I know it’s unbecoming to gloat, so I guess I’ll just say that there’s still a place in the world where people abandon Eames shell chairs on the curb. This magical wonderland is called Brooklyn. And I’ll add that if I were you, I’d leave me nasty, name-calling comments, too. I won’t take it personally. Because look what I found:

Fear not, there's a satisfying "after" below.

When I say found, I mean found. Like in the trash. Like for free. In my E! True Hollywood Story, “This Magic Moment” by The Drifters will be cued now. Sure, it’s grungy, but that’s my thing.

This proves a privately long-held belief that I need to be around my friend Juliet ALL THE TIME. I always find the goods when we’re together– she also bore witness to the $35 Bertoia wire chair, the purchase of the $20 Orange Glo kitchen lamp, and was staying with me when I brought home the knock-off Breuer Cesca chair (and don’t forget the cute mid-century dresser that I temporarily stored for her after we found that on the curb too). Consequently, she thinks I have a problem, and this seemed like the appropriate moment to confront it head-on. I think the words “filth” and “hoarder tendencies” were used and “bedbugs” may or may not have been mentioned. Begrudgingly, I walked away.

But like any good scavenger, I was fixated on it. Sure I didn’t really need it, but I sure as hell wanted it. I could take it on the subway, it wouldn’t be the first time. It would clean up beautifully, and afterwards I’d occupy long hours admiring my handiwork. We’d made it about three blocks before moderate grumbles turned into manically spewed rationalizations and justifications. “But it might be a while before we have dining chairs. And I want to have people over. And where are they going to sit? Or now that I think about it, maybe I’ll sell it! That’s it, I’ll clean it up, sell it on Ebay, and use the money for things we do need! It’s easy and I already have all the supplies!” Of course I’m not selling it, but I would have said anything. My sanity is a fragile thing, and it needed me to bring home this chair as much as the chair needed my extensive DIY abilities.

Ultimately, this was about my independence. If I were to let a friend, however great and well-intentioned that friend may be, talk me out of a free Eames shell chair, could I ever respect myself again? Would I ever sleep peacefully, knowing what I’d done? This was PEER PRESSURE, people, and I don’t play that.

“You know, I read that they just found this woman dead in her apartment in New York,” Juliet said as if she’d tuned me out, like when you rush to change the channel in favor of something less annoying. “She was a hoarder and it took them two weeks to find her and dig her out. In her apartment! Can you believe that?”

“What did they do with her stuff?”

“You’re going back for it, aren’t you?”


“I’ll wait on the stoop. You do realize you’re crazy, right?”

Maybe it’s true. But when the men in white coats come, at least I’ll have fab furniture to cling to as they dig me out of my mess.

When I brought it home, even the other Eames chair was against it.

I followed all the same restoration steps that The Brick House and Chairfag told me to follow when I did this the first time (minus prying off and re-gluing the shock mounts). Most of that grime came off with a little scrubbing, the scuffs and gauges were fixed with some Mr. Clean Magic Eraser action, and a little wet sanding and a coat of Penetrol finished the job. It’s super easy. And just look at her!

I’m not really sure what was going on with the old base, but I guess it somehow got very bent out of shape and somebody tried to keep it from collapsing with packing tape (I mean, come on, at least spring for some duct tape). Luckily, I hadn’t gotten around to deciding what to do with the old h-base from my other chair, and the shockmounts were already narrow-mount on this one, so it seemed like a super easy swap! Right?

Well, things didn’t quite work out the way I planned- the shock mounts are this close to being properly aligned, but I couldn’t get the holes to line up for all four screws. For a few days I dreaded the thought of prying all the mounts off, re-sanding the entire back (since this was after the Penetrol dried, I didn’t think to check any of this beforehand), and reapplying them with epoxy and redoing the Penetrol. But then I just said “fuck it, good enough.” Since it’s resting on the mount anyway, I don’t think this is presenting any risk to the chair or those who sit in it. Oh, and I harvested one of the glides from the old broken base to replace the missing one on the less-old h-base, in case you were wondering. Anyway, she’s feeling pretty good about herself.

