If you have been a reader for awhile now, you know I am a fan of giving old furniture new life through reupholstery. In fact, I have been racking my brain, and I cannot think of one upholstered piece of furniture in my home that came from a store. All of it is from estate sales, flea markets, garage sales, and CraigsList. Why? The answer is simple. Furniture is just not made like it used to be. Unless you are purchasing from a super high end company like Old Hickory Tannery or Lee Industries, chances are your piece will not be made of solid wood. Buying an older piece of furniture will typically ensure your piece is structurally solid. Plus you can get some really awesome, one-of-a-kind shapes when you buy old. (Bonus, it’s good for the Earth.)
I get a ton of questions about reupholstery, and I hope to answer some of them here. Whether you found an awesome chair at the flea market, or want to reupholster your grandmother’s sofa, you can use this information as a how-to guide to your revitalized pieces.
1. The most popular question: How much does it cost?
- Well, it depends. It depends on what part of the country you are in, how much you are changing the piece, whether it needs respringing and new foam (if this is an old piece, you always want new foam), etc. However, I have spent an obscene amount of time on the phone calling all over the country to create this handy chart for you. Keep in mind these are average prices, but they should give you a good idea of what to expect.
2. Where do I find an upholsterer?
Without a doubt, the best person to ask for an upholsterer is your favorite designer friend. Keep in mind, however, that designers guard these secrets with their lives. Why? Well, it takes a ton of time and research and legwork to find an awesome upholsterer. If word gets out about said upholsterer, he or she gets too busy, and the turnaround time for the designer goes way up, and so do the prices. It’s just a bummer for everyone. (Note: Usually designers have a second string and maybe a third string upholsterer, so you may get one of these names. These are good too, but their prices may not be as low as their favorite person. Also, chances are, you taking your furniture to an upholsterer will not garner the same prices a designer can get. Upholsterers give designers awesome prices because they bring them a ton of steady business, so prepare yourself to pay a little more.) Of course, you can go to your local upholstery shop, but keep in mind that the further you get from a major city, the better the prices typically. Ask friends, call around, shoot out a few questions to get a feel for the shop, and compare prices.
3. How do I work with an upholsterer?
- Since I use upholsterers frequently, if I am trying out someone new, I will send something small first (an ottoman, a side chair, etc.) to get a gauge on the quality of their work. Obviously, this is not something everyone needs to do, but if you plan on sending someone you have never used before rooms of furniture, this may be a good idea. (especially if you are going with someone that gave you the best price – cheapest does not always mean the best quality)
- If you are reupholstering something old, or something that sat in a garage for fifty years, or belonged to a cat lady, you need to ask for new foam and batting. You think this is common sense, but trust me, AN UPHOLSTERER WILL NOT PUT NEW FOAM OR BATTING IN YOUR FURNITURE UNLESS YOU SPECIFICALLY TELL THEM TO.
- Most upholsterers will pick up and deliver your furniture “for free” (not really, this is worked into the price, of course), but some charge trip fees. Ask about this before you send your furniture off so you avoid surprises on your final bill.
- Give your upholsterer a date when you want the piece(s) back (i.e. do not say “whenever you get around to it”). You may not be in a hurry, but there are a lot of people who needed their furniture yesterday. Unless you want to wait forever while you get pushed back for other people’s deadlines, give your upholsterer a due date. Two to three weeks is an acceptable time frame to request in my opinion.
- Be very specific about what you want and/or how you want the piece to change. If you can dream it, a good upholsterer can do it. New legs? Want to change it from a two cushion to a three cushion? Add tufting? Would you like nailheads? All of this can be done, but make sure you ask if any of these changes incur extra charges.
- Listen to your upholsterer’s ideas! Ask his or her opinion on changes you want to make. An upholsterer will be honest with you if something you request will look off or strange or just plain won’t work.
- If you are reupholstering a sentimental piece, you can ask for the old fabric or a piece of it. I recently had a client that recovered her beloved great grandmother’s settee, and I had the upholsterer save a piece of the old fabric. I gave it to her in a frame, and she loved it!
- Speaking of fabric, always ask for any extra fabric the upholsterer did not use when reupholstering your piece. You will probably not get it back unless you ask!
Is your mind brimming with reupholstery ideas now that the way is clear? I hope this has been helpful for you – pin it, share it, and reference it! If you have any other questions or thoughts, leave them in the comments, and I will be sure to reply!
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