Everything you need to know about reupholstering vintage pieces

I’m addicted to it.  I see a great shape for cheap and all i can picture is its potential and how good i’ll feel styling it in a home.  I don’t know the last time that i bought a new piece of upholstered furniture. My thought is why when you can have a more unique piece, faster and often cheaper if not the same price.

Right now i’m gearing up for my ONE KINGS LANE sale in SEPTEMBER where i’m reupholstering 19 amazing vintage items and counting…  There will be a ton of teasers because i need to sell this stuff so i want everyone prepped and ready for the three day flash sale.

There are two things that i don’t do myself – upholster furniture and wallpaper walls.  You need experts to do this or else you could potentially waste the material, as well as your money and time. I know that upholstering can be daunting, even terrifying. There is a lot of effort and money at stake.

So here is EVERYTHING you need to know to help you through the process.   I have a ton of tips, nay secrets, to make sure that you get a timeless piece that won’t cost you a fortune, will make your house WAY more interesting and will last for years and years.

 

1. HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT PIECE.  Here’s the best rule of thumb, you have to love the shape and style then don’t worry about the finish. You can almost always change the finish of things but you can rarely change the shape. So if you find something that has a great shape and good bones, then that is what you invest it.  But its more complicated then just that.

Second rule is either go for something super cheap that is a no-brainer, or splurge on something that is a standout piece that will make a room.

For instance this weekend i found this chair for $45:

vintage-chair

It’s hideous. But in a charcoal gray linen its going to be gorgeous. I picked this piece because a. i like the 70’s style, b. it was $45 and c. you only need 4 yards to recover it.  It’s a very sellable chair because the style is very ‘in’ and the comfort level is extreme, yet i don’t have to invest in it too much to get what i want.

If it were $500 originally i wouldn’t have chosen it because its not a make or break chair, its just really good.

BUT, then there are times when the shape and style of a piece is soooo good that you have to splurge on it.  It will command a whole room, it will scream ‘i’m interesting’ and it will be 100% worth it.

Like this sofa i just bought at the rose bowl:

mid-century-hot-pink-sofa

This is my instagram pic where i saturated the color, but its actually a pretty bad faded pink and needs new upholstery. The piece was originally $750 but after four hours of not selling at the flea market i offered $500 cash and got it.

But thats a decent amount of dough to start, right? Way more than i would spend on just any sofa.  But it will be worth it because its a show-stopper and will be eventually worth $2500 at least.  Stay tuned for after pictures in about a month.

So, love the shape and style and go for either really cheap (or a piece you already have) and easy or really interesting and a splurge.  Reupholstering a $300 standard mid-century chair in a simple fabric just isn’t worth it (unless you already have the chair).

 

HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT UPHOLSTERER.  A recomendation from a designer is best, but designers guard these secrets as if it were an apocalypse and their upholsterer had the last ten cans of beans.

Annoying, i know.

But here’s why:  Once a good name/price gets out they get busy and then you don’t get things that you want fast enough and the prices go up. It takes time and effort to find the right guy, and once you find them your life gets really easy, unless they get super busy. Don’t get me wrong, i tell my friends who want one piece, but if i were to announce it on the blog then myself, as well as all the other designers that go to them, would suffer.   We get the best prices because we give them a massive amount of business so don’t expect the prices that I quote. Bummer, i know.

I told my upholsterer that he he promises to hire help and expand i’ll give his name away, but until he does i just can’t because i need him in my life.

So what do you do? Walk in and ask for pictures, prices and how many years of experience.  In LA the best cheapest guys are in the smallest darkest stores, and the more you go out of the way (to cheaper commercial spaces in the valley for instance) the cheaper it gets.  Right now i found a new guy that is around 45 minutes a way and its worth it because his prices are soooo good and his quality is high, plus he picks up and delivers for the cost of gas.

That being said, i’ve made mistakes before and definitely gotten what i’ve paid for – cheap work for a cheap price, so mistakes can be made.

 

The best tip i can say is that the little hole-in-the-wall upholsterers are usually doing all the designers fancy pieces and have the most experience. Its the fancier places (like the design centers) that are frankly much more pleasant to be in that charge a lot more. Don’t be scared of the hole in the wall, you’d be shocked at who hires them.  But if you have the money go to the nicer places, too, we don’t want them going out of business (although sometimes i’m convinced that they actually are just farming out to the hole in the wall places anyway….regardless everyone’s gotta make a buck so i get it)

Speaking of a buck…..

