In my last apartment, my biggest furniture design agony was my coffee table (needed to be small, not too visually heavy, and taller than my beloved navy velvet pouf so they could “nest” with each other. Then for my balcony, it was a dining set (also needed to be small, I wanted it to be vintage, not too expensive, and have a modern french, wrought iron frame haha). Now? Now, it’s my office chair/living room chair and I might be fully going out of my previously semi-sane mind. I have looked at so many chairs that I feel like I’m going crossed-eyed. Much like my feelings towards coffee tables and outdoor bistro sets, I may never want to look at an office or desk-compatible chair again. But jokes on me because guess who still needs a coffee table… Anyway, in the spirit of fun mental downward design spirals, let me take you on my chair journey – the styles I like, the functions I want, and some desperate wild options I was considering.
Oh, here are photos of the coffee table and the outdoor bistro set to jog your memory…
Is this another dramatic design post that only proves I need to chill out? Probably. You might be saying to yourself, “Jess, honey, there are a lot of perfectly nice-looking office chairs out there. What is the issue???” Well, there are a couple. The first and most acceptable reason is that my office is also my living room. So I really want something that makes me happy to sit in but also look at when the workday is done. The second, and far more obnoxious reason, is that I want something “different”. I really like to teeter on the edge of being comfortable and visually inspiring. Those things are not necessarily mutually exclusive and they do usually tend to come with a very large price tag unless you are super handy or know someone who is and can give you a slammin deal (like how I “pay” my dad in Mexican cokes and undying flattery). I also don’t have kids or animals which I think is important to always mention. So to nail down this point, Emily always says good design can only really be two of these three things – good, fast, or, cheap.
“Cheap” is obviously relative but let me tell you that the majority of beautiful office chairs are NOT CHEAP. Furniture designers of the world please figure this out!! If you’re wondering what I’ve been sitting on for the past 2 years, I was lucky enough to get to use my desk chair from our old studio(s). It’s been a great support since actually 2016 but this baby is falling apart. Let me show you a little side by side:
So ya, wear and tear-wise it’s not great and the rose gold metal reallllly takes my apartment’s style into a glam zone that doesn’t feel like me. I want earthy, darker-toned, and modern to contrast the pink curtains and light beige color of the desk. Gimme that tension! Lastly, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want something that looked unique, that hasn’t been all over the internet yet. It’s the chronic design lover in me that just wants to keep reaching and searching for something weird yet undeniably cool. And remember this is a key piece of furniture that is on display in my home during and outside of work hours. I really want to love it hard.
I could try to justify my insufferable pickiness all day but let me just show you what my journey has been like in nearly chronological order. But before we hit the timeline, let me remind you what we are working with…
Stunning pink curtains from Decorview, the desk that I am pretty sure was made for me and my window in mind from Crate and Barrel, and in the bottom right corner, a sneak peek at my dream sofa from Lulu and Georgia (design my EHD alum, Ginny Macdonald). This puppy is shaping right on up:)
So while a lot of you may know me for my non-kid having “form over function” mentality, I haven’t totally lost it. I want my desk chair to be comfortable. If possible I would love some wheels but that’s not necessary. Of course, my definition of comfort may be different from yours so know that as I walk you through these, K??
When I started searching, I decided that I would start at some of my favorite big box stores to see what was out there.
The Crate And Barrel Options
Naturally, I started at Crate and Barrel. Normally I like to shop from a bunch of different stores so the room I’m designing is naturally more eclectic-looking but I trust their design and quality. Those are two things that are super important to me and extra important in an office chair. The one on the far left is great. I love the canning and the color contrast to my desk but ultimately it’s just not the right style. The one in the middle is so pretty but I’m trying to stay away from warm metallics (it comes in silver and gray too but that’s also not right for the corner). The last one on the right is a showstopper. The entire back is wood. But this one paired with my desk is just too neutral for what I want.
