How Do You Restore A Padded Eames Fiberglass Chair?

How Do You Restore A Padded Eames Fiberglass Chair?

The Herman Miller Eames Molded Fiberglass Chairs are as much a work of art as a piece of furniture.

Originally designed by Charles and Ray Eames in 1959, it’s both functional and striking. A mid-century modern classic that has stood the test of time.

Well, at least the concept stands the test of time.

Unfortunately, however, time can take quite a toll, and the upholstered Eames Fiberglass chairs just aren’t as easy to look after and maintain as their counterparts.

The fabric often can get crumpled and out of shape. Which means that there may come a time when it has to be restored.

In this article, we will walk you through how best to care for and maintain your upholstered Eames fiberglass chair, including a comprehensive list of all the dos and don’ts you need to adhere to.

And of course, we will also cover how best to restore your padded Herman Eames Miller Molded Fiberglass Chairs, providing you with as much guidance and advice as possible.

And without further ado, let’s get straight to it…

Maintaining Your Padded Eames Fiberglass Chair

Here are some of the dos and don’ts to adhere to in order to get as much longevity as possible from your Herman Miller Eames padded fiberglass chair:


  • Vacuum the fabric.
  • Dry cleaning or spot cleaning the fabric with a solvent cleaner is OK. You can use a soft, absorbent cloth to remove stains. Do not allow stains to dry completely because it may set. Bear in mind that the longer a stain is allowed to remain on the fabric, the more difficult it is to remove.
  • You can wash the fiberglass with a soft cloth soaked in detergent and warm water.
  • You can remove scuff marks and stubborn dirt from the fiberglass using a soft bristle brush with detergent and warm water. 
  • You can restore the original sheen of the fiberglass by applying a pre-softened automotive paste.

Do Not

  • Do not apply water, or any other liquid, and do not attempt to steam clean the fabric as this can cause damage.
  • Do not use any kind of brush on the fabric. This can also cause damage.
  • Do not use abrasive cleaners on the fiberglass, as this may damage the finish.

How To Restore A Padded Eames Fiberglass Chair

How Do You Restore A Padded Eames Fiberglass Chair?

The first thing you’ll need to do is to remove the upholstery on the chair.

You can begin simply by cutting it, but do bear in mind that this will not leave a highly polished shell, or gel coated, because the foam will have been taped to the chair in 5 spots.

This tape is dry and it leaves unsightly marks if it is not properly removed.

In order to remove any foam remaining on the chair, you will first need to pick it off as best you can, then scrape off all you can before stripping it.

Normally, high speed buffers would be used to remove all traces of both the foam and the tape.

If you don’t have the luxury of a high speed buffer, then this will be a time-consuming job, and you will have to use solvents to kill any of the old foam.

Once everything has been removed, you may find that there are holes drilled into the fiberglass that were designed to let air out whenever someone sat on it.

The earliest ones did not have this feature, but most of the newer ones did. If your chair does have these holes, then you will want to patch the fiberglass shell.

At this stage, you need to decide whether you want the chair to be reupholstered or if you would prefer to go with the popular highly polished shell aesthetic.

Buying new foam is now expensive, but it can be done, and it is more comfortable.

But you may also want to bear in mind that you don’t actually know what color the shell is going to be underneath the upholstery.

Achieving A Polished Shell

If you want to go for the polished shell, you’ll be pleased to hear that the shell underneath the padding is the same shape as in the non-padded version.

In order to go for a polished shell, once all of the upholstery and foam has been removed, you should coat it with Penetrol, or some semi-gloss clear coat, because the gel coat underneath the padding is quite dull and will need a little buffing.

Trying To Replace The Padding And Fabric

Alternatively, if you’d prefer to get the chair reupholstered, you certainly can. You can buy the foam required, and your choice of fabric.

If you’re lucky, you may be able to get hold of some Ray Eames fabric through sites or apps such as eBay or Vinted.

That said, however, the edge piping effect that you see on a genuine Herman Miller Eames Padded Fiberglass Chair isn’t easily achieved, because you would need a special machine to do it that the majority of reupholsterers do not have.

You could reuse the original fabric if you so wish, but take the time to wash and maybe dye it before attaching it back on.

Final Thoughts

So, to summarize, you can get some tangible longevity for your beloved Herman Miller padded Eames fiberglass chair if you ensure that you adhere to all of the essential dos and don’ts listed earlier.

If, however, you find that none of these measures can achieve the effect that you’re looking for, then you are free to go ahead and remove the upholstery.

But remember that if you were to do so, the removal of the piping would decrease the chair’s value considerably, because this is how you identify whether a Herman Miller Eames fiberglass chair is genuine.

If, however, you do decide to remove the upholstery, you are free to choose whether to reupholster it for comfort, or to go for a polished shell instead.