About Daniel Kanter

Hi, I'm Daniel, and I love houses! I'm a serial renovator, DIY-er, and dog-cuddler based in Kingston, New York. Follow along as I bring my 1865 Greek Revival back to life and tackle my 30s to varying degrees of success. Welcome!

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  1. 9.21.10
    Mom said:

    Oh my God you are so amazing. No wonder I miss you so much.

  2. 9.21.10
    Mom said:

    BTW, Does Juliet “get” you now?

    • 9.21.10

      Actually, she was extremely gracious and complimentary when she saw the rehabbed chair. Couldn’t believe it was the same one! So we’re cool :-)

  3. 9.21.10
    Ana said:

    You would think Brooklyn would be the LAST place to find gold like this.

    I’m really hating you right now.

  4. 9.21.10
    Jen said:

    Very nice. I got mine off the street in Baltimore suburbia. My kid calls it the “trash chair”, which is also his desk chair. Thanks for swivel idea, I’m waiting for mine from ebay. $50 including shipping. Weird thing though…no shock mounts on his chair. Just some protruding fiberglass where the base is screwed in. I’m hoping they don’t break off when I unscrew the base off.

    • 9.21.10

      That is weird– is it definitely an authentic Herman Miller (or, if it’s really old, Zenith– the logo should be molded into the bottom) shell? As far as I know, shock mounts have always been part of the design, but it’s hard to find a good thorough history. If you run into problems with screwing the new base on, you can buy replacement shock mounts on Ebay, too!

  5. 9.21.10

    The labels on the pics are hysterically funny.


  6. 9.21.10
    jeannette said:

    awe. some. it’s really like a resurrection.

  7. 9.21.10

    hahahah even better than your sweet score is your awesome photo doctoring. “how you like me now, bitch?” Thanks for the laugh!

  8. 9.21.10

    You know everyone is going to hate you like they hate me now, right? I don’t know what it is about New York — it’s like the ground is breeding shell chairs.

    You should see my basement. I’m hoarding them all for when I retire. They’re my 401k backup plan.

    Anyway, AWESOME job. !!!

  9. 9.21.10
    Shilo said:

    When I first moved in Williamsburg I got a job delivering restaurant food on my bike. I gotta say, I have never seen so much incredible furniture in need of a bit of TLC than you see hanging around North Brooklyn sidewalks on the 30th – 1st of the month EVERY MONTH.

  10. 9.21.10
    Shilo said:

    P.S. High five, it looks incredible!

  11. 9.21.10

    Fiberglass restore amazingly well. Check you out! Free is always best.

    I keep waiting to find a free Eames chair in Hemet, but I don’t think anyone went to school out here.

    • 9.21.10

      Well, even crazy cat hoarders and car-modders have to go to the laundromat and the hospital now and again, right? You’ll find some!

  12. 9.21.10
    mish said:

    loved your writing in this post! soooooo freakin funny.

  13. 9.21.10
    monica said:

    The chair cartoons are hilarious!! Good job on the restoration. Enjoy.

  14. 9.21.10

    What a great find! I’m jealous of the avocado green… It’s my favorite!

  15. 9.21.10

    Boy, look at you! That’s a great find, and nice work cleaning that thing up. We actually picked up some free old Eames shell chairs (the kind with the “arms” integrated) a while back on Craigslist. They’re the kind that were once upholstered, but someone had tried to rip all the foam and upholstery off. They’re a mess sitting in our attic right now. This inspired me to bring them out and try again. By the way, any thoughts on how to remove glued-on foam from the fiberglass shell?

