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Does a Sexy, Reasonable but Comfortable Office Chair Exist?

By 10/10/2014January 28th, 201767 Comments

This is the question I have been wondering about for quite a while now.

Does a Sexy, Reasonable but Comfortable Office Chair Exist? | Maria Killam

My office {photo by Tracy Ayton Photography}

These are the chairs we have now (above). I bought them from Coscto about 4 years ago. I seem to remember that they were somewhere in the realm of $250. But now, if you get close to them, they look like they have been infested with worms, ewwwww!

When I stayed in this hotel when we went to Arizona for a short trip, I noticed that all the rooms had the white knock-offs as well and they were also starting to look wormy. I guess that’s what happens to the white ones that are made in China.

Anyway, the only way I can sit in my chair is with a pillow behind me. Every time I walk into Terreeia’s office in the house and sit in her office chair I always go ahhhhh, so comfy. But this is what it basically looks like:


Does a Sexy, Reasonable but Comfortable Office Chair Exist? | Maria Killam

I don’t want these chairs in my studio.

Does a Sexy but Comfortable and Reasonable Office Chair Exist? | Maria Killam

So then, I walked into a store downtown recently, sat in a black one of this chair (above) of the original, and it seemed comfortable, so I ordered new ones in this cognac colour. They were $400 each. Still a knock-off, but I thought they would be okay. And I made the decision to buy them after about 30 seconds so perhaps I did not sit in it long enough : )

When they arrived, they were even worse than the white ones that I have. My legs felt like they were almost dangling and I couldn’t move the seat down any lower, the back was too straight. . .

Back they went.

So, I thought I’d check with my awesome community because someone out there must have a comfortable but sexy chair that didn’t cost a minimum of $750 and up?

I mean is that what I have to pay in order to get sexy and comfortable? This is my question.

I’m not stuck on an office chair that looks like an Eames chair but it definitely needs to be stylish and designery. You know what I mean.

I also don’t think it’s a good idea to buy a chair on-line that I haven’t sat in, so this makes it even harder.

I’m getting tired of sitting on my stylish and uncomfortable chair but I don’t want to give up on style for a new one, can you help me?

Look forward to hearing what you have to say!

PS. I’m worried that asking for all three is the same as asking if you can have white without the maintenance. And the answer to that question is NO.

Related posts:

Maria’s Office Organization: Before & After

Inspiration and my Tiffany Blue Office

My Design Studio French Door Fiasco

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To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

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  • I upcycled a Louis XIV-style chair to use at my desk and I find it comfortable. The only thing is that it doesn’t have casters but I could add them if I wanted.

  • Liza says:

    No help, but I need a swivel glider that is comfortable. I have been trying to find stylish and I am going to give up and go lay-z-boy. I am perplexed as to why ugly and comfortable can not be parted.
    We need a new office chair to, and it is part of our dining room. Here’s hoping you find an answer.

  • Andrew says:

    An electric standing desk like mine!

    I also have a Steelcase leap chair, which isn’t… ugly…. but it comes in lots of colors, at least.

  • Kristin says:

    I also did lots of searching and researching on the best desk chair – we spend more time sitting there than probably anywhere else so it’s really important. It seems that hands down, everybody rates the Herman Miller Aeron chair as the best. After I got mine, my husband got one, and then we got more for the rest of our team. They are awesome. Besides the great lumbar support, the other thing I love is that everything adjusts very easily, so you can move it up, down, adjust the armrests, etc periodically throughout the day as you feel like having a different position.

  • tara dillard says:

    Chair? Where is the ‘s’ ?

    5 different chairs in my office, 1 antique church pew, 1 child’s chair, 3 project tables, 2 dropleaf tables, bookcase, 6 lamps, overhead light.

    Refining the office is a science. Changes as the work changes, 3 decades in this space. Love the vigor/energy once a refinement has been made.

    Use at least 3 of the chairs daily. Not the same 3.