The CB2 Options
All three of these are beautiful. The beige one on the left has just a cool frame but again, the color is too similar to the desk. The middle one’s shape, designed by Paul McCobb, IS SPECIAL! And this might be one of maybe a couple that I would have actually really considered. But I’m not not clumsy and I can just see me dropping avocado or taco insides right on that heavenly boucle fabric. It would’ve been so sad. Lastly, there’s that insanely cool 70s inspired velvet tubular chair designed by Mermelada Estudio. So while it’s the coolest to look at, I’m not sure if this is a “sit on for 8+ hours” kinda office chair. Also, the brown velvet would compete with my brown velvet sofa and there is NO FIGHTING in this home.
The West Elm Options
Ok, the one on the far right is pretty simple but the shape is lovely. Also for $159, it’s a steal. But too light-toned and generic. The brown leather chair in the middle has a cool vintage vibe but I thought I could do better. For the one on the far right, I really like the slightly more interesting arm shape and that color but for both the first one and this one, I don’t love the black base.
The Prettiest West Elm Option
The colors being so light broke my heart! But bravo, West Elm for designing this super beautiful chair. The shape, the material mixing. the base. the black straps?! Are you kidding me? It’s definitely not cheap but if you love it, need a desk chair, and have the means to get it, YOU SHOULD. Also, don’t spill:)
The Vintage Desk Chair Options
I then went to the next best place I could think of for cool vintage furniture, Amsterdam Modern. These three options were super cool but none were right. All three colors were a no for me and I wasn’t convinced those bases were going to work with my overall vision.
Then not sure if you’ve heard of Craigslist but that’s where I went next:) The chair on your left is super cool and apparently super rare but ultimately I didn’t love it. And for $300 I better love it. Then for those three very pretty canned chairs on wheels, they are 3 for $110 but much like the one I bought for $15 (go to this post for reference), I would still need to do a fair amount of DIY and reupholstering AND they were also too short. Pass.
The First One That Stole My Heart
The jaw to the floor moment when I saw this photo on Instagram could have been seen for miles. The hot rush of adrenaline coursed through my body as I frantically tried to find a similar chair but then I read the caption:
“Dillard Ramsey Harwell 1933-2019 San Diego Ca. Mystery Solved!!! These chairs have been in storage forever. I need help identifying who the designer or manufacturer is. They are in the manner of Cleo Baldon. But I cannot find that exact example by Cleo. The seat cushion does have a California upholstery label underneath the cushion”
I knew the style was Cleo Baldon but I hadn’t seen those extra-thick arms before. I know it’s dumb but I was noticeably sad after nothing useful came up. So naturally, I went on a hunt for other Cleo Baldon-style chairs.
The Cleo Baldon Chair Phase
When I searched “Cleo Baldon” on Instagram, this incredible pair came up. I love the iron, I love the leather and wood accents, and I love the olive green cushion. Unfortunately, this post was from 2014 so not “available” but also probably soooo expensive.
Here are a couple more stunning options I found on Instagram that I wouldn’t change one bit. But let’s get into more realistic options.
The Ones I Could Maybe Afford
I was “this close” to buying this chair a couple of months ago. They were $150 each and local pickup. However, I was not a fan of the “fabric”. I honestly thought I could find something that wouldn’t require me to also search for fabric and get it reupholstered. But then…
I was still on the hunt for a chair month later! So I came across these. They were $640 for the pair (local, so no shipping). More expensive and a greater need for a makeover. It didn’t make sense for me.
The Lounge Chair Phase
But then the desperation started. I was looking at chairs that were definitely beautiful but definitely not suitable for long hours at the desk. I saw this chair above at Amsterdam Modern last year and was both heartbroken it wasn’t mine but happy that one of my favorite design firms used it. I remember asking Em if she thought this could work and a “not really” sentiment was expressed.
Here’s a new version but the issues are the same… it leans like a lounge chair. Great for relaxing, not great for working.
This was a Facebook Marketplace find that I loved the shape of at first sight. But then reality set in. It was too short and too loungy to work in and look good in your house. FYI average seat height is between 17″ to 18″.