    • 9.21.10

      Score! I love the armchairs. Hmmm, perhaps if you fill a bathtub with some REALLY hot soapy water and let them sit for a bit, it might make the adhesive more pliable? And then attack it with a brillo pad? Theoretically, I think there should be a salvageable shell under that stuff! I’d try to avoid hard chemicals since it might damage the fiberglass. Good luck with it (and I hope to read about it soon!)!

    • 3.15.11

      I got some DCM eames chairs, at a salvage place, that were once upholstered. It was a pain getting the tough rubber edging and glued-on upholstery/foam off. However, if someone has already done that dirty work, and all you have left is the adhesive, it might not take you a million years. I found this on accident- but what worked for me was this bio-based adhesive remover. I slathered a bunch on, waited an impatient 20 minutes and nothing happened. So I put it in my parents garden shed (where I was storing some crap over the summer) and a week or so later I was back in the garden shed for something else and realized the adhesive remover + a heated up garden shed = adhesive i could basically wipe off with a rag. (some spots i had to scrub harder at) You can get little sample bottles of the stuff. It took me about 3 sample bottles for 4 chairs. So maybe even the remover + a blow dryer would work?


      I dont know if you can see the pic due to my extremely high privacy settings on FB but:!/photo.php?fbid=854190213895&set=a.854189340645.2475901.9416920&theater

  16. 9.21.10

    Dude this post was freaking funny. I love how you had to justify to your friend and convince her to go back for the chair. Good thing you did because it looks great.

    I know it may be hard at the moment dealing with two chairs fighting, but eventually they will stop bitching and become friends for when you have a dinner party.

    Looks great!

  17. 9.21.10

    Ok. You are awesome. I have been reading your blog for some time now. It is so funny and your makeovers are fantastic. At 49, my first apartment is in the distant past. And while I wouldn’t pass up a great trash find, I can well afford new Eames chairs. In fact, I just bought a set in 6 different colors.
    Your chair would fit right in with the newbies. Great writing and handiman skills! Way to go. Best, Lynn from Decor Arts Now

  18. 9.21.10
    ModFruGal said:

    Atta boy…always listen to your inner scavenger.

  19. 9.21.10

    You’re hilarious. And I am sooo jealous!

  20. 9.21.10
    Allison said:

    This is amazing. I will be in NYC the first weekend in October. Can we hang out and find Eames chairs for free somewhere??

  21. 9.21.10
    rebecca said:

    Eames chairs + talk bubbles = better than LOL cats.

    Do something with this awesomeness NOW!!!

  22. 9.21.10

    Jealous! There seems to be a distinct shortage of Eames cast-offs in Seattle (despite our “free sign” culture). It looks fantastic!

  23. 9.21.10
    Caitlin said:

    Awesome restoration! So jealous!

  24. 9.21.10
    Esther said:

    wow… all i can say is wow. you are inspiring!

  25. 9.21.10
    mdashing said:

    Looking amazing, Dan. Love!

  26. 9.21.10

    Yeah, this site definitely needed more talking furniture. Rock on!

  27. 9.21.10
    Cait said:

    The speech bubble pictures are hilarious!

    And, after I commented on Spin-tastic! about the old library here that had Eames chairs and Bertoia Diamond chairs? Yeah, a friend told me she saw a bunch of them on the side of the road a while back. I’m dying on the inside right now! Dying! I love my trash finds, but I’m also praying to the Chair God that I luck out and find the armchair I want for the guest room on the side of the road.

    • 9.22.10

      ARGHH, that girl doesn’t sound like a friend! The betrayal!

    • 9.22.10
      Cait said:

      This is true, a real friend would have freakin’ called me and said “how many do you want? oh wait, stupid question, you want all of them”. I’ll just pretend she didn’t know me at the time?

  28. 9.21.10
    AnnW said:

    Way to go! You might find some behind a school building in Manhattan. I remember logging too many hours in these chairs over the years. They are Really Uncomfortable. Now, before your Orals, or whatever they call them at NYU you must find three more. Remember, my daughter found a Jens Risom armchair on the street in the West Village. You are really a good refinisher. Ann

  29. 9.21.10
    Liz (who is green with envy) said:

    I think we need to have words. Serious words. You have taken this too far. Someone has to say something and the task has fallen to me.