    Garden & Be Well, XOT

    • Maria Killam says:

      Haha, you’re right Tara, I am afraid to count the number of chairs I own inside, outside it’s 11 alone besides the sectional and two x ottomans 🙂

  • Sonia says:

    I love my desk chair, Setu by Herman Miller. Sleek and good looking, middling price for HM, very comfy and only 1 control so no need to fuss around with adjustments. I’m very short (5′ nothing) but my 5’9″ husband also finds it comfortable. Good luck with your search!

  • Jill Baum says:

    I have a terrible wicker office chair from pottery barn. Pillow under me and behind me as we speak. Blogger jones design company took a nice upholstered chair and added casters. Although I think swivel, casters and a high back are a necessity. Also the ability to adjust the height. Might be no way around an ugly office chair. Maybe Ethan Allen?Probably won’t be sexy though. Something scandinavian? Be interested to see what you find.

  • Sarah Hepburn-Smith says:

    I always love the chairs through DWR but not always budget friendly. EQ3 has some nice ones too. Personally, I sit on a ball to keep my back happy but it isn’t the prettiest from a design standpoint – chose function in this case for myself!

  • Debbie Ryan says:

    Hi Maria – I am facing the same dilemma and the chair that keeps coming up in my searches is the Steelcase Leap chairs. They come in a variety of colors and styles…but the catch is that they are quite expensive…they start at about…$800…but my back has been aching with my current chair…so I think I’m going to bite the bullet…and they get tremendous reviews from all of the sites…

  • Dee Ahern says:

    I struggled with this seems like forever. I have a husband with severe back issues & an office/dining room open to the living room.

    After looking at/sitting in hundreds of office chairs that would either turn the husband into a pretzel or would make the room look awful I’ve ordered 2 Ekornes Mayfair office chair in a leather which complments the sofa- made in Norway not China, so hopefully, no worm issues.

    They will be delivered Friday – can’t wait.

    • teresa says:

      You won’t be dissapointed. With the Aero, it’s just about the most beautiful and comfortable chair going. I’ve had one for years and it looks like new. They also come in fabric, which if you’re not into leather is a great improvement.

  • mairi says:

    Your present chairs are the ones I like most, I have something similar but from the 70’s…Yours look as though they could be custom reupholstered, maybe with white leather or nubuck? Such a great style!

  • mrsben says:

    I have to agree with ‘Mairi’, as why not consider having your current chair(s) reupholstered since a good upholster should be able to redesign it to a certain degree to accommodate personal comfort. (ie: Your back/lumbar area) That way as well; you also get to choose your fabric and have one of a kind. ☺ -Brenda-

  • Maggie S says:

    I would say that doesn’t exist!
    It is like the saying you can have your project “fast, cheap or good –pick two”

    I like the idea of having your current chairs reupholstered. If that is not possible I’d go with getting a GOOD comfortable chair–even if you have to pay a lot.

    Somethings are worth the money -and just think you already spent $500 on something that doesn’t work. Don’t spend any more money on a temporary solution.

  • megeranski says:

    “To dream the impossible dream…”

  • KA says:

    I don’t know how tall you are, but my dining chairs, which are like the 7 chairs out of molded plywood, are comfortable. The front curves down so your circulation isn’t cut off and the back has good support. Not on wheels, or swiveling, but lightweight. You could see about putting the magic sliders underneath to make it easier to move and not scratch the floor. I had an office chair which left black marks on the floor from the wheels which would have been bad if it happened in my home.

  • Dot says:

    How about a custom slipcover for the chair like terreeia has? Nothing trumps back health. You might also try a little slanted foot rest/stool under the desk to rest your feet on, since you are petite and most office chairs are made for those taller people. PS- my husband has a new desk that adjusts height for sitting, sitting on a stool, standing…he cannot sit all day… He also has a yoga ball at the office…not sexy, but necessary! Good luck!

  • Arlene says:

    I do not understand how sex and a chair go together. “Sexy” is overused incorrectly.

