Sean has a thing for office chairs. There are over 30 of them at the flowspace – there were possibly over 50 at some point – and he is proud to admit that he has never bought any of them.

In our realm of material possessions, we consign office chairs to being our functional, 8-hour/day penitentiaries that provide questionable lumbar support. They are bulky, they don’t go with anything else in our lives. One broken lever, an unfortunate stain, and people forsake them. Companies downsize, and office chairs are unceremoniously discarded by a dumpster together with old color printers. Ikea has a sale, and well, we all know what happened to the old one.

Sean seems to have special office chair radar. If he happens to drive by a prospect, he will take those extra 4 right turns to check it out properly. Never mind that we’re running late. “Ok so the seat is really gross, but look at those casters!” … “Pneumatic lift cylinder not working? No worries, you have nice adjustable arms.” Thank goodness we have a mini-van.

office chair parts awaiting salvation

office chair parts awaiting salvation

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Even if the seat itself is in terrible shape, good bases and wheels are highly desirable, because they provide stability and mobility to otherwise tall and awkward structures. We have transformed these parts into coat racks, jigs for product testing, mobile displays and more. These workhorses have been by our (back)sides for over 10 years, supporting us in more ways than the usual one. Like stray kittens, we take them in and clean them up. We refurbish, reuse and up-cycle parts, giving them a new lease on life. The physical fate of pretty much every office chair in the world is most likely a landfill. It’s hard for us to justify contributing to that eventuality when abundance abounds in our urban neighborhoods.

To be honest, it can be challenging to repurpose an office chair. The seat and base are typically attached to the shaft via a tapered press fit. It’s not easy to take apart. You have to use a hammer to whack them apart, but there is usually no good place to strike. Sean usually uses a small scrap of wood or metal to get purchase on the edge of the connection point and then hit that. Don’t be afraid to give it a good whack. What’s the worse that could happen? After all it was free