Herman Miller’s M logo may look unfittingly like an orange bikini top, but this guy designed midcentury modern furniture like Victoria’s Secret designs lingerie: Very Sexy. If I could furnish my house with just one thing, it would definitely be a shell chair.
We found 2 of those magical Herman Miller Eames shell chairs on Craigslist in Pittsburgh for a really good price. The seller was an antique dealer who knew that the ripped vinyl would be too expensive to fix. It worked out, because we planned to rip off the vinyl anyway. Here’s what one of the shell chairs looked like after we detached the base:
The orange color was faded and looked slightly moldy, while the rip was unstitchable. Plus, orange is a tough color to coordinate.
The other one looked like it was suffered “death by a thousand cigarette buds.” Poor little guy…
With a razor blade and some tugging, we ripped off the nasty vinyl pretty easily. The brown piping even peeled right off. So we were left with very stinky blue foam. Whoever sat in these chairs smoked a lot of cigarettes together.
And the scraping began! Our secret weapons: a pack of razor blades, 2 packs of brillo pads, a fine tooth comb, a potato peeler, and several bottles of Goo Gone. The comb and peeler were not helpful. The Goo Gone was miraculous…after we read the directions.
The Goo Gone didn’t seem to do anything except make the room smell weird. And it left an oily residue on our hands.
Then we realized we had to let it sit for a few minutes, and it came off much more easily. Oops!
The foam scraping party lasted an embarrassing 5 hours for the first chair and 2 for the second. At least we had a decent learning curve! After a wash in the bathtub with dish soap, we scrubbed the base with baking soda and were really happy with the final result:
They’re in pretty good shape for 60 year old chairs. Under the rotten tangerine vinyl was a flawless off-white fiberglass shell. Was it worth 7 hours of work? Yes ma’am! I love that these chairs have a history.