    I feel cheated, tricked even. There was me thinking you were a normal human being, albeit one with a slightly precocious talent for creating a stylish home. I forgave you the fantastic bed, the amazing desk”¦hell, I even forgave you the vintage chairs. I decided not to burden you with the feelings of inadequacy and envy I experience when I give into temptation a drop by your blog. I don’t begrudge you your nest, not even when I remember how, when about your age, I came back from a visit home over Christmas to find slugs ”“ yup, you read that right ”“ on the wall of my bedroom. SLUGS. IN MY ROOM. I lacked your energy, your enthusiasm and, yes, your sheer good taste. It’s very sad but it is not your fault.

    But today Dan, today, you went too far. I gave into temptation on the way home. It had been about a week so in a moment of weakness on the way to the tube I typed in the first few letters… And there it was. On my ”˜phone all I could see was the title, date posted and the number of comments. There were 27 comments. Already. This I must read.

    And now I wish I hadn’t. How I wish I didn’t know about the latest shell in your life. I don’t blame Juliet, although I would like to borrow her so I can find some nice things. Nor do I blame Eva, your enigmatic apartment pal. Your Mom* clearly bought you up super well so I can’t really blame her. I do blame Anna@doorsixteen just a little as she led me to you, tempting me with links and tales of creativity. However, most of all I blame you. I recently bought a couple of shells** and feel very aggrieved that you are able to find such a thing. Not only find it but also restore it and then write a witty gloating post about it. Damn you. Do you hear me? Damn you.

    I’m off to sulk”¦

    * It felt so strange typing Mom. But she’s your Mom rather than my Mum so I thought I should give it a go.

    ** Do not ask how much I paid for them as this is London where stylish fiberglass chairs don’t hang around on street corners waiting to be lovingly restored.

    • 9.22.10

      Please comment on every. single. post. always.

      (I was lol-ing on the corner of 23rd and 6th ave when I read this on my phone this afternoon. I looked crazy. HAPPY?!?!)

    • 9.22.10
      Lena said:

      I am totally agreeing with everything you wrote! And with Dan’s reply too! Where are MY awesome free or almost-free things? I never find anything awesome on the roadside or totally cheap in some shops whose owners don’t exactly know what they have. I blame the many little trendy boutiques in Switzerland who sell the cool things to sometimes ridiculous high prices!
      (although I shouldn’t complain too much since I have at least parents who have good taste and my father is someone who can’t not buy pass a good deal, so I sometimes can go “shopping” in our attic or “unburden” my dad from things he just had to buy even tough he doesn’t need them and even tough my mum doesn’t want any more things in our house.)

  30. 9.22.10
    Kerrie said:

    I went to a talk at Parson’s Lodge in Yosemite National Park this summer. The lodge is like a log cabin in the high peaks. It is also filled with about 30 of these. It blew my mind. I couldn’t hear a word the presenter was saying. I was just taking in the different shades of Eames and fantasizing about hiking one down the mountain on my back.

    Great blog. Love your style and work.

  31. 9.22.10
    Ella said:

    Of course you had to take the chair with you!
    You can’t leave something like that sitting on the curb, it’s not right!

  32. 9.22.10
    Anna said:

    So how did you get so good at DIYing dumpster diving finds? I am amazed! (and a little bit envious, like the rest of your readers)

    Btw, did you know that this Saturday is “Give your stuff away” day? I bet you can find all kinds of treasures on the curb this weekend… hopefully that will happen here in Boston as well. Here is the link:

    Love your blog, btw! Cracks me up every single time. :)

  33. 9.23.10
    sunny said:

    Happened upon your blog and have to say this is the funniest chair refurb post ever. Yes, ever. The cartoons are genius. And apparently I must move to New York where Eames chairs hang out on sidewalks screaming “take me now.” Who knew. Looking forward to more of your posts.

