Time for a new home office chair
May 25, 2023 10:25 AM   Subscribe

I'm currently stuck at home and hating my office chair even more than usual. Please recommend a chair that I can order online. Are you 5'5"-ish, stout, and into good back support and a kinda sturdy-feeling chair? Rec me, my friends. Short list of additional preferences below the cut:

-Available on Amazon or Wayfair (I know, sorry)
-Mesh (it gets hot in the home office)
-Adjustable height--higher than 19" for sure
-Adjustable arm rests
posted by TwoStride to Shopping (19 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I'm your height and it's pretty cliche (and expensive) but I love my Herman Miller Aeron. It also meets all your criteria. But... not amazon. However, I have also bought this one: Amazon Basics Mid-Back Desk Office Chair. For the price, it was a pretty good deal. It's not my Aeron, but it definitely did the job I needed it to.
posted by cgg at 10:33 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This chair is my jam. I had one at my last job and liked it so much I asked my current job to order me one. I am similarly sized to you.
posted by notjustthefish at 10:33 AM on May 25 [2 favorites]

What's your budget?
posted by caek at 11:16 AM on May 25

What's your budget? I'd look into Steelcase chairs if you're willing to spend $750 or more. My partner and I both work full-time out of our home: I (4'10") use a Steelcase Gesture and my partner (5'3") uses a Steelcase Think. We are both really happy with our office chairs. I actually like the Think better because the Gesture weighs something like 80 lb.
posted by twelve cent archie at 11:45 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh, good question, caek and twelve cent archie! I was kind of hoping to spend less than $300? I realize that I should consider it an investment given that I work from home a significant amount of the time, but I find it so hard to imagine paying so much for a desk chair...
posted by TwoStride at 11:58 AM on May 25

They appear to be sold out right now, but the DX Racer Air series is an amazing chair with mesh fabric. My kid uses it and she is an electronic musician and student who spends serious time in her chair. We paid ~$425 for it back in December, so a bit above your budget, but it is sturdier than my Aeron and has amazing back support. If that appeals, check it out.
posted by rachelpapers at 12:28 PM on May 25

I personally paid a premium for my used Aeron from Madison Seating, but I expect to keep it 10+ years, and this is from a overweight guy who already broke two chairs. I paid $500 something.
posted by kschang at 1:15 PM on May 25

My son and my wife eyeballed Craigslist and the FaceBook Marketplace for about a week, and pounced on a fresh listing for an Aeron. Dickered a bit and got it for $325 or $350, with all the options (plus one cosmetic flaw).

I believe they have different size frames, sort of a small/medium/large array. (I am 6'1" and need a lot of height.)

Now that I have seen it, I am suddenly disgusted with my Staples Special that was like $200 when COVID started, and now I want something better.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:18 PM on May 25 [2 favorites]

If you're thinking about a used Herman Miller, look at their Sayl chair. The minimum depth of the seat is less than many other models including the Aeron, which for shorter folks means you can get your back up against the back support, without the back of your knees hitting the seat. My (5'2") spouse loves it, and I (5'6") also find it very comfortable. I think it looks cooler than the Aeron too. But, yeah, it costs more than my first car did.
posted by hovey at 1:44 PM on May 25

I wanna say we spent $325 or $350 on a used Leap a year and a half ago after my wife's approval for more-or-less full time WFH. It sounds like you want something more like an Aeron than a Leap, but the good news for you is that Aeron chairs are incredibly common at places like that, because Aerons were so trendy in tech companies for so long. The place we went had about three Aerons for every other major brand chair. Yes, it means watching Craigslist and/or making a trip to a used office furniture liquidator, but the quality difference between even a used Aeron and a new Amazon Special cannot be overstated. Companies like Herman Miller and Steelcase have support networks, local repair people, and available repair parts. If an Amazon Special breaks you're probably just SOL, unless it breaks within Amazon's return period.

