HOUSE: Newburgh + Scavenging

A new (old) chair-friend.

The rocking chair in the room at the back of the house (technically now Evan’s music studio, but it feels weird saying that) has a new buddy! We bought this mustard-colored upholstered Eames shell chair years ago for cheap. It came with a standard H-base that was rusted out and missing all of its feet. A while back I swapped in a rolling DAT base that came off of another chair, but since we really don’t have any use for a rolling chair, it’s just kind of been sitting around in a corner of the guest bedroom doing nothing since then. It has a 2-inch tear in the upholstery (due to bad packing—grrrrr), but the mustard color is so great that I don’t care.

As long as an Eames shell chair has a narrow-mount configuration on the bottom (most of the stacking shells have a wider mount—you can see the difference here), all of the different kinds of bases are interchangeable. It’s much easier to find vintage shells at good prices if you don’t care about the bases, and it’s relatively inexpensive to buy reproduction bases in whatever style you want. True, a vintage chair with a repro base isn’t worth as much as an intact original, but I really don’t care about that. I’m just happy to see a vintage shell get a new life.

I’ve bought multiple bases (including the one on the rocking chair above and the dowel bases on the chairs in the apartment kitchen) from the eBay seller Depury, but there are plenty of other sellers out there all offering roughly the same product at more or less the same price points. You can expect to pay between $75 and $125 depending on the type of base.

Whatever you do, make sure you hang on to the screws and rubber washers/shock mounts when you remove the old base. Most upholstered Eames shells have removable rubber washers and threaded holes in the fiberglass, but others (including all of the non-upholstered shells) have thick, permanent shock mounts affixed to the bottom that allow bases to be attached without the screws penetrating the shell itself. Just don’t go screwing anything to the bottom of your chair without there being some rubber involved!

We chose a wire-frame LAR/low-rod base (commonly known as the “cat’s cradle”) for this chair. Since it’s going to be sitting next to a rocker, I thought having a height difference between the two would be nice. Also, it’s low enough for the dogs to climb in! I suspect this is going to become a favorite snuggle-spot (and photo-op) in the near future.

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  • Reply Mo September 3, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    Looks great, does it match the gold in the MJ poster?

    • Anna @ D16 September 3, 2011 at 10:37 pm

      Not quite, but the gold in the poster matches the gold in the vase pretty perfectly. 🙂

  • Reply Jo in NZ September 3, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    Looks great, Anna! Love the mustard colour. Have you tried some sort of repair on the tear? Was squinting in to see what had been done ~ am curious!

    • Anna @ D16 September 3, 2011 at 10:36 pm

      No, I haven’t tried to repair it. Honestly, I think I’d rather just have a hole in the chair than have some kind of weird vinyl patch that doesn’t quite match, you know? If you look at the next-to-last photo, you can see the tear. It’s actually two puncture “wounds”.

  • Reply victoria September 3, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    awesome-sauce! i love that new base. crafty! 🙂

  • Reply Julia September 4, 2011 at 6:07 am

    Looks really good! Where did you get the poster? Like that very much (as far I can see it)

    • Anna @ D16 September 4, 2011 at 8:39 am

      You can see the poster better here—it was given to me by someone who works for Vanity Fair.

  • Reply Lauren September 4, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Ooh, pretty! Anna, have you seen many mustard yellow fiberglass shells out there? That’s what I fantasize about for our dining room…

    • Anna @ D16 September 4, 2011 at 11:10 am

      I think the catalog contract color name is Brilliant Yellow—it’s really gorgeous. We have one side shell in the lighter (and more common) standard Lemon Yellow, but that brighter, mustard-y color is much more elusive.

      Victoria (sfgirlbybay) posted a link to a place in SF that has a TON of stackers (more than are listed here):

      I can’t tell if they’re Brilliant or Lemon, but it could be worth checking out, especially if you wouldn’t need them shipped with the bases. There are conversion kits for attaching dowel bases to wide-mount bottoms…

  • Reply bekah September 4, 2011 at 11:28 am

    One of the best places for new bases (and check out her home/studio!)

  • Reply Anne September 4, 2011 at 11:57 am

    Love the chair. That yellow is perfect.

    You’d think there would be a way of melting the vinyl back together or something without having to apply a patch…hm.

    • Anna @ D16 September 4, 2011 at 12:25 pm

      The thing with 40-year-old vinyl/Naugahyde, though, is that it’s very brittle once it’s been cracked at all. There’s really no “give” or elasticity to it. There are repair kits that work with heat and chemicals, but I’ve never seen a repair that looks better than just having a tear.

      To be honest, though, the tear doesn’t really bother me so much. If I ever do patch it, I’ll probably do it with a completely different color and make it into a design element.

    • Anne September 4, 2011 at 2:32 pm

      Oooo, love that idea. You could do a black stripe!

    • Anna @ D16 September 4, 2011 at 2:34 pm

      Yeah, something like that. Or a hot pink dot!

  • Reply callie grayson September 4, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    awesome! love the colour!!!