 

HOW MUCH IT COSTS.

Here’s a rough guide to how much things should cost, the lower number is what you can get at a VERY cheap place where you are taking risks (or its around what designers pay when we upholster in bulk). The higher number is what an established, high quality place would be:

Simple dining chair – $80-$200, 1 1/2 – 2 yards each.  (dining chair seats are really the only things you can do yourself, especially when you have six of them the cost adds up).

A simple mid-century chair, $150-$500 – 4-5 yards

A wingback, $300-$500, 6 – 7 yards:

a loveseat – $600-$1000, 10 yards.

a Sofa – $700-$1800 , 12 – 18 yards.  I know, that is a massive gap. I usually budget around $1000 for a large sofa, but my guys do it for around $700.

That being said if you work with a designer EXPECT it to be upcharged, that’s how we/they make our VERY hard earned money and cover costs of delivery/labor, etc.   I know that must be frustrating to not have a better guide, but it really does vary on location, experience, type of establishment, experience and amount of business you do with them.  If you bring in three pieces you are likely to get a way better deal than just one.

 

WHATS THE BEST FABRIC?  My go-to’s are linen, linen-blend and cotton velvet, or cotton blend.

This is linen:

img_7460_lj.jpg

This is cotton velvet:

cotton-velvet-vintage cotton-velvet-wingback

I know i need to branch out, but i just love these two types of fabrics a lot.  They are soft and sophisticated and always in style.  Within those fabrics make sure that you get them thick enough, they must be upholstery weight.  If you want something that has more stain resistance and durabiltiy get a linen or cotton blend has a lot of polyester in it.  If you want it to be completely stain resistant you can opt for micro-suede or ultra-suede but they look cheaper and leave butt marks. They are EXTREMELY durable. I just don’t like the look.

Cotton Velvets range from $12 – $30 and i usually stay in the $25 – $18 range unless i need to find the perfect color that is more expensive.  Linens range from $10 – $1 million, but i usually stay in the $10-$30 range.  There are a ton of beautiful belgium linens out there that are $50 a yard that look very similar to the ones that are $15 a yard and the difference is when they were dyed. The belgium linen yarn was dyed before it was woven and the cheaper linens were dyed after they were woven into fabric, therefore the color of the belgium is often more beautiful (and textural) and probably stays true longer. But its a huge price difference if you are talking a whole sofa.  Plus belgiium linen is exported from Europe whereas most other linen comes from the middle-east which is way cheaper.

Most darker colors will fade in time if they are made from natural fibers (like linen or cotton), its pretty hard to avoid unless you get that kind of fabric. You can treat it afterwards or treat your windows to block the uv rays, but its hard to guarantee that a dark navy fabric won’t fade. Again, the more poly or rayon the better for that.  A lot of stores (like Room and Board, Crate and Barrel) have fade resistant fabrics but they can’t guarantee it either.

MAN THIS IS A LOT OF INFORMATION I HOPE THAT YOU AREN’T ASLEEP AT YOUR DESK.  Please tell me you are still reading this….

 

HOW TO CUSTOMIZE. 

Easier said than done, but here are my tips for making the pieces even more unique, or not making style mistakes:

1. Use larger scale patterns only on larger pieces of furniture.  Smaller scale can be on any size, but a large scale looks weird on a small chair.

It just looks crammed on there, right? i’ve seen it work, but as a general rule, be careful.

2. When in doubt, keep it classic on larger pieces of furniture.  It’s a splurge so maybe don’t do an ikat pattern on main living room sofa unless you have a lot of money to reupholster in a few years.  Pillows are a lot easier to customize a space and play with trends than a huge pattern on your biggest pieces. I feel so boring saying that but you could easily regret it.  I love polka dots right now, but i’m not going to do a sofa in it, maybe a side chair or a bench for the guest room, but be wary of pattern trends dating your furniture.

3. The style of the piece should work well with the style of the pattern.  There are obviously exceptions and there are times when i really like mixing up the styles, BUT this can go super trendy and make the piece dated really fast.  So if you don’t like taking risks, then keep the styles similar.  For instance don’t put a retro pattern on a more classic wing-back.

It looks forced and will get dated really fast.  Update a classic pattern with a fresh color palette, but don’t put a batik on a french settee unless you want to reupholster it when you are sick of it.  Just a suggestion, i know it can work at times, but its a good rule of thumb.  I experiment a lot with colors, less with patterns on large pieces of furniture.

