Reupholstery 101

reupholstery 101

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.

reupholstery 101

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!

Like me on Facebook

Become a subscriber by typing your email in the box in the right sidebar.

Follow me on Twitter – @AStoriedStyle

Follow me on Instagram – @AStoriedStyle

Pin with me on  Pinterest

 

Written by Grace

 

 

14 Responses to “Reupholstery 101”

  1. emily June 17, 2013 at 6:31 am #

    great post! So much helpful information. I would love if you did a post on how you know if an older piece is worth reupholstering. i have a sofa that i would love to reupholster…it’s from the 50s or 60s…it’s in great shape, but kind of creaky…how do you know?

    • Grace June 26, 2013 at 3:03 am #

      Emily, I think you are okay if the sofa is creaky. The real test is if it warps or twists when you pick it up off the ground by lifting one side. Your upholsterer will know what is wrong and how to fix it if something is not right. Hope that helps! G

  2. CJ Harris June 17, 2013 at 8:23 am #

    Didn’t even know I was going to school today until I opened this. What a great surprise! Excellent info Grace, you have answered a “bunch” of my questions. Thank you so much! I just moved to a different state and I have to figure out who to go to for my reupholstery needs. I totally agree on the older well made furniture.

    • Grace June 26, 2013 at 2:58 am #

      CJ, oh great! I’m so glad this was helpful! Glad we agree. 😉 Best of luck with the move, G

  3. Debbie June 17, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    I cannot belive the difference in the south pricing!

    Debbie
    Virginia

    • Grace June 26, 2013 at 2:58 am #

      Debbie, yay for the south. 😉 G

  4. Leigh in Houston June 17, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

    Grace,

    I only discovered the world of blogging about a year ago. Before that I spent most of the last 20 years raising our 4 children (now ages 20, 18, 15, and 12) I always looked at magazines and have binders full of torn out pages. About 6 years ago, I got to build my dream house. I plopped my big binder in front of our builder/architect and began showing him all my ideas. If only Pinterest had been around then… Anyways I enjoy reading your blog and seeing the different projects. i have a sofa that I need to reupholster. I’d like to use a velvet. I’ve ordered several samples of the Sunbrella velvet from housefabric.com, but none of them is exactly the color i’m looking for. Do you know if those are the only colorways that it comes in or is that just all that housefabric carries? I’ve tried a google search, but come up with nothing. Also, does it wear well over time. Thanks so much. PS We lived in FW the first year of our marriage before moving to Houston. Still have lots of friends in the metroplex. 🙂

    • Grace June 26, 2013 at 2:57 am #

      Hi Leigh in Houston, housefabric.com does carry some other outdoor velvet sources! Just search “outdoor velvet” on the site instead of “sunbrella velvet”. I have gotten these samples though I have never used an outdoor velvet except for the sunbrella. The colors are nice, but the fabric is not quite as thick as the sunbrella. I’d be interested to see what you end up going with, let me know! I have never heard any complaints about the sunbrella velvet – everyone raves about it and how easy it is to clean. Housefabric.com apparently runs out of fabric and takes it down from their site so I would keep checking back for colors. Or maybe even call them and ask if they can get other colors? You never know! Hope that helps, let me know what happens with your project! G

  5. eilene June 18, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

    Ahhh! That beast of a chesterfield! What a great job you did on it!

    • Grace June 26, 2013 at 2:50 am #

      Eilene, it was a beast! And it turned out awesome!! Thanks. 😉 G

  6. Kate June 20, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    Wow! Thanks so much for compiling all of that information for us Grace!! A lot of time and work I’m sure, but so helpful:)

    • Grace June 26, 2013 at 2:50 am #

      Kate, thank you! You are so so welcome! G

  7. Julie June 20, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    Thank you for sharing the research you did on reupholstery! I have an old leather Flexsteel camelback sofa with nailheads that is in need of reupholstery. Do you know if some upholsterers can re-configure the frame so I can get rid of the camelback? Just wondering if you have ever done anything like that? Thanks 😉

    • Grace June 26, 2013 at 2:49 am #

      Julie, I have changed the shape of many a piece of furniture! I guess if you took off the camelback, you would just want to make sure the seat back is not too low. (??) But of course, without seeing the piece, I would suggest asking the advice of your upholsterer. He/she will be honest with you about what will work and what won’t. Hope that helps! Let me know if I can do anything else for you, G