Sunday, October 13, 2013

Reupholstering tips and tricks.

Should I reupholster or buy new?  Is it worth it?  What do I need to know?  Can I do it myself?

Reupholstering is a great way to make something old new again.  It is fun to reinvent an old chair or sofa.  But how do you know when it is the right thing to do?

If a sofa, for instance, has a strong frame that is in good shape, if you love the style...and sometimes even if you don't,  it might be worth reuphostering.   It is not always a cheaper way to go, however. It depends on the price of the fabric and if you need new cushions.  Labor is not inexpensive.  But the nice thing about recovering is that you do not have to shop for a sofa or find one that also comes in a fabric you love.  You simply need to find fabric. 

Let's revisit a recent post where I talked about going to the upholsterer to check on a pair of French chairs we were having recovered for a client.  These chairs are very good quality. The exposed carved wood  frames are beautiful, although they need touching up.  The clients love the way the chairs look in their room, but they complained that the seats "bottomed out".   We decided in today's market new chairs of comparable quality would be more expensive. Chances of finding the perfect fabric from a furniture company were slim so we would need to get the fabric elsewhere and that adds to the cost.  So why not work with the chairs and bring them back to life?

Here is one of the original chairs.  We  also decided to replace the two small pillows with one lumbar pillow.
There were questions that necessitated my going to the upholsterer's shop a total of four times to make sure everything was the way we wanted it.  The seats needed new webbing, and new cushions.  And before they were delivered I wanted to give them a final inspection.

We had to make a whole new cushion with an envelope of down.  The upholsterer made a sample for me to test.  
 Sometimes I like to use more than one fabric on a chair or sofa.  When I use several fabrics I call it a collage.  In this case we decided to use just two fabrics.  More than two would be too busy.  Doing the chair all in the woven brocade pattern would be pretty but there are two chairs that sit side by side.  That could be alot of pattern all in one area.  Also this fabric is costly so maybe if we use a less expensive solid fabric on the outside we could both save money and avoid overstating the pattern.

We could use a decorative cording but that also adds to the cost so we decided to use the same solid fabric for the cording.  Since the patterned fabric has a white background we used the raspberry fabric as cording around the seat cushion too.  It will show less wear over time because it is a darker color.

(When you are working with a patterned fabric you need to be aware of the pattern repeat.  A smaller repeat means you will need less fabric and have less waste. A pattern repeat is measured by the inches from where one part of the pattern starts and then it starts, or repeats, again.)

So, off I go to the upholster to give the chairs one more look. What did I want to look for?  I wanted to make sure the pattern was centered.  Did the design flow from the boxing on the cushion on to the top of the cushion?
Look how well the pattern flows from the boxing on the seat cushion to the top of the cushion and to the base of the chair too.

The pattern is beautifully matched and centered.

Did the "rep" of the solid fabric go vertically? When I use a striped fabric for the welt or cording, I always specify that it be cut on the bias.  That means the fabric it is made from is cut diagonally.  As a result the stripe forms a pretty diagonal pattern.  Also making the cording on the diagonal allows it to give and work around curves more easily.

I wanted to test the new cushions and make sure they had used down filling in the lumbar pillows. We chose a decorative cord for the lumbar pillows to add another layer of interest.

Do you notice anything off in the pattern matching in this photo?  Ah Ha.....yes the cushion is upside down. So we flipped it over!
Tah Dahhhh!
One more thing, I mentioned at first that sometimes even if you don't love the style of your sofa or chair it could still be worth reupholstering.  A good upholsterer can do things that will change the entire look of your piece.  You could add or remove a skirted base.  You can change the style of the arm by adding foam or removing a curve.  You can remove the back cushions and tuft the back and then add throw pillows. You could change the number of seat and back pillows or just change the style of the back pillows. You can add nailheads, fringe, trim and paint the legs or exposed frame a new color.  Bottom line, you can be as creative as you like.  Have fun!

Should you do this yourself?  Well, my mother did but she was a very talented lady. I still have a wing chair that she recovered many times.  In fact I am getting ready to have it recovered again!  I would not attempt anything more than chair seats that simply wrap around a board covered with foam.  Even that can be challenging.  I have done that often but make sure you mark which chairs each seat comes from.   Getting them back on is not as easy as taking them off!

Actually my design partner and I created an incredible recamier....or sofa...for a pampered pet as part of a contest a few years ago.  I think I should write a little post about our experience and show you some pictures of how it turned out along with our doggy model, Tammy Faye.  It was alot of work but also alot of fun.

Have you had experiences reupholstering furniture?  Did you try it yourself? Have you ever actually restyled a piece of furniture or used multiple fabrics on a sofa or chair?  I would love to hear about your adventures in reupholstering.  As always I invite you to share your ideas, thoughts and questions in the comment box below.

If you would like some guidance in a design project for your home please feel free to email me at

                                Happy Decorating!

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