Tutorial: How to customize barbie chairs

Getting 1:6 scale office chairs/desk chairs is really a pain in the ass.

This has come up for me a few times since I’m working on making college dorm rooms, library space &  1:6 office set-ups.  Invariably in all of these places you find the ubiquitous “office/desk” chair. The problem is that finding them ready to buy isn’t that easy.  And getting them in scale with your figures isn’t always as easy as it seems.

I mean, aside from the ZC ones…the rest of them out there….well. Let’s just say they don’t really fit my notion of an office chair.  (I’d love to drop $200.oo+ on a Vitra one –but hello, broke here!)  The office chair that the ZC dolls made is nice but it’s waaaay oversize for my Volks, Momokos & Blythes.  And yes…I know office/desk chairs come in different sizes.  I do. But this is about my preferences.  If I can’t buy what I want then I’ll make it. 😛

I’m going to work with two particular types for this tutorial.  (I’m calling this a tutorial but it’s more like a bunch of loosely written instructions to kind of run-with.) Mostly because they start off pretty close to what I want and the less I have to do the better, right? 😉

First go out and find the following chairs to work with: They are the chairs from the My Scene So Chic Salon & the chair from the Barbie My House Armoire & Chair set.

The thing that makes me most inclined to work with these is the fact that the bases are pretty sturdy & they bear a pretty good resemblance to the real thing.

The one with the grey wheels is one of the My Scene chair base and the one with the black wheels is from the Armoire Set.

Note: there are actually 2 types used in My Scene doll furniture and both are good with a little work. The thing to be aware is that the My Scene Salon chairs have one type that “clicks” back (apparently for washing hair in the sink) and one that was fixed.  I’m using the fixed ones as an example, but you can use the clickers if you cut down the mechanism and shape the hole to fit them.

Here’s what I came up with: the before & after:


  • Barbie Chair Base(s) *as described above*
  • Wood/Plastic/MDF/ Foamex (to make seat parts-use depending on how sturdy you want the finished piece of furniture to be)
  • Brass/steel/aluminum/ wire or bar (to make the back-rest post)
  • Black aluminum tape OR twine (and paint the twine with acrylics)
  • Glue or Contact Cement (I personally prefer cc)
  • Batting/Foam (to pad the chair with)
  • Fabric & Tyvek (to upholster the chair)
  • Stapler
  • Needle & Thread (to match fabric)
  • Acrylic Paints (for detailing)


  • Draw up an approximate size drawing of the seat you want to make, and the size of the back-rest.

  • I cut mine out of paper (I like to judge sizes that way) and then cut them out of foamex.  You can use cardboard (not good for long term use) wood (bass, pine etc),  etc. Whatever you use you want it to be fairly sturdy.


  • Remove the seat/top from whichever chair you’ve decided to use.
  • Drill/dremel/carve out a hole in the seat you’ve made to fit the post at the top of the chair’s base. (This is a good time to also carve out  the slots in the seat back & the back-rest where you’ll be inserting the brass/wire/metal to hold the back rest in place).

  • Check the fit (height wise) for the kind of doll you want to use this with.

  • I cut out batting (using those paper seat & back drafts) and glued it to the plastic. (Do yourself a favor and rough up the plastic or wood to help it adhere) This helps pad the seat and give it a bit more realism. 😛 At some point I’ll really go to town with one of these to see how far I can push them.
  • After the glue/contact cement has dried & you feel you’re happy with the amount of “puff” on the seat & back-rest then comes the fun part—you get to try your hand at upholstering it with your chosen fabric. I’d like to offer some how-to on this but I basically took some books out of the library and went from there. I’m not an upholsterer–and I never will be!! Experiment & prepare to do it over a couple of times until you get it to look right.
  • While you’re taking a break from upholstery you can cut a couple of thin strips of the black aluminum tape and wrap it around the metal you’re planning on using to support the back-rest. If you’re using twine (make sure it’s a small diameter otherwise it’ll look dorky) layer a light coating of contact cement/glue and then wrap the twine tightly. Once that’s dried then apply the acrylics but do not water them down any more than you absolutely have to.
  • Once you’ve upholstered the chair (the seat & the back-rest) insert the metal piece you’re going to use as the support. If you don’t plan on taking the chair apart in the future you can glue them into place.  I like to be able to flat pack my stuff as much as possible so mine aren’t glued in place.
  • To finish off the underside of the chair cut some tyvek and staple it into place (cut out the circle where the plastic base attaches). Paint it black (or whatever color you want, most of my office chairs usually had manky black semi-fabric-fiber there and tyvek seems very similar in texture to me)

And pretty much that’s it. Sit some dolls in them:

ANYHOW….. if anyone gets any use out of this tutorial….let me know, eh? I could use the encouragement.

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14 thoughts on “Tutorial: How to customize barbie chairs

  1. That was a fantastic tutorial! Thank you!
    I love the shape of lots of the barbie furniture but can’t stand the colors they put them in. HOT pink ugh. The fabric looks so much classier.

    1. Thanks Angel, I’m glad that you might get some use out of this! I know how you feel about those colors…it always makes me wonder what the heck Mattel was thinking! 🙂

  2. I’m amazed how obvious the idea is. You made some great looking office chairs and I think they are more suitable for students than the fancier versions. I love the ZC chair I have, but during my training I couldn’t afford more than an old chair from a trift store. So I guess it’s realistic to have a “cheaper” chair model for the dorm rooms.
    Thanks for the tutorial.

    1. Yea, it’s pretty simple if you can manage to think past the original appearance and see that there are some good parts there to work with. I meant to add (but didn’t on the tutorial) that you can add arm-rests to the chairs by duplicating side wire/metal and making small ovals for the arms. Well, maybe the next lot I’ll do one like that to show what I mean. 😉

      And yes, the ZC Chairs are really nicely made, but I didn’t think they’d be right (size or appearance) for use in a dorm or in a student room. Considering they’re just about right size for my HT guys & CG girls …

  3. I am glad to see you actually did the tutorial 🙂 They look fantastic! They really look “shrink ray’d” 🙂

    Great job and thanks for the tut!

    1. Thanks Will. 🙂 I only did it because you suggested it. I really didn’t think anyone would be interested.

  4. Thanks for the tutorial and the information that the ZC chairs are the right size for Hot Toys guys. Not that my Hot Toys guys are that hot, lol ;-D

    P.S. There are some Gloria chairs with similar shape – only the base is pink.

  5. You should totally sell these because I’m waaay to lazy to make them even with your tutorial. But I’d totally buy them from you! LOL

    I’m serious!

  6. Awesome, awesome work! I’m always amazed that you seem to have the perfect fabric for every project– they look exactly like the standard “student task chair” you can get at every big box/office store. I have a couple of barbie/gloria office chairs, but I’ve never done anything with them. (Too ugly to use as is, lol.) Seeing as how you did all the hard work, writing up such a great tutorial, maybe I’ll finally do something with them. 🙂 So cool.

  7. Hello. I have your shop marked as a favorite at etsy. I also sell on etsy. I am happy to have found your blog. What I have read so far is pretty awesome and pretty funny. I look forward to reading more.

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