4. Add piping, tufting and nailheads.  This will cost more, but it is such an easy way to customize and upgrade a simple chair and in general it doesn’t cost too much more.

This is diamond tufting:

 

This is regular button tufting:

In general diamond tufting looks better on more classic/traditional/english/french kinda furniture and button tufting on mid-century or modern furniture.

Piping and welting.  I still don’t know what the difference is, but ‘self-welting’ means that instead of just a seam, its that piping look (above) in the same fabric.  ‘Alternate piping (or welting)’ means using a different color for the piping. like so:

You can do high contrast (like black and white) or just a slight contrast like the sofa above where i did a navy piping/tufting on the medium blue sofa.  It makes it look more tailored but also busier.  When i feel like the lines are getting lost i definitely add welting and when i want to make it more formal i enhance the lines with a different color of piping.

Other things of note:

foam/batting/feathers, etc.

The sofa above is a two-twin sofa bed which are normally VERY hard and uncomfortable, but this was for a family room so comfort was key. So i had my guy use a ton of down feathers instead of foam and that’s why its kinda poufy… its crazy comfortable but i did have to sacrifice the look of the sofa for it. I don’t regret it, because once you sit on it you are VERY happy, but the lines got compromised.

Most upholsterers will add all new batting and foam, but if this is the first time that you are getting something upholstered make sure you specify that – they have been known to cheat and you can’t really tell unless you are sensitive to it.  New foam will be less comfortable that’s why most big box stores do ‘foam wrapped in feathers’ so it has the structure of foam but the comfort of feathers.  Don’t do that on like a tight back setee, and seriously listen to the upholsterers recomendation as what you choose can change the look, but at the same time really hard foam is a bummer.

Lastly lead time can be anywhere from a week to a month.  If you need it fast, just ask, because if you don’t then they’ll obviously not rush it.

Meanwhile check out all the beauties i’m getting reupholstered right now:

vintage chair piping

Sofa (sofa bed actually, all new mattress being made too) and two chairs. Still deciding on fabric. I got the threesome for $35 (but i had to deliver from the valley for $60). i’m thinking light grey with charcoal piping, but i’m open to suggestions.

Two of these guys, $4 each.

Make sure to follow me on twitter and instagram to watch all my finds and in-process upholstery shots.  I have 15 more items being restored, refinished and reupholstered for my sale.  And they are all pieces that i totally love and want to hoard.

Any other questions?  Did i cover all the basics of upholstering?  If you like this post retweet it please, ’cause if i’m going to relenquish the secrets then i may as well have them actually read, right?

 

  1. Emily, this post is awesome. I'm just getting started in my design career, and upholstery is still kind of a mystery. Btw, I love those bar stools and will be on the lookout for them in the OKL sale.

  2. this was all brilliant – thank you! Seeing the furniture transformation reveal is one of my fave parts of your show, so it's great to get a little insight into how you do it. Hope your fingers have recovered from all that typing…!

  3. Emily P.

    Thanks for this post, Emily! You've really gotten me to love cotton velvet fabric. And thanks for all of the posts you've been doing over the last few days. You've probably been incredibly busy so I appreciate the effort you've made to keep us in the loop :)

  4. Darlene

    Great post! Love the information and the way you deliver it!

  5. Marta

    OK, Emily. I'm going to take your challenge and upholster a wingback. No experience with such, and I'm going to use a staple gun and hot glue. What am I in for?

  6. Great post Emily! I have a french tufted settee that needs reupholstering but the quotes I'm getting are sky-high! Still trying to find that one hole-in-the-wall upholsterer!

  7. Lauren

    I'm having heart palpitations over the OKL sale. I will be setting my alarm for whatever time it starts. I feel like it's going to sell out in minutes. I hope you'll post more pics on your blog too, for those of us who don't tweet or instagram. :) Btw, where did you get the brass feet on the blue sofa bed you did? I have that pic on my pinterest and had no idea it was your design! I'm working on having a sofa reupholstered (still deciding on fabric, so this post was perfect timing for me) and I showed that pic as an example of the feet I want. Thanks!

  8. Karen

    Read every word! Not a designer. Not even close. But I do hit antique malls from time to time and wonder what the whole process is for this! It's those damn hgtv shows that make me think I don't need to go to big box stores and buy new – but they leave out the steps on how to actually get it done. This post is the missing link! ;-)

  9. sue

    thanks for sharing! have a couple of pieces back home that are desperate for a revamp (one day)!

