Project Saarinen

So pretty much right around the time that the Plycraft reno began, I decided to return to my old Saarinen. Originally given to me by my first employers having found a set underneath a veritable stack of books and magazines, this little ditty has been through the ringer (shout out to Chris Myers and Nancy Meyer, WOOT!). The original chair was old, tattered and flat out dry rotted through and through. Not sure how much all of you know about this chair, but a full fabric back chair, dry-rotted, is not a pleasant experience. Every time your ass hit the cushion a waft of 1963 clouded your vision. Whatever, material, that lovely foam is made of clings to you lungs like pollen. Stripping it down and going with a traditional cushion was always the plan. I just never realized how arduous that would become. You will have to forgive me on the photos, I’ve seriously had this chair longer than I have owned a camera, so all the images you will see are of the recent iteration of Eero’s little stripped lovely.

6416582865_1dfa9e32a4_bLife as a sander

When approaching this project, you will need the following: a gas mask and patience. Take both of these things very seriously. I found it easier to keep the base on the chair during the entire process up until sending it off to the paint shop. The base offers a pleasant area to grab and brace the chair as you will be putting some serious muscle into your sanding efforts. But first thinks first, like a paid escort upon walking into the bedroom, she needs to strip off the material. Much like other high quality furnishings produced in the the decades of yore design, the finishings are well hidden, so actually getting the material off is a trick. Since I didn’t particularly care to save the pattern for anything, there was a fair amount of tearing involved, but one you do get to the edges, cutting away at the seam is, well, seamless. And because the foam was so rotted, it simply slinked right off. What you will be left with is a lovely smelling yellow/orangish thing that you should keep all pets and children far from. Unless you want them to be walking around with a permanent Snooki tan. Not to mention ingestion of this crap will make them sound about as inane as the rest of the jersey shore cast. Now comes the fun part, scraping foam.

6416566079_9cef665dd0_bHole track exposed. You will learn to hate these.

Firmly place on gas mask, wrap body in whatever. Go outside, away from civilization. Start chopping away. Ok, chopping is a terrible word. Don’t chop. The fiberglass shell of the Saarinen can easily take damage, so whatever tool you end up using, be careful not to gauge it. Infact, use something rubber, and try your best to get under the foam. Once you get something started, it should come off in chunks. Once you are done, I’d normally say go shower, but your time ingesting chemicals even cancer cells are afraid of is only just beginning. This process should have exposed all of the sewing holes long the outer lip. Take some sandpaper and make sure you have removed all traces of the foam before continuing. Now, I was smarter in my younger years. Hell, I was smarter the 30 minutes before I started that wonderous process, but you are going to need to fill in these holes least ye want a Holy Eero. Being that the chair is fiberglass, I should have used Bondo, to be honest I just wasn’t thinking. Instead I picked up some acrylic based wood repair stuff from Home Depot. It worked fine, the problem was two fold. Acrylic or plastic based fillers expand upon hardening, sometimes a lot. and B., shit was hard. Like granite hard, which made the next step a bitch.

6416589757_6722643f0f_bStupid expanding filler.

And now we sand. 80. 220. 400. 800. 1200. I had to use 80 on the areas with the filler. The filler got so hard, I was having a hell of a time getting it down to smooth, which is a problem considering fiberglass is literally meant to be sanded. So DO NOT use any power tools to do this. Because of the complex, organic shape of the tulip, I highly recommend you just put some elbow into it, and use your hands. You will begin to feel all the nuances of the surface anyways, making for a smoother finish. Even with your hands it is extremely easy to gauge out an area, so kep sanding in large swaths. Since I was taking this to be painted at a body shop, I knew to go through an entire wet sanding process across the entire chair. I was even able to fix some nicks on the edge of the base with the same material that I covered the holes with. All in all, the chair was starting to take shape, so much so that I was debating my own paint scheme I had planned.

7000985362_7fda01c905_bReady for the shop

I have always had it in my head to go with a matte finish across the board here. I love matte. It’s pure and natural to me. Highly polished materials can sometimes seem overproduced to me, plus having done body work in the past, I know a bad gloss job when I see one, and it will irritate the hell out of me if this thing starts to orange peel on me, matte finishes make that less obvious. But there might be something quite beautiful here. During the wet sanding process I became enamoured with the idea of a “wet” looking inside, while the shell itself was matte. So that became the plan. Expensive to do? Yup. Looking at twice the price depending on who you know. I would say the trick is to find a body shop and ask them to hit it when they are putting white in their gun (or red, or black, or whatever). You basically get charged for all the times they clean their equipment. So here is the rub, go with the matte finish, then ask them to hit it with gloss, you got it, when they run gloss through their gun. If you work with the shop and ignore timelines like..I need this in two day2, etc. Then they will like you. And their prices will reflect that.


The result, well, its awesome. In retrospect I could have asked them to wet sand and hit the gloss with one more coat, but the initial paint job looks amazing, plus I’d like to see how it holds up with some moderate wear and tear. I haven’t completed the cushion yet, as I am designing a pattern special for it, but if you are less adventurous than myself, you can pick up original cushions through DWR or even Knoll. Once my cushion is done I fully plan on throwing on my super tight velvet briefs and pressing my pasty white body against it’s smooth gloss body holder of a surface. Design boner.

Check out the full flickr set here.