  • Reply S@sha September 4, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    That is a great yellow and I especially like the fact that the back of the chair is black. It looks really good in the all white room. I recently bought a new shell chair from Modernica, and I got the low-rod base. I love the way it looks in isolation, but in my living room I think it’s so low that its being dwarfed by my ottoman. It looks really awesome out on the patio though.

  • Reply Jennifer September 4, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    This is amazing! Never seen it in that mustard tone and got bad cravings for it now!:) good job!

  • Reply Lizzie September 4, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Lovely! The yellow & black work so well against the white floor and walls.

  • Reply Monica September 4, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Holy crap, it is beautiful!

  • Reply bekah September 4, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    I just spent the last 10 hours or so sanding PAINT off of two Eames armchairs, why, why?!?!

    Knowing that you have a stack in your zombie filled basement, do you have any interest in trading or hosting a virtual tradeathon? I’m sure we all have an extra odd colored chair we’d like to swap for a better match for our collections!

  • Reply Ryan September 4, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    GORGEOUS chair – the cats cradel base really suits it. I love how the bases are so easily interchangable. I managed to pick up an old Eames original shell chair (a mean feat down here in Australia) that needs a lot of work, on swivel base but with no wheels. Gonna try and suss out someone down here to try and onsell or swap it cos I want an H-base or cats cradle for it… but first, need to patch some fiberglass!

  • Reply Heather Lea September 5, 2011 at 1:48 am

    I think there is a great life lesson to be had here…ANY TIME there is screwing involved, it should always include rubber.

    • Anna @ D16 September 5, 2011 at 2:00 am

      Alas, failure to do so with your chair will not result in the creation of additional chairs.

  • Reply Chris September 5, 2011 at 11:04 am

    I see from the photos that your white painted floors still look beautiful after 2+ years. I wanted to see what you have to say about their wear over time and how easy they are to keep clean. I have been toying with the idea of painting my bedroom floor white, but I am scared the floors will scuff and scratch and end up as an upkeep nightmare! Sorry this comment is a little off-topic– the mustard chair is bangarang!

    • Anna @ D16 September 5, 2011 at 11:20 am

      Chris, to be honest, I don’t really care about scuffs and scratches. My house is 125 years old—everything is scuffed and scratched already! This was a banged-up, splintered pine subfloor. It might be different if I were painting new (smooth) hardwoods in a contemporary house. I think you can just get away with a lot in old houses and still have it look good. Also, I didn’t do a glossy finish. The floor is very forgiving.

      That said, there’s virtually no wear to the floor at all after 2 1/2 years. Not a single chip, even. Occasionally something will leave a scuff mark (like if something heavy has black rubber pads under it), but that comes off in 2 seconds with a Magic Eraser. I don’t sweat it, really. We don’t wear shoes in the house, which I’m sure helps—but we’d do that regardless of the color of the floors. 🙂

  • Reply Mollie September 5, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Do you have any advice on getting one of these chairs reupholstered? I have one that was my mom’s- it’s off-white, and the seams have all split.

    • Anna @ D16 September 5, 2011 at 7:35 pm

      Mollie, I’ve never used them myself, but I’ve heard very good things about Retro Redo.

  • Reply Rachel Kay September 6, 2011 at 9:52 am

    That colour is beautiful, love it. I love the base too, and I think it works really well beside the rocker base.
    The tear really isn’t that noticable. Besides, I think it adds character 🙂

  • Reply Christina September 6, 2011 at 11:58 am

    I love the chair, but more importantly for me, I’d love to know how you did the keen labels on your photos.

    • Anna @ D16 September 6, 2011 at 12:18 pm

      Hi Christina, I do all of that stuff in Photoshop.

  • Reply Kathy September 6, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    Love it—looks amazing! (photos do too!)

  • Reply Annie markantonatou September 6, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    loving this!

  • Reply katrina September 7, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    i liked the chair before, but love the After so much more. what a difference a base makes.

    by the way, loved the photos with fritz @ instagram. such a cutieeee.

  • Reply Soren Stig September 23, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    Wow… Very very nice job Anna!
    I am building a sideshell bench, like the vintage airport models…
    However, I am offshore right now and forgot to measure the base, i.e. the distance between the holes in the chair so I can fabricate a bracket.

    Could I ask you a fovour and reply me the measurements, as I am absolutely sure that you would know 🙂
    I did remember the angle of the bend though, so if you could, all I need is the direck line distance between the threads…

    I thank you very much in advance!

    Best regards,

    Soren Stig

    • Anna @ D16 September 23, 2011 at 11:20 pm

      Hi Soren, unfortunately the chair and I are not in the same place right now. Try the ChairFag site.

  • Reply Soren Stig September 24, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    Thx Anna! Very helpful site!!

  • Reply Talijo October 2, 2011 at 11:49 am

    LOVE the chair idea but LOVE LOVE LOVE the MJ poster!

    • Anna @ D16 October 2, 2011 at 12:29 pm

      He is the most beautiful thing in the room. 🙂

  • Reply shaun March 5, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    Does anyone know where to buy wide-mount stacking bases for the Brunswick brand fiberglass chair? I have six shells, no bases.

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