  10. ebethnyc

    Great stuff, great advice. But given the recent bedbug epidemics and perennial classic "cooties" of used (upholstered) furniture, what sort of precautions do you take when shopping for the original pieces? Do you spray things before you bring them home? Very interested in your feedback. Thanks!

  11. Robyn

    Perfectly timed post for me! I just bought a sofa from Habitat for Humanity ReStore and want to have it upholstered in Belgian Linen for my bedroom. I've been wondering about the differences in linen and thought the Belgian was just heavier waited. Now I feel ready to talk to the upholsterer and maybe sound like I know what I want. Can't wait for your flash sale!!

  12. Robyn

    Perfectly timed post for me! I just bought a sofa from Habitat for Humanity ReStore and want to have it upholstered in Belgian Linen for my bedroom. I've been wondering about the differences in linen and thought the Belgian was just heavier waited. Now I feel ready to talk to the upholsterer and maybe sound like I know what I want. Can't wait for your flash sale!!

  13. Kim

    Thanks for posting that! You just answered a ton of questions I had about this sofa I want to have recovered.

  14. I've been stalking Craigslist for a sofa with awesome lines, in hopes of getting it reupholstered, so this post is right up my ally! Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge!

    Do you have any go-to online sources for upholstery fabric?

  15. Melissa

    Thanks for this! Now I have some inspiration for a pair of Louis chairs that I have been meaning to get reupholstered!

  16. Michelle

    Love the post!! All the details are so helpful!! Thank you !

  17. jeanie

    Loved the post and all the info. I'm in the LA area — any tips on how to find a good wallpaper-er? Love Secrets of a Stylist and look forward to seeing more of you on HGTV!

  18. Shayna

    Fun Fact: Piping is what it's called on clothing so it's what people tend to call welting. Welting or cording are the two terms usually used in upholstery to describe fabric covered rope at some/all seams.

  19. You've done it again, Emily. So much great information here! Have you done a post on where to look for good fabric? Thanks!

  20. Becky

    Ok, so now can you do a post on where to buy (online preferably) some of these amazing fabrics? My local retailers are Jo-Anne's, Hobby Lobby and Boca Bargoons. Need some online suggestions.

  21. In response to ebethnyc, there are a few things you can do if you are worried about bed bugs (my husband is in public health, and regularly deals with them). First, check the seams of anything before you buy–you'll be able to see black specks/spots around seams and corners, if there are any bugs. Even if you don't see anything, it is best to take precautions. Heat is the best way to kill anything, so if it is something small, you can just throw things in the dryer on HOT. You can even buy little heated containers made just for that purpose (designed for suitcases, etc.). If it is something larger, like a couch, you could wrap it really tightly in plastic wrap/garbage bags and leave it outside your house somewhere (like a garage) for a week or two, to make sure than anything that might be there can't get oxygen and dies. (These tips go for anything you might get second-hand, by the way–clothes, even books).

    I know that its all a little "icky" to think about, but I hope that helps! :)

  22. Sarah

    Thank you! I have a chair I inherited from my grandmother that I've been wanting to reupholster for years, but didn't quite no where to start. Your secrets are much appreciated!

  23. Sabrina

    I love these types of posts.

  24. YES! This is awesome. You actually already inspired me to upholster a sofa in blue velvet, and it looks amazing, but I did feel a bit lost at certain moments! This will be a huge help for future pieces.

  25. What a fantastic post, Emily. I need to know this stuff- I've agreed to re-upholster two bergere-style chairs for my brother as a wedding present, and I'm feeling a wee bit overwhelmed. Thank you!

  26. Christine

    Emily, you are the best! Please open a school for all of us wanna-be's! Thanks for the tips! Love your show and blog!

  27. Holly

    omgosh I love this post! SO useful, and I'm not even done reading it yet…

  28. Shelly

    Best post ever. Thank you for taking the time to share your secrets! Seriously!

  29. Awesome post Emily! I have tried upholstery myself and yes, next time I will leave it to the professionals, EXCEPT my diamond tufted headboards, the photo of which you have here in your post {I am flattered!} Easy peasy. In fact I have helping a neighbour make one for her daughter!

  30. Meredith

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post!!! So awesome! Thank you!

  31. Julia

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I'm in the process of having my first reupholster experience. Your post is so helpful. Finding the chair and the shop was not too hard. It's the fabric that's killing me! I'm going to head back to my home dec store to look at the cotton velvets again and put the chevron fabric on the window treatments (it's a 60s wingback). Thanks again!

