re-read all the info I could find on those who had restored a shell before me. Everyone said Citri-Strip was the best for paint removal and it was. It worked like a charm in less than ten minutes. It removed the black top coat of paint but also the bottom coat of red. It came off so beautifully that I foolishly thought that I wouldn't have to do any sanding and could just give it a good scrub and it'd be right as rain. Oh, foolish, naive past me.

So After hosing and scrubbing I got to the reason why someone painted it in the first place. There were brown stains and weird glue like splatters. Unafraid of a challenge I borrowed an orbital sander (from the folks at Ink and Smog Editions. Go check them out right now, super awesome stuff from super awesome people) and me and the sander went to work for two plus hours of hand-numbing sanding.

I'll take the time right here to say fiberglass is bad stuff. If you're going to sand it, wet sand it, wear eye and mouth protection. Long sleeves and pants. No joke, be careful.

While the glue splatters came off the staining did not. Trust me when I say that I tried, I tried to get this weird brown stain off. I sanded, I used Soft Scrub, I used Bon-Ami, I tried more Citri-Strip. It just wasn't budging. At this point it was cut my losses and relist it on Craigslist or paint it. I decided to paint it. Gasp, the horror. I know, I know.

My thinking was that I'm never gonna have the $300-$1,200 that a pristine one of these costs and if I did...Ouf to blow it on a chair? Nah Brah.

So me and two cans of Tardis Blue (Deep Gloss Navy) Krylon went to work. Here's the before I did anything shot. Followed by the during Citri-Strip and after shots.

As for the unremovable staining, I could tell you they were much worse in person, that the pictures don't show just how brown and ugly they were and how they were bigger on the back. But let's face it, either you're a purist or your not and no matter how much I tell you it was gross and impossible to get rid of you'll hate what comes next, so let's just move on. Here's the finished chair:

What's funny is I'm a wood purist, unless it's cheap veneer I always cringe at the before and after chevron dressers that are showcased on so many design sites. This chair was cheap and couldn't be salvaged with the skills I possess. There are arguments to be made for keeping an original original and living with imperfection but it was my choice, my chair. These bad boys were mass produced and  honestly if you want to change something you own it's yours to change. One day, when/if I forget just how stained and uggo it was under the paint I can sand it back down and try again.


  1. Looks great! I regularly strip the upholstered ones, girls gotta do...

    Some more details, how did you great such an even coating? Was the paint for fiberglass or plastics? Penetrol on top? Wet or dry?

    We need more :)


    1. Thanks!

      I wet sanded with an orbital and a spray bottle of water and dish soap, then primed with Krylon Fusion Spray paint, then used two cans of Krylon Gloss Navy Blue Fusion. Both spray paints were for multi use. Then many thin coats of Penetrol.

  2. That is beautiful. I never see the need to keep something as is simply for the provenance. Sometimes things need to be updated/fixed/repaired. Except for quality wood. Like you, I draw the line there.

  3. Dayum that must have taken a lot of work, she turned out gorgeous! I don't see a problem with your painting this piece, it was more of a restoration than sacrilege.

  4. Wow, what a brilliant job! You have made a true miracle with this chair. It is totally unrecognizable! Looks really great!


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