Oh yeah. That's duct tape on an Eames Shell Chair. The style purists would probably kill me, but I'm SO EXCITED!
I bought two Eames-style shell chairs over the summer before we moved into the new house. Both of them were cheap on Craigslist, and I knew I would need to spend some time bringing them back to life. This one was a dirty off-white with a number of small spidery cracks in the fiberglass where dirt was ground in to the finish. Ugly. After doing some research, I determined that it was definitely a midcentury piece, but that it was probably a replica instead of a genuine Herman Miller. I wasn't concerned with resale value, and it wasn't a "real" Eames chair, so I let my imagination run wild.
I considered painting it, but painting wouldn't hide the tiny cracks in the finish for very long (at least not without tons of prep work, which isn't really my thing). I thought about buying an upholstered cover from Retro Redo, but they were way too expensive. I was messing around on Pinterest one night, and one of my friends was pinning all of these beautiful projects made out of Japanese masking tape. Tape, I thought? And the duct tape chair idea was born.
Who knew they made colored duct tape these days? I had originally thought about the design using plain old silver tape, thinking it would be a great neutral with lots of texture, but when I found the colors at Home Depot I thought they'd be a lot more fun. I knew the pattern would have to be simple and bold, so I settled on trying for chevrons.
- One Eames-style shell chair (or any plastic chair with a large surface. Even a vinyl upholstery will work, although it will be a different style.)
- One double-roll of white duct tape
- Two regular rolls of red duct tape
- Scissors (and a box cutter or exacto knife if you have one)
- Tape measure
- Cutting board or craft table
I started by prepping the chair's surface with a thorough cleaning - first soap and water to get off the dirt, then Goof Off to remove any old residue. I covered the screws from the legs with little pads of duct tape, so the metal wouldn't wear through the tape with use. Then, I took a deep breath and started marking off the start of the pattern. As you can see, I started in the middle of the chair (which ended up being a very good thing). I knew the chevron pattern would remain relatively constant on the bottom of the seat, so I measured out strips of white tape and started the pattern just below the seat of the chair. As the pattern came together, the measured tape stopped working - I had to eyeball it. I finished the bottom/seat of the chair before moving onto the backrest - when I realized my chevrons would collapse upon themselves if I kept the pattern going! So, I decided to reverse the V's for a bit of contrast on the top of the chair, and I love how it ended up looking. I decided to go for stripes for the opposite side of the chair - a million times easier, for your reference. Finally, I finished the edges with a "piping" of red, which made everything look clean and finished (and covered up some ragged edges).
As you're working, try to cut the tape into square corners - it keeps the finished product neater. The exacto knife was absolutely necessary to trim tiny corners and any ragged edges. I'm also glad I pulled out the cutting board, as my coffee table would have taken a heavy beating. In all, I worked on it off-and-on over three days, when I taped during The Pup's naptime and while watching television at night.
It's now one of my favorite chairs in the house, and everyone who comes up to my attic office remarks on it. "Duct tape? You're kidding!" It looks almost like fabric due to the weaves of the duct tape and the quilt-like quality of the layering. I love how the pattern highlights the curves of the Eames shell shape, but it still looks modern and fresh. Talk about a wonderful, quick, and CHEAP update to a great piece of furniture!