  32. Piping (or cord with tape) comes from a trim manufacturer, premade to use onto pillows, upholstery, etc. Welting is when you buy a length of fabric and have your upholstery make their own cord. Self-welt means using the same fabric that the body of the piece is being done in, while contrast-welt means a different fabric, usually in a contrasting color or material type.

    Love your blog and you!

  33. This post just BLEW my mind…thanks so much for sharing!! And I cannot wait until your OKL sale…not that I will be able to afford anything unless I sell a few babies or kidneys in the meantime!! But I know there will be some fabulous eye candy and inspiration!

    XX,

    Dominique @ http://comfycozycouture.blogspot.com

  34. Great information! My mother has reupholstered so many pieces and also gotten custom slipcovers (some so good you don't even know they're slipcovers)–it's something I know I'll do someday. Problem? It ain't cheap and right now I'm on a beans and rice budget. But I can dream.

  35. allie

    Hey Emily!

    Love your stuff and follow you on insta, not to mention DVR every time your show is on HGTV!

    Am i cool enough for you to give me your "secret source" for your gold and white wallpaper in that room above with the grey linen chair and love pillow?? I'm in LOVE!!!

    Thanks girl! Love your blog!

    allie

  36. Thank you, this was SUPER helpful! I especially liked your tip about adding piping in a darker shade of the same color – it looks great, and so subtle! P.S. I'm amazed at the prices you find for your vintage pieces, you're an incredible bargain hunter!

  37. not falling asleep at all! this is really helpful . thanks for being so thorough.. i have a MCM chair waiting to be uphosltered and now i know what i step i shoudl take to find the right price.

  38. Emily

    Great info! I had my first upholstery experience with a leather camelback sofa with nailhead trim, super dreamy, but after getting the cushion recovered in new leather and then getting the color restored I'm into it for around $1650. My question to you is, what are your thoughts on leather reupholstery and doing color restoration on leather with this process: http://www.daburns.com/cleaning-specialists/leather-cleaningconditioning/ ?

    Any previous experience?

  39. Ashleigh

    Between the inspiration from you on SFAS and Jenny of Little Green Notebook, I've taken on a couple upholstery projects of my own. I'm getting better each time (and truly I am one of the least-creative, least-design-talented people I know). This post is fantastic. I predict it goes viral on Pinterest. :)

  40. Lindsay

    Thanks for a truly great post! Now I can do more than just stare longingly at great pieces, wondering how I could navigate (and afford!) reupholstering them.

    Question: Do you ever worry about bed bugs? More of an issue here on the East Coast maybe?

    LOVE, LOVE your blog and show. Can't get enough.

    Thanks.

  41. Angela

    Emily, thank you so much for this post! I am a decorator and have been navigating this field for about a year now, and I feel like finding the practical information for daily project use is so much harder than learning the technical aspects of the trade (scale, color theory, etc.). I have tried to network with local designers in my area, but I always feel like they are so guarded with their information! It's refreshing to read your perspective and know you're confident enough in your design work to share some of your secrets!

    I do have two questions, and I hope that's not asking to much!…you mentioned regarding the foam or fill options for cushions that you wouldn't recommend doing foam wrapped with down. What do you recommend? I have tried looking for options, but with all down fill the cushions seem to lose their shape so easily and flatten out. Whereas with foam only, you don't get as much if the softness or comfort. Second, do you have any recommendations for the cotton velvet fabrics in the price range you mentioned. I feel like most that I source are upwards of $40/ yard so while I'd love to use it more, it can get pricey on larger pieces!

    Again, THANK YOU so much for your openness and sharing on your blog. I always love your thoughts and the fact you actually give practical tips rather than coming off as unapproachable! I respect that designers work hard for their experience and knowledge but I always feel like you gain so much more from sharing than holding it all for yourself! All the best!

  42. Marta

    Angela/Emily, what do you think of using memory foam? I have some scrap memory foam I'm thinking of incorporating into a wingback reuphostery job. Would that be a no-no?

  43. The Mom

    Wow you are fabulous, all this information at one time this is definitely a post to save. I must say I felt giddy about some of the things you said:
    1, I have a great hole in the wall, bad area upholster guy so I am with you on that score.
    2. Picked up a wonderful old loveseat, chair and rocker (which takes up toooo much space) but got the whole set at Orange County Auction for a song and had them re-stuffed and upholstered in linen and they are show stoppers. The rocker still takes up too much space.
    You always give really good ideas. Thank you for always inspiring me.