  34. 9.23.10
    Kathy said:

    Okay, first the sweet coffee table and now this?!!!! You should see what people sell on our Craigslist. Complete crap and I have never seen any furniture left out for trash. Like Never. It just does not happen in my part of the world. I am so envious!

  35. 9.23.10

    I have a friend like that! I can ONLY find gorgeous things at the Salvation Army when I’m with her. She’s like magic.

    Perhaps she and Juliet should start a coven?

  36. 9.23.10

    Don’t feel too guilty. My husband found an Eames arm shell next to the dumpster at our apartment complex a while back. We live in Austin and it was upholstered with the most hideous UT burnt orange polyester tweed, with dark brown crimp cord. We ripped off the upholstery and saw that the foam underneath was glued to the chair. My husband spent about 8 hours painstakingly removing the foam and glue (the chair is old, they had become one) with some sort of toxic mixture he created (it involved Goo Gone, I think). After all that we discovered that the mounts were screwed through the chair, so there are screw heads on the seat. The chair is otherwise lovely and needs no restoration, so the easy fix is to either get a wire chair pad or make a little pad ourselves to cover up the seat. No one will ever be able to tell that the screws are there! The best part about this story is that when my husband found the chair I asked it if was authentic and he said he’d checked and that it wasn’t. We liked the style (duh) so we decided to keep it and fix it up eventually. So we left it on our porch in all kinds of weather for about 4 months. Then when we got sick of looking at it we decided to rip off the upholstery, and that is when I discovered the Herman Miller mark on the bottom of the chair. Husband was distracted by the giant “Property of University of Texas” tag attached to the bottom of the chair and missed the mark. Yeah. As a side note, we love your blog and find it so inspiring. I wish I had half the style and DIY chops you do when I was your age!

  37. 9.24.10
    Annika said:

    yes, I hate you just a little for being so darned lucky but I also am a bit in love with you, your blog and the chair. Have a nice weekend! :)

  38. 9.26.10
    Laura said:

    Daniel – the chairs… I am not even going to say how jealous I am. I recently moved to a small town in Vermont with high hopes of finding underpriced gems at the second-hand shops (much like you did in my hometown of Regina)… alas, my few good finds pale in comparison to TWO SHELL CHAIRS! The people here know to hang on to these beauties.

    Also – where did you get that wooden desk that your new shell is posed with? I need a desk and this town is lacking.

    • 9.26.10

      It’s actually the ikea Bjursta table which expands to seat four, currently serving as a dining table until I hopefully find something vintage and delicious. Also, Regina! Last time I was there (in August) I saw a blue shell chair for $40 at Wheel-a-Deal, that place across from Value Village! I ALMOST bought it and shipped it back, but I restrained myself.

    • 9.27.10

      Oh dear – I will have to get my family to keep an eye out there…they often have gems stashed with their crazy collection. Yeah I can’t remember how I came to your blog but was shocked to see the you lived in Regina and that my husband and I definitely know your close buds. A fantastic small world. I am now an avid follower!

  39. 9.27.10
    Cheryl said:

    I’m so frickin’ jealous.

  40. 10.25.10
    Rose said:

    I think you wrote this post just so that I would get This Magic Moment stuck in my head.

    I have some Burke shell chairs that were my grandfather’s (propeller base). They are really very comfy.

    My crazy thing that I bring home is clearance rugs. I have a problem. It’s a running joke at our house…

  41. 5.11.11
    becky said:

    Someone just commented on a chair post I did that I must find you. I can’t believe I had never come across your site before. This is AMAZING. I’m still kicking myself for not snagging the vintage Eames armchair I spied next to the dumpster at the firehouse up the street. I was with a snotty former friend and I didn’t want to dumpster dive in front of her. When I went back, it was gone of course! It’s a lesson in never being embarrassed to dumpster dive.