Monday, June 25, 2007

House in Progress: The Office Chair Conundrum

So here's the deal: I work from home as a freelance writer pretty much full-time. (Yeah, I know -- I'm lucky; but if you saw last year's tax return, you would not be jealous.)

At left is the Jules Chair from IKEA, in which I spend upwards of ten hours a day. I bought it because I thought it was cute, and it only cost $40. But I simply can't take it anymore. It's just not a proper work chair, and my back and tailbone are screaming in protest. I desperately need a functional, comfortable, and ergonomic desk chair.

But here's the thing: I think most desk chairs are kind of ugly -- even the coveted $949 Aeron Chair. Since my office is in my home, I can't bring myself to buy, and than have to look at, some ugly black-and-hard-plastic thing on wheels. So I'm on the hunt for a good desk chair that's also -- and this is key -- attractive.

I'd really like something in white or a poppy color or fun pattern. It absolutely has to have lower-back support and a padded (or at least pliable) seat. I'm tall, so it has to be height-adjustable, or at least be on the higher side. It doesn't need to be on wheels or to swivel, but those would be nice options. I'm hoping to keep it under $250.

Here are a few I've been looking at:

Perforated Airgo Chairs, $179, from Pottery Barn Teen.
Pros: These chairs come in white, light green, orange, light blue, and pink, and I love the polished armrests and base.
Cons: Those armrests don't actually look so comfortable. And my ass, sadly, is no longer teen-sized.

Lilly Office Chair, $169, from CB2.
Pros: Fresh and clean in white and chrome, and a great price.
Cons: I'm not sure what "pliable white Hirek® techno-polymer composite" is, but it doesn't look as cushy as I want.

Holden Chair, $249, from Crate + Barrel.
Pros: Comfortable, adjustable, and tasteful.
Cons: It's not black, but the color is still a bit too dull and masculine for me.

Swivel Leather Desk Chair, $299, from West Elm.
Pros: It looks cool and comfortable, and the seat is adjustable.
Cons: The color. I could've sworn West Elm had this in white the last time I looked, but now it's not there. $299 is also a little more than I'd hoped to spend.

Allak Chair, $80, from IKEA.
Pros: I sat in this at our local IKEA yesterday, and it's actually very comfortable. Plus, it's white, and the price can't be beat.
Cons: I don't really love the gathering on the leather seat, and the black plastic arms and base look cheap and cheesy.

Nominell Chair, $129, from IKEA.
Pros: I like this in green.
Cons: This is lacking armrests, and it's a bit on the slight side for all-day sitting.

Skruvsta Chair, $139, from IKEA.
Pros: I love the retro shape and the fun print (this comes in white, too).
Cons: It doesn't offer as much back support as a higher-backed chair would.

Patrik Chair, $179, from IKEA.
Pros: So cute.
Cons: I tried this on for size, and the seat is a tad narrow for my child-bearing hips.

Vitra Hula Hoop Chair, $915, from Design Public.
Pros: Super-stylin'.
Cons: The price -- no way am I paying this much for a chair, as cool as it may be. (Plus, the IKEA Skruvsta has a similar look for a lot less.)

Egoa Task Chairs, $648, from Design Within Reach.
Pros: Fun colors, elegantly slim profile.
Cons: The price.

Hudson Swivel Chair, $1,415, from DWR.
Pros: How cool is this in polished aluminum?
Cons: No padding. And the price.

Eames Aluminum Management Chair, $1,998, from DWR.
Pros: I love the fresh spring green leather (it also comes in white, orange, red, power blue, camel, and chocolate) and the polished base.
Cons: The price.

Have thoughts on these, or any other suggestions? Please post a comment and clue me in (and don't forget to include any relevant links). I'll let you all know what I ultimately decide.



Anonymous said...

Very useful

sarah said...

I love my fake tulip chair from white on white as a desk chair. And reupholstering the seat cushion allows it to blend with anything.

Go to and look at dining chairs. They call it the ES arm chair and it is $150. The one without arms is more elegant looking and I think just as comfortable and it is $15 cheaper.

Leah said...

Thanks, Sarah -- I'll check it out!


Anonymous said...

I wanted to point out that the chairs that you suggest here are not ergonomic and can be quite unhealthy to sit in for prolong periods. There are many colorful chairs that are also healthy and will hold up for many years. If you do sit in a chiar for more than an hour or two, forget about spending $99. Check out, they got me into a highly ergonomic chair that looks great.

corine said...

