Home Sweet Home: To reupholster or not to reupholster?

cathy2By Cathy Osoria

Some furniture is not built for a second life.  It may not be structurally sound enough for the expense of reinvesting.  If the furniture has a well-made-frame and classic style and shape, then it is probably worth the investment.  Older furniture with dowel joints, kiln dried wood, and feather stuffing tends to be of higher quality.  Reupholstering can be costly, especially if the frame and/or springs need repairing or the padding needs to be replaced. If all of that is in good shape, the cost will only be the fabric and labor.  The type of cushions and the filling can make a huge difference in the price, the comfort, and the life of a sofa.  A down and feather sofa cushion can cost around $650. A foam cushion runs about $75. Down is very comfortable but compresses rapidly and does not hold its shape for long.  It needs refluffing to look good.  This is why a combination of feathers and foam works best for price and retaining shape.  A foam cushion with a down feather wrap is what this combination is called.  For both seat and back cushions the ratio of 60 percent down to 40 percent feathers is perfect for comfort.

Fabric is another costly expense in reupholstering.  Some fabrics have lined strong backing which makes the fabric more durable and does not stretch in shape as easily. These are usually considered upholstery weight. A fabric that is thin and easily tears is going to need reupholstering much sooner.  A fabric with more synthetic content is easier to clean and more durable in the presence of children and pets than a cotton or linen natural fiber fabric. The cost of reupholstering varies.  It is best to either text or take a picture to a local upholsterer and to obtain several bids.If possible, look at the work they have done that might still be in their shop.  They can also provide the amount of fabric needed to recover that piece.  If slip covering the furniture is being considered, always wash the fabric before it is given to the upholsterer.  If it is not prewashed, the covers will have massive shrinkage and will not fit after cleaning (even dry-cleaning).

Shape and style need to be classic and timeless.  The frame of the piece can be altered some.  Rounded arms can be made straight. Seat back height can be raised or lowered; cushion shape can be altered; and legs come in a variety of lengths and heights.  If the shape is not pleasing and appears dated, then reupholstering is not the answer. Many people hold on to a piece of furniture for sentimental reasons so maybe changing the shape or legs can help it work in the space better.

Reupholstering can add details or remove details that previously existed.  Tucks can be added to the back or seat of a chair or bench, or if the furniture has tucks they can be removed.  The same piece of furniture can appear totally different depending on the changes that should be discussed with the upholsterer before the final decision is made.

There are unbelievable Internet deals and furniture store sales that make it easy to find upholstered furniture bargains.  My tendency is to purchase new pieces because I am usually trying to update a room with shape and new fabrics, and I typically do not have an existing frame that is worth the money and effort to restore it.  I do appreciate the value of a piece that is timeless and sturdy and can be salvaged with a bit of stuffing and fabric.

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