There’s no shortage of posts around the blogosphere about the wisdom of reupholstering a piece of furniture. I’ve explained the pros and cons to students and customers for over twenty five years. Here’s a list of considerations when deciding if you’re willing to buy new fabric plus pay the labor cost of renewing that old 1970’s thrifted sofa you bought (true story, I just did it!)
1. The quality of the piece of furniture. If you don’t know if a piece is good quality or not, you might want to do a little research to find out when it was made, where, by what company, the frame wood, joints and upholstery components, such as an eight way spring tie, etc. A saggy sofa seat will most likely involve spring repair or replacement, worn foam cushions may need replaced, joints tightened, wood repaired.
2. Do you love the style? Size? The way it feels to sit on it? Is it the right proportion for your space? If so, then it will save you lots of time and frustration if you decide to keep it and have it reupholstered.
3. Are you willing to buy a good quality upholstery fabric instead of a less expensive fabric not really intended for furniture upholstery? (There is a difference between upholstery grade fabrics and those that are sold for draperies and pillows and bedding. Buy the best quality upholstery fabric you can and make sure you won’t get sick of it. )
The light gray will be a long lasting fabric for many pillow changes throughout the years. It’s hard to tell, but it’s a very soft dove gray.
4. Are you willing to pay a good upholsterer to make your piece like new? Don’t skimp, but also don’t over pay. Check around for pricing and referrals.
5. Once you figure out how much it will cost to have repaired and reupholstered, don’t compare that price to an inexpensively made brand new piece. Sure, you can buy a new sofa at an outlet or a department store for less than reupholstering your old Hendredon sofa, but it’s not the same at all. Think of the difference between a Mercedes and a Chevy. Quality, quality, quality.
So here’s my most recent reupholstery story. I bought a late 1970’s tweedy, modern sofa from a used MCM furniture store years ago. When I bought it, someone had torn off the skirt and the sofa had a funky smell. I had the cushion covers cleaned, replaced the foam in the seat cushions and quite cleverly added a band of fabric around the bottom edge to disguise where the skirt had been. We lived with it like that for over ten years. Why did I buy this for a mere $150.00? I loved the style, it’s extra long for the tall people in my family, it’s solid as a rock and it has a whole foundation of tied springs. Those were the things that made me know it was a good buy. I knew I’d never get around to reupholstering it myself, so I looked around for one of the best and most reasonable upholsterers in my area. Also, I shopped for fabric online and found a fabulous, high quality nubby light gray upholstery fabric at Modern-Fabrics.com in North Carolina. It was such a high quality fabric, I would never have been able to find or afford it at my local fabric stores or to-the-trade only sources.
Finally, I sent the sofa and a non matching loveseat out to be fixed and reupholstered right before Thanksgiving. They both came back today EXCEEDING my expectations. It’s like I’ve just gotten two brand new, high quality pieces of furniture for 1/3 of what I would pay for a brand new duo of comparable quality today. In my mind, having the quality and style I love, plus my choice of upholstery fabric made this a wise and practical decision.
Besides what’s listed, the front of the loveseat needed a band around it. When it was reupholstered the first time, ‘whoever’ (not me) cut corners and just made it one piece. Now it matches the sofa. I didn’t even notice that for years, until I became an upholsterer myself. What I love the most is that the two pieces are different, yet the fabric ties them together. To me, that is much more interesting, especially since both pieces are vintage and not brand new.
If you’re starting out with an inexpensively made piece of furniture, I would never recommend putting the money into good fabric, materials and the cost of labor. That’s not a wise decision
Still don’t know? Learn about what constitutes a good piece of furniture, the cost of good fabric and search around for a well respected and experienced upholsterer who is priced for your budget.
****When your upholsterer picks up your piece of furniture, be sure to go over all of your requests, upholstery specifications, style changes, cushion information, etc. They get so many pieces through their shop, by the time yours is on the workbench, they may not remember what you wanted. Have it in writing and make sure they have a copy.
If you’ve had the urge to learn how to upholster, our Chair Up! Online Upholstery Bootcamp starts January 12th.