  • Liz Sisk says:

    Please check out Herman Miller chairs! We have had the Mirra Chair at home for 12 years and our business offices were furnished with some Mirra chairs and other HM styles. Our home chair has a green back but I do not see that option but I see yellow. Optional backs, frames and seats!
    Sexy? Check!
    Comfortable? Double check!
    Affordable or within price you mentioned? Check!
    Good luck Maria……

    • E says:

      I tried the Herman Miller chairs and found the front part (under my thighs) to be extremely uncomfortable. A seam and a hard piece of metal? No, thank you.

      For something different, how about the cheaper, colorful Container Store desk chairs? The Green Kaja is very comfortable, and the price is right.

  • Megan says:

    I’ve never been comfortable in what is sold as an office chair. For one thing too hot in my climate and incredibly poor for posture and back. I just use a good quality dining chair with a woven seat to keep cool and interchange cotton covered cushions. Mine has no arms because I hold my keyboard on my lap to type. The clients chairs coordinate but they have arms. I would go for function over form, like a broad based chair with arms to rise from. You can always dress up with flat cushions or slipcovers.

  • Sylvia says:

    I just bought task chairs this weekend. Very hard to decide unless you sit in them yourself or know the other person giving the review is approx same height. I’m 5′ 9″. Staples actually had some surprisingly comfortable chairs from $150 – $300. Not sure if you would consider them sexy, though. I have multiple back issues and must have a good chair, so in my mind, comfort and support trumps the sexy !every time…cuz it’s not sexy when you’re in pain. I wish you the best of luck:)

    • teresa says:

      My boyfriend bought the best one from Staples. It WAS comfortable until the bottom collapsed (he’s slim), so he has to sit on a cushion. The upholstery is a disaster as well. However, it was the best he could afford and the options are slim.

  • Julie says:

    Just happened to come across this right after reading about your chair woes:

    Do like Emily Henderson did and recover them!

  • Sylvia says:

    PS. Treat your chair evaluation the same way as when you buy a bed. Sit in it, then sit some more, sit, sit, sit, swivel, recline, do imaginary computer work, take a nap, lol. That is to say give your top choices at least. 10 min or more of sitting each. Your final chair…read a book for 20 – 30 min, but sssssiiiiittttt in it:) It will be an hour well spent!

  • Lisa Moon says:

    My hubby and I have two of these chairs in our shared office, along with matching nice white desks that I got from Overstock. They are comfortable enough… I don’t sit in my office all day, but these work. I seem to recall from the workshop that you and I are similar size/frame (you’re a bit taller). I had bought one of these at Staples and tested it, but when they no longer carried it I found the match online. Note: the website says “white” but it’s not a stark white, it’s a sift creamy white, which is exactly what I wanted.,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.77161500,d.b2U&tch=1&ech=1&psi=4kQ5VOu3DIrH8AHuqIH4Bw.1413039330469.3&ei=6EQ5VO_1N9GxyAT-84G4Bg&ved=0CNgBEKYrMAU

  • sandyc says:

    NO! I’ve been going through the same issue myself. I had a wonderful chair when we lived in the other house but it was one of those highback manager chairs in black faux leather. Way too big for me, you’d say, but wonderfully comfortable but terribly ugly. Gave it away when I sold the house and bought an attractive and seemingly comfortable rust chair that was more suitable to a smaller office. Great to sit in but impossible to work in. Then bought one of the highback black faux leather ones off a neighbor for $35. Looked ugly but worked great and one of the casters kept locking up so moved it to the garage and bought one similar to Terreeia’s, after asking a lot of questions and checking a lot of things out while sitting in the chair for a good half hour. Six months of sitting in that chair all day and now I can’t sit for 20 minutes without getting so sore in the butt I can’t even stand up. Back to the neighbor’s chair for now. The fact is that 30 seconds and 30 minutes are nothing. You have to sit in a chair for hours and for days and possibly for months before you can really know what it’s like to work in that chair for hours and for days and for months. We don’t get to do that for any price, and the fact that a chair is expensive and/or “ergonomically designed” is no guarantee that it’s going to work for you. Unless you’re a perfect clone of Terreeia, you probably wouldn’t find her chair comfortable long term even if you liked the look. If you could beat her over the head and get her to let you use it for a while though and it worked, then I think the idea of having a custom slipcover would be great. Sorry that I can’t even wish you good luck.

