What can I reuse or recycle to make a chair?

We’ve had an email from Adele:

For my Product Design A2 level I am aiming to create a chair made from recycled materials. I’ve got to be able to collect them in a fairly short time, and of course it would be very helpful if the items were free…I’ve got an open mind about it, and I need some inspiration fairly quick.

Cardboard chairs are the first thing to spring to mind – designers have made them in all sorts of shapes and styles and there are a number of how-tos around the internet, and people talking about the theory of making them too.

If it doesn’t have to be a formal chair, it might be worth exploring upcycling old clothes or bedding to make a bean bag. (I’ve also used old clothes to repair broken chairs on a number of occasions – an opened out jean leg is about the right width for a director’s chair seat – but those projects did start with a real chair frame.)

Getting a bit more involved than just cardboard or fabric, you can make chairs from old oil drums/barrels – for example, these basic chairs or a more flamboyant rocker. Plastic barrels might be slightly easier to work with but still transformable (these chairs aren’t made from old barrels but give an idea of possible shape).

Any other suggestions for Adele?

(Photo by Jascha400d)

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10 Responses to “What can I reuse or recycle to make a chair?”


  1. Jake Worrell says:

    Immediately springing to mind is Joe Swift’s “designer” pallet bench. You could probably cut it in half to make 2 stools. I don’t image it would take too much work to put a back on it either.

    Here is the link:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00946rg

  2. louisa says:

    Ha! I can’t believe I didn’t think about making something from pallets – my friend is always saying pallets are “the building material of the future” and I’ve used them to make all sorts of stuff in our garden.

    Thanks for the link Jake!

  3. anna says:

    I’ve always wanted to make a chair and a couch from an old-fashioned and old bathtub.
    And of old wine or whiskey barrels.
    Plastic or metal barrels would work too.
    And shopping carts.
    Concrete or glass would be interesting to incorporate in some elements too (not when using the above materials though).

  4. Didoh says:

    How about a car seat?. There are all shapes and sizes at the breakers yard. You would need to make a base to bolt them to, pallets would be good. These were used in the 70′s in student accomodation and were fairly comfy.

  5. Milk crates! Stack two together (and use them for storage) and make a seat to cover the opening of the upper crate using salvaged plywood, a large tray or part of other furniture. Use twist-tie to hold the 2 crates together. Tie a cushion to the seat to make it comfy. You can do the same thing using ammunition boxes, dynamite boxes and wooden chests.

  6. Suzana says:

    Newspaper. My nephew had to make one in class. It had to have legs, etc. If you borrow a newspaper roller, the rolls of newsprint can be fairly strong. They used tightly rolled, thinner bands and wove them for the seats, back and arms. It had to hold a heavy adult (the teacher was heavy) without collapsing. They couldn’t use duct tape for anything except joining corners.

    A friend had a tree stump carved into a regal, throne like chair. Gorgeous. A friend with a chain saw did original cuts, and an artist did the detailed carving.

  7. adele says:

    Thanks so much for all the great ideas!! They really help with my ‘initial design ideas’ brainstorming pages. Right now I’m thinking along the ideas of tyres…but I’m told they’ve got steel reinforcements so I’m not really too sure how I’ll be able to use them. I’ll let you know, with photos, how the final product finally turns out…if it works!!!

  8. Sam Brown says:

    Good Luck. I’d use a chair like the one in the picture to make a sledge.

  9. gebrichi says:

    Check out what Mario Stadelmann does with chairs from newspapers at http://www.sanktadelmann.ch/ and also David Stovell at http://www.stovelldesign.co.uk/ do.



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