It was the same story with this one but I also really dug this weird leather patchwork. But guess what the seat height is… 14″. TOOO LOOOOW.
The “I Don’t Need A Cushioned Seat” Phase
This. This is the most comical (to me) and likely unrelatable part. The fact that my search was taking so long, I thought, “well maybe for the shoot I’ll just get something pretty, maybe even rent, so I can keep searching and not waste any money or gifting opportunities”. Whether it was gifted or not, the phrase that Caitlin said to me when it was looking like I was about to compromise was, “Buy right, buy once.” It was the reminder I needed. But I still want to show off my finds. The chair on the left is from Dims who I LOVE. The set of two was $325 on Craigslist while, this Dims chair alone (but new) costs $465, It was a steal. Then the chair on the right really intrigued me. It’s simple, modern, but all the clean details make it so special (but sadly not “8-hour” comfort)
These two were right up my new design vision alley. I wanted a warm, not a too beat-up leather chair. The one on the left is from Craiglist. But the one on the right is part of a set of four that costs $11k. I am sure they are completely properly priced but now that I’ve slightly inquired about rentals, I know there is a decent rental fee (had no real idea before all this). I’ve heard 20% to 25% of the retail price. TOO MUCH % for a RENTAL when it’s $11K!!
On the left, was from my only in-person day trip attempt to find a chair. It’s stunning but as you know canning isn’t really the look I’m going for. But I took a pic, asked for the rental price, and it was 25% of the total. So it would have come out to $350 to rent for the week. Again, so pretty but too much for something I will only admire in photos. I did really like this one on the right. A few of you commented in this post, about the stool version in the opening photo. This one is a knock off and as Caitlin also said, “if you’re gonna go Cesca I feel like you gotta go vintage”. I passed.
Lastly, I was so so so tempted to get this Thonet chair since it’s only $10. But it wouldn’t be a great desk chair and sadly I can’t keep hoarding things I may or may not ever use.
The Very Desperate, Anything Goes Phase
Are you feeling tired because that is how I felt at this stage of the process? Why wasn’t my chair showing itself?! Did I need to go in a crazy direction?? Enter the oversized plush leather chair part of this phase. These would have offered no support and looked way too chunky. Buuut the only one the left was $50 (now sold) and the cream one was free (but in rough condition). It was a weird moment.
Then entered this $200 chair (but was $400 for shipping). I honestly think it’s pretty cool but the height of this chair is shorter than my desk by two inches. It wasn’t a fit… clearly.
We just kept moving along. I actually really liked those wood and yellow chairs but passed before I asked the seat and back height (mainly because that fabric wasn’t right). The set is $275 and that’s not terrible. Then the one on the right is only $35 but I don’t know the labor quite to strip and de-ruffle. I also really want something more modern looking but couldn’t help myself from considering it because of those front legs/arms!
These actually look really comfortable and that leather buckle detail is good. But for $950 (for both) I just wasn’t convinced. I don’t hate the vibe though, I just wish there was a medium to dark wood accent.
The One Em Recommended If I Wanted To Go Simple
Hahaha Me? Keeping It Simple?? Impossible. BUT the chair above (in a different color) is the one Em got for her best friend’s son’s desk and they all love it. She’s actually thinking of getting one for Brian. And if my chair wasn’t on display all day every day I would probably consider it. It’s not cheap but it’s under $400 which for a new, attractive office chair is pretty great.
The I Think I Found The One Moment…To Be Continued
So as I pitched this blog post idea, the chair gods were working some magic and I think I found her!!! I don’t want to give it away because that’s who I am, but you will be seeing the office area revealed on the blog the first week in April so I promise this isn’t too bad of a tease. Just ironing out the details but keep your fingers crossed!!
Thank you for coming along on this crazy journey with me, hope it was fun, and if you have an available, beautiful, and comfortable office chair share the deets with us all! Now onto the coffee table part 2…
Love you, mean it.
Opening Image Credits: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Mountain House Reveal: How I Transformed an Awkward Space Into My Dream Work Loft