  • Loribeth says:

    I found this on Houzz:

    You might want to rethink buying online. I mean, think about it, the last chairs you bought, you sat in them for such a short period of time before you bought them that you might as well say you didn’t sit in them at all.

    Also, since you are a designer, you might be able to get some places to loan you chairs to try out on approval.

  • Peartree says:

    Wormy? I’m not sure if you actually mean the chair has worms in the padding? I have the same chair as your white ones. Mine is also a knock off but not from Costco and it still looks fine after two years. Definitely no worms!!

    I’ve always loved the Eames Aluminum series. If you find your current chairs comfortable maybe you should try another knock off from a different source or dig deep and get the real ones?

    • Maria Killam says:

      It looks like it has worms in the padding yes. . . and the sales clerk that sold me the camel chairs that I returned told me that’s what the white ones do? Go figure. So far, it’s looking like there is no solution without spending around $700 a chair. Thanks for your comment!

  • Aurora says:

    The biggest problem with asking others for recommendations for an office chair is that…different chairs are good for different people. :/ The Aeron–which, as someone else pointed out, is consistently rated very high–is EXCRUCIATINGLY uncomfortable, when you’re 5’2″, with a 15″ back waist length, for instance. The best thing you can really do is go to a fancy office supply store–try out a ton of chairs–and when you find one that’s right for you–you can TRY looking on eBay for a refurbished model…or you can just bite the bullet, and pay whatever it costs for the chair….and then reupholster it and paint it, if need be. 🙂

    The Steelcase Think chair is perfect for me, and my body…and by spending a bit of time, I finally found refurbed on eBay for around $200…and then I bought 2 yds of $40 a yd deep purple upholstery fabric (at 50% off–thank you Jo-Ann’s, for your regular and liberal discounts!), and sewed what amounts to a pillowcase type slipcover to go over the back…and then cut out fabric for the seat, and used Velcro to hold it in place (so that it can be removed, for cleaning), with just a little hand sewing around the corners, to tidy them up. Before that, I went even fancier with my office chair–yeah, creating the pillowcase slipcover back–but sewing a triangular flap on the back of it, and trimming the flap with rope trim, and a ginormous tassle…and then creating the same velcroed seat cover–but then sewed a pleated, floor length skirt onto the cover–and trimmed the “joined” area with a very fancy bead and tassel trim–the same trim that I had on my duvet cover.

    I’m no seamstress–but even without a pattern, or any special skills it’s only a couple of hours work to do something with the upholstery that will match the colors you want in your office–and then let the plain silver or black frame sort of disappear into the background.

    Just my two cents–but I’d focus on comfort first–then just make slipcovers that match your style. 🙂

  • Merlyn Corcoran says:

    A while back Young House Love blog recommended this tufted office chair from Pottery Barn Teens:

  • Janice says:

    I am 5’3″, about 114, have this chair and it works well for me. Regardless of chair style I do find that I require a foot rest. I have back issues and the orthopedic doc told me to never sit for long periods without having my knees a bit higher than my hips even in the car. Hope you find something you love!

  • Rochelle says:

    I had the Herman Miller chair (ugly even in light gray and expensive) and did not find it that comfortable. Then I purchased Knoll Generation. You can get it in interesting color combinations that take away the commercial feel and it is fantastically ergonomic and comfortable. However, it is NOT inexpensive at $749. But I do not regret this purchase for a minute, especially after 12 hours working at my computer. Here’s the website:

  • MH says:

    Part of the problem is that the foam in the seat has to be really heavy duty and can hold up for 8 hours of sitting a day. Normal chair seats cannot do that. Next it has to be adjustable to your body and you have to fiddle around with the adjustments until you get it right, which many people do not do.