Note that Aeron chairs come in three sizes. The most common size is the one in the middle (B), which may work for you; there's also a size A that might be harder to track down, but with some luck and/or an amenable liquidator you could still probably locate one.
posted by fedward at 1:47 PM on May 25 [3 favorites]

Yes, get yourself to a used office furniture store and test out what you find comfortable. The chair needs to fit you correctly (not some generic somebody or a random internet stranger).
posted by oceano at 2:38 PM on May 25 [2 favorites]

I am another person who finds the Aeron very comfortable, while my partner is equally happy with a Steelcase (I'm not sure what the model is). If you can find one of either brand used, in your size, and in your price range, I think you will find it more satisfying than most of the cheap chairs.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:05 PM on May 25

Team used office chair. Mines one of the popular steelcase, mesh back and adjustable everything. I got it for 300 in Chicagoland. It was dusty.
posted by zenon at 4:53 PM on May 25

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the very good advice about in-person shopping, everyone, but I'm currently very limited in mobility and in-person searching is out of the question for the next month and I'm feeling impatient.
posted by TwoStride at 7:52 AM on May 26

If you are going to order online, may I suggest ordering from a store that has a local presence (for returns)? It's not unheard of for a chair to not work out or to come with a broken/ missing part. If there is an issue with a chair that is not designed to be repaired, the store will probably tell you that they can't send you a new part, but they can send you a new chair, so you will need to return the broken one. It's often easier to do this (or have this done on your behalf) in person. (Even in parts, office chairs can be quite heavy/bulky so the assembly/ disassembly process can be onerous.)
posted by oceano at 2:26 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]

in-person searching is out of the question for the next month and I'm feeling impatient.

Craigslist might have listings where they deliver the chair to you if you're in the nabe for like 50 bucks extra; they drove it to our front door and we met them there.... We bought a HM, I think for $300? $350? +delivery that way.
posted by lalochezia at 4:58 AM on May 27 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you need to buy a chair now and it needs to be new and come from somebody like Amazon or Wayfair, the best bet that won't completely blow your budget is the HON Ignition 2.0, loved by the Wirecutter as a budget pick. That said, when my wife needed a chair we went to Staples, which had one on the floor she could actually sit on, and she HATED it. The seat wasn't a comfortable shape for her, the back tension was either too tight or too loose with no sweet spot she could find easily, and the back height was awkward for her (she's 5'4", and the corners of the backrest hit her shoulders in a weird way).

If you're OK buying from a refurbisher, Madison Seating is all over the internet, but they have kind of a tumultuous history with brands like Herman Miller. Crandall Office Furniture seems maybe less problematic (they're a factory authorized seller for Steelcase returns) and sells refurbished chairs with a warranty. They have the Aeron in multiple sizes (but now that I look at that guide, you probably just want the standard size B).

Buying the right chair online is definitely easier to do if you already know what chair you want, though. There's no real replacement for sitting in them, since you won't know if the backrest hits your shoulders in a weird way (like my wife), or if your weight is distributed in such a way that the Aeron cuts off circulation in your legs (like me)*, just from looking at pictures. When I finally forced my wife to take her needs seriously and actually shop for chairs, two things happened: (1) she felt much better about spending actual money on a chair at all, which she'd struggled with, and (2) given the choice of a cheap-but-decent new chair (the HON Ignition 2.0), a better midrange chair, also new (her choice would have been a Steelcase Series 2, $600 on Amazon, maybe less if you shop around), or a shlep out to a used office furniture warehouse in the deepest suburbs, she was happiest of all with a used, high-end chair, and it cost less than a new midrange chair.

I guess you could check the return policy on whatever you buy, and give yourself however many days to see if the ergonomics really work for you, and then just return it if you hate it. Return shipping might be a pain, though.

* Disclosure: I try hard not to be biased against Aerons in these threads here because lots of people love Aeron chairs, but I'm not one of those people. I had an Aeron at an old job and I'd literally have to stand up and walk around the office when my legs started to go numb. I wouldn't know I hated the Aeron if I hadn't had that experience. When I started working from home full time years ago and went to all the stores myself, my own chair choice was a Steelcase Leap. Familiarity with mine may have swayed my wife towards the Leap over the Aeron (or something else), but she also sat in a whole bunch of chairs at the Steelcase and Herman Miller showrooms after trying the HON Ignition 2.0, and there wasn't anything she liked more. For things that are supposed to be adjustable and fit the majority of people, office chairs are surprisingly personal.
posted by fedward at 10:36 AM on May 27 [1 favorite]

If you cannot shop in person, then you need one that's VERY adjustable, and that, again, will cost a premium, and/or you adding seating cushions and lumbar support, plus neck support, to make it feel proper.

I agree the Aeron is not for everyone. The mesh surface looks as if it'd break easily (but does not), however, it also resists any sort of cushion placed upon it (they will inevitably slide off). It also does not have any neck / head rest, and that's $100 extra.
posted by kschang at 12:30 AM on May 28

Best answer: Ars Technica recently ran an article linking to the "the ergonomic, affordable alternatives to Herman Miller and Steelcase chairs".
posted by caek at 10:05 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]

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