After years of migraine headches, followed by tendonitis in both arms, I coughed up the $1000 for a chair from Relax the back. It is the ugliest thing I have ever laid my eyes on, but it's been a life saver.

Nicole | Making it Lovely said...

Did you find a chair yet? I thought of you when I saw the new office chairs at west elm: garvey offic chair.

chicprincess said...

OOH, that hudson swivel chair is awesome, I think I'm gonna go buy it now! Thank! ;)

deidre joyner said...

I had a hard upright dining chair for years! Finally last year I couldn't take it anymore and purchase the Aeron Chair. It is super comfy and I paid extra for the chrome package, which is alittle more attractive.

Click on this link and view the chrome package.

BTW I had coveted the granny smith apple green Eames office chairs for years, but I couldn't justify it.

Hey, it's for your home office, a tax deduction!

Sonia said...

I'm having the same conundrum w/ no luck so far. I also want a fabric-covered, slim profile chair but can't find one in a pretty color that's also comfortable. I'm considering the Sprezzatura Armchair at ($298, not too far off your price range). Not the fun color I was hoping for, but the tan is neutral and it looks comfy. Do wish it had armrests, though! Sigh. Who knew this would be such a tough search!

Leah said...

Thanks for the feedback and suggestions, everyone!

I love the looks of West Elm's Garvey chair -- if only it came in prettier colors ...

I wound up getting the IKEA Allak chair as a temporary solution. For $80, it's incredibly comfortable, has lots of nice adjustiblity features, and isn't *too* offensive looking.

I'm still on the hunt for the perfect long-term desk chair, but am zeroing in on this one in white, from EQ3:

All the best,


M. Patrizio said...

Ooo, I like the Skruvsta Chair in white! Thanks for posting about this!

Joanna Goddard said...

so nice to find your blog! i love the red ikea (although it does look narrow) and of course the eames.

it's a good idea to have wheels on an office chair--i wouldn't have thought of that, but i think it would be a much nicer experience. and then if you needed a break, you could spin! :)


Ward Jenkins said...

OH, I have to say that yes, the Aeron chair looks a bit on the ugly side, but you'll be singing a different tune once you sit in one day in and day out. Probably the most comfortable office chair I've ever used. Best use of ergonomics and my back doesn't ache after a long day of sitting.

Anonymous said...

I love the look of the Eames but my artistic income won't allow the 2 grand. I did see one on Overstock that I am considering - looks verymuch like it.
it's called Aluminum Frame and leather office chair - the comments only complain about the casters falling out . . .

mikemade PDX

Anonymous said...

When you can’t find what you want, make it. One route is buy a chair with a fabric bottom, like the Eames Aluminum Management Chair, then buy a seat cushions (for both the bottom and the back) of your choice; one site you can go to is And after your sure the cushions are durably comfortable, find a seamstress to permanently attach the two.

Or you can more difficult route (but allows more customization); find an unfinished wood furniture store, find a chair you like (if you can’t one, most of these stores allow for custom orders). Then find a fabric you like and cushion you like, and find the seamstress (as with the previous method, you need to drag the chair along, since she will be turn the fabric into a seat cover, by adding a elastic band to the fabric for the seat portion, for the back it will be more like a pillow cover). Finally, you will want stretch the fabric and staple gun it, so is not a loose. Hope this helps.

keitai said...


Couldn't find any user info about the Vitra Hula Hoop. I have a Vitra Hula Hoop and i am trying to figure out how i could remove the seat cover.
All i can do is loosen up the front of the seat cover, but the back stays stuck.

Does anyone know how to remove the seat cover??


Michael, Jamisen, Lukas, and Sebastien said...

Ikea Allak one can be fixed to hide the ickiness of black plastic...IF the pieces are like most IKEA joints with the put-together-the-entire-thing-by-yourself-job attached......

They make a white (or blue, red, orange, metallic, the choices go on...) spray paint now for plastic that's high gloss and sold at Home Depot. I used it for my son's little tikes play set when it got faded from the sun. I chose 3 neutral colors and sprayed all the pieces to make it neutral for the backyard...even outdoors, the color stuck and it's been a year. Maybe give it a shot! (alas, don't know what to do about the gathered leather, but you won't see that once you sit, right? :)

Your blog is I can prove to hubby that there are others out there who are design-a-holics like me! :)

Jamisen Fries
San Diego, Ca.


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