    I bought a black fabric chair from Office Depot that was rated”6-8 hours intensive use” and I am going to make a slipcover for it that looks like the Pottery Barn Teen chairs, either fuzzy white with a thick lining or something colorful. I don’t think you can get a good chair for less than $250, maybe $200 on sale.

    The cheap companies I worked for spent at least $500 on chairs.

  • MH says:

    The companies would go cheap on the desks but moderate ($500) on the chairs. The chairs also had commercial grade fabric. There are companies that specialize in office furniture. They have sales reps that know which chairs are best.

    Personally, I think you should consider the cost of a decent work chair for the 2 of you as part of the cost of business. Either get a moderately-price comfortable chair and have it slip-covered or get an expensive one with leather or a fabric you like.

    • Bec says:

      I agree.
      Sorry but when you expect us to pay for your color services at what you consider a reasonable price but want a cheap office chair to be wonderfully made you are not being consistent. If a chair in my living area that is from a designer cost 750 or more why do you think a good office chair should cost less?? Go to someone who specializes in office furniture and pay the price.

    • Becky says:

      I agree. Sorry but when you expect us to pay for your color services at what you consider a reasonable price but want a cheap office chair you are not being consistent. If a chair in my living area that is from a designer cost 750 or more why do you think a good office chair should cost less?? Go to someone who specializes in office furniture and pay the price.

  • MaryAnne Ryan says:

    Not sure if you have seen the Steelcase Chord chair, but I specified it for a client’s conference room. They come either with a high back or lower back. They are leather, stylish and from what I hear, very comfortable. And there are nice color options. Hope this helps!

    Check them out at

  • Nancy says:

    I just have say that after sitting on a “entry level” priced office chair from a big box office store for 7 years and almost everyday I walked away from that chair looking and feeling like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, I was still reluctant to fork out big $ for an ergonomic office chair. But I eventually did and every day for the last 3 years I walk upright out of my office. I could not believe the price for that chair when I bought it – even on sale – but it was and still is worth every dollar. My chair is the Herman Miller Aeron chair so yes, it’s black and “officey” looking, but I don’t look at my chair when I’m sitting it in and not feeling back pain.

  • Scribbler says:

    I would go for comfort first, looks second. That’s saying a lot, coming from me, a Southerner who has always remembered Granny’s admonition that ‘You have to take pains for beauty.” I think I am in the camp which says find what is comfy and make it pretty.

  • kate says:

    Love mine, black & gray

  • dj says:

    industrial designers create highly engineered, ergonomically correct desk chairs because it is unnatural for a body to sit for eight hours a day. SCIENCE! i do believe in sitting pretty…i have an authentic HM eames aluminum group chair, but the 1958 ergonomics DO NOT feel sexy!

    just like an iPhone6…technology + design has a price.
    there are a lot of good looking task chairs on the market.
    see if you can find a helpful showroom, bring a laptop, then sit and work for a while to get a better idea of how it feels.

    i love the look of yves behar’s SAYL chair for herman miller in all white…very sexy librarian:
    spend the money on your best choice, and keep styling with a terrific guest chair on the other side of the desk.

    a work space “is what it is” so embrace it!
    [and stand up and give your bod a break for five+ minutes every hour]

  • Some years ago I bought an executive chair, that one’s in black and then I send it to reupholster.
    Lot of work but I got it as perfect as I wanted.

  • Maria Killam says:

    Thank you everyone for your comments. I had not considered that on office chair is just as important as your mattress! So of course it can’t be that cheap!! Loved MH’s comment that even the cheap companies she worked for spent $500 on an office chair 🙂

  • Lisa says:

    Herman Miller chairs are awesome in every way. I hope you find one that you love. Happy Hunting!

  • Patrick says:

    I also purchased a chair from Nationwide Office Furniture – I really love this one because it is upholstered with real leather and the arms are like the original Herman Miller chair –

  • karen says:

    Your current chair looks pretty, and reupholstering sounds like a great idea except you said it is not comfy and your legs dangle, which isn’t good for you if you are there for some period of time.
    A lot in favor of the Herman Miller chair, which I myself might check into. Great reading all the posts and look forward to see what you end up loving Maria.

