Photography by Madeline Montoya

Published on November 24, 2020

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When Domino’s junior designer, Madeline Montoya, began quarantining in her hometown of Dallas back in March, devoid of her usual museum trips and art classes in Manhattan, she knew she had to find a new creative outlet stat. But for Montoya, whose bubblegum pink mane is an outward reflection of her inner Technicolor talent, sourdough starters and beginner’s crochet sets simply wouldn’t cut it. Instead, she decided to take on a more daunting adventure: building her dream desk chair from scratch. 

Inspired by Amsterdam-based designer Lex Pott’s multihued woven creations, Montoya knew a checkerboard design was in the seat’s future  (not to mention the fact that she would get to tap into her fascination with color theory). But the best part was actually the uncertainty of it all. “I didn’t know how it was going to turn out, which was a great exercise for my graphic design work, since I often find myself too concerned with the finished product instead of enjoying the creative process,” she explains.

After some careful planning (and with a bit of help from her woodshop-savvy boyfriend), Montoya delved into the five-day project—and it flew by. “Because we’re all existing in one space for so long, stimulating our minds from the confines of our homes is so important,” she says. “Take it from someone who knows: If ever there was a time to experiment and find new creative passions, it’s now.” With that sage advice in mind, here’s how you can create your own checkerboard chair.

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The Supplies:

  • Sander
  • Drill
  • 4 pieces of ¾-inch-thick plywood 
  • 15 wood screws 
  • 3 sponge brushes 
  • Paint (I ordered paint samples from a hardware store because it’s much cheaper than buying a whole pint)
  • Painter’s tape 
  • Ruler 
  • Pencil 
  • Paint primer 
  • Fine sand block

Step 1: Sand the Wood

To smooth out the plywood, have an assistant (I recruited my boyfriend) hold the pieces in place while you go over the edges and surfaces with the sand block. 

Step 2: Measure the Sides

Measure and cut three pieces of the plywood into 3-by-3 squares, and the last piece into a 6-by-3 rectangle. With a pencil, mark three drill holes, each 2 inches apart, on either side of the 3-by-3 seat base and on the backboard (the rectangle piece). The saying “measure twice, cut once” truly applies here. Measuring so exactly can be boring, but it’s that attention to detail that makes the project feel polished. 

Step 3: Create Your Chair

Assemble the chair by drilling the screws into your hole marks (any standard drill will work). 

Step 4: Sand…Again

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It’s easiest to paint wood if the surface is as smooth as possible. Even though you already sanded the wood before assembly, it’s time for a second round with the fine sand block.

Step 5: Prime Time

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Use a sponge brush (I recommend a larger one to make it speedy) to apply three coats of primer onto the entire chair, waiting for each layer to dry before starting the next. The goal is to make the base completely white, so don’t skimp. Make sure to wait until the last coat of primer has set before moving on to painting.

Step 6: Apply the Paint

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Calculate the best square size that will fit evenly within your pieces. Mine ended up being 2.5 inches. Measure out your squares with a ruler and use painter’s tape to mark them on the chair’s surface. I found it easiest to go row by row, but another option for those in a rush is to paint the entire side the lighter of your two colors (in my case, lavender) and then fill in the darker-hued squares later. You can see both tactics, above. Just one coat of paint should suffice. Once the paint dries, you’re done! Enjoy the world’s coolest WFH chair. 

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