  • Remember when you were helping me pick an office chair color the other day on Twitter? Well, that was a HAG Capisco. That’s the chair I’m getting, after having gone through many pretty but less functional options while working from home.

    It’s very difficult to find truly ergonomic and supportive chairs that aren’t fugly. This one is something I’m purchasing because of its superior ergonomics for my particular spinal issues, but I feel like someone like you who’s had back pain should give it a try! It encourages “active sitting,” i.e. shifting positions a ton so you don’t get stuck in a bad rut.

    There are tons of businesses that operate ergonomic showhouses. Go to one of those and explain you’re a designer and you need to see the least horrible looking choices! The reasons I love the HAG Capisco are mostly based on comfort, but I’m very pleased that it has several higher-end wool upholstery options. The red you helped me pick is a pure wool choice, much classier than your average disgusting corporate polyester!

  • Adele says:

    This is one area where you should not be pinch pennies or even dollars. You need a comfortable, ergonomically correct chair to do your best work, your clients and vendors may see and sit in these chairs, and, I assume, they can be claimed as a business expense on your taxes. You are already illustrating what happens when you don’t follow the maxim “Buy (quality) once or cry twice.” As I recently read on a Canadian website, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

  • Dianne M. says:

    Worms? I am unfamiliar with this description. What do you mean “they look like they’ve been infested with worms.” It might help me and others understand your post a bit better – all of us who have never had chairs infested with worms. I was not about to google the phrase. Yuk. Think of the pics that would pop up!

  • Wyn says:

    There’s no really good substitute for a high-quality ergonomic chair aside from a used ergonomic chair. I’m a designer as well, so when as a student I tried on the one during a showroom tour, I just asked them straight up what kind of discount I could get, buying this for myself. They offered me the architect/designer discount, which was about half off list. I’m still using that chair (Knoll Generation) about 5 years later, it’s still very comfortable, and it still looks new.

    So I’d go around to the local office furniture dealerships to narrow down the selection, then see if they can loan you a sample for several days. If you still love it after a few days to a week, talk pricing. You’ll have clients with home offices in the future too.

  • teresa says:

    I just saw these cheap, but cute chairs from Emily Henderson’s office:

    I don’t know how comfortable they are or how well they’d hold up, but thought I’d throw it out there since all the other suggestions are $$$$!

  • KNJ says:

    From a health perspective – I recall you getting new mattresses recently – get a chair with great lumbar support & adjustable like the HM Aeron. OK, not stylish but aha, you can have slips made from anything including black & white cow hide. Add a bright yellow pillow and I think you’re on to right solution. I’ve seen costly depreciable assets, whether a business expense or not, that you own. Now do something for your health, you only have one back. Your other half has it right. Have fun looking!

  • Robin says:

    I felt the same way, and with a bad back, I must have support. So I bought a great chair from relax the back, and had a slipcover custom made for it. I took the cover all the way down over the legs.

  • Lorri says:

    The blog “Young House Love” recently shut down, but they highly recommended this chair from “Pottery Barn Teens” of all places.

  • Lara says:

    Have you seen this chair Maria? It’s from CB2.
    I was flipping thru their catalog last night and thought of your post. It also comes in grey.

  • I’ve bought desk chairs at Office Max, and thought they were very comfortable. Black and boring looking, but did the job for a very reasonable price.

  • Megan Schultz says:

    My boss and I are interior designers who do an equal amount of work in office and out and about. We struggled with being uncomfortable in our Louis XVI chairs until we finally stumbled upon some slipcovered dining chairs at Restoration Hardware. They have casters on them, so it’s easy to move around. The first day we got them, we were so comfortable in them, we thought we might fall asleep! We got them slipcovered in pure white, so if we stain it in any way, we can just throw the slipcover in the wash with some bleach! We’ve had these chairs for about a month now, and still have no complaints!
    (Check out the Belgian Wingback Slipcovered Armchair from Restoration Hardware)

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