  44. The Mom

    Wow you are fabulous, all this information at one time this is definitely a post to save. I must say I felt giddy about some of the things you said:
    1, I have a great hole in the wall, bad area upholster guy so I am with you on that score.
    2. Picked up a wonderful old loveseat, chair and rocker (which takes up toooo much space) but got the whole set at Orange County Auction for a song and had them re-stuffed and upholstered in linen and they are show stoppers. The rocker still takes up too much space.
    You always give really good ideas. Thank you for always inspiring me.

  45. Sheila

    Such an informative post! With large items like sofas, it's daunting enough for me to imagine the piece in my space, let alone having the vision to see an unsuitable piece revamped to suit. Recently had 4 garage sale '60s era dining chairs reupholstered. Success – they look like their old selves, only better!. That, and all the experience you're sharing here gives me confidence to try this route with something larger. Thank you for so generously sharing your knowledge and experience and doing it with such a delightful, engaging writing style!

  46. Thanks so much, Emily!!! I've been hoarding vintage pieces with the hopes of getting them reupholstered, but I've been too nervous to pull the trigger. This info is what I need to finally get started.

    Can't wait to see how your pieces turn out! In fact, I'm going to finally join Instagram just because of you! YAY!!!

  47. Sara

    Yet again, you rock, Emily!! Thank you so much!!! I've just started diving into these types of projects, for myself and for clients, and this is an amazing resource! Luckily, I found a great upholstery guy…now just need to find great pieces to give him more business ;)!

    Thanks to Briana for the "ick" removal tips!!! Something I've always wondered about and has kept me wary until now.

  48. Megan

    These are my favorite posts, I love how you transform furniture. You've told us about Gray Lines Linen (and thanks for that, I made some great navy drapes!), but do you have any other great upholstery fabric resources? I'm especially looking for some great cotton velvet. Thanks so much!

  49. Megan

    These are my favorite posts, I love how you transform furniture. You've told us about Gray Lines Linen (and thanks for that, I made some great navy drapes!), but do you have any other great upholstery fabric resources? I'm especially looking for some great cotton velvet. Thanks so much!

  50. Kimberly

    Just got back from Brimfield today and was so happy to see this post. While I was there I noticed quite a few pieces that would be amazing if reupholstered. This post is going to give me the courage to buy that piece next time and be able to talk intelligently with the upholsterers about what I want done. And I read every single word you wrote;)

  51. Barb Harper

    Wow, what a great resource! I will be referring back to this for sure. I love love your show and your style, Emily!

  52. Nancy

    Thank you for the post! Very informative :-)
    And I'm feeling a bit patriotic now, since apparently Belgium is actually good at something :-)
    I wonder how much I would pay for a yard of Belgian linen here….(here being Belgium).

  53. Leah

    EM-this is one of your best posts. I've done some furniture refinishing (dressers, chairs, tables) but I've never taken on upholstering for the reasons you listed. I've seen sofas and chairs that would look amazing in a new fabric but I wasn't sure how much it would cost. Your guide will be so helpful in figuring out if it's worth it and what fabrics make most sense for each piece..THANK YOU!! :)

  54. Lara

    Reeeeally needed this post in my life! So detailed! Right now, though, I'm stressing about having the fabric replaced on my dad's two Wassily chairs. I feel like most upholsterers in my area are going to be like "What in the…"

  55. VelWow

    Seriously amazing post! Thank you so much for this information. I am in the process of getting estimates from several upholsterers. While your post was amazingly thorough, you left out one major secret: where to get the fabric! I have looked at all the majors: JoAnn, Hancock, Hobby Lobby, and a discount warehouse-type place. I have searched high and low online but don't know if the photos or descriptions are accurate. What's the best place to find quality fabric for reasonable prices? Thanks again for your thoughtful and thorough post. I love your blog and your show because of your honesty and willingness to share ideas.

  56. Josie

    Fantastic post! I was wondering how you tell if a piece has "great bones" and is well-constructed. I understand that foam and padding can be replaced, but what about springs, frame, etc? What are the tell-tale signs to look for?

  57. Becky

    Emily!!! Love you and your show!!! You were my favorite on Design Star from Day 1….So, I have this amazing 4-piece mid century sectional that I bought through craigslist from the original owner. It seats 10-12 people (yes, it does!). It was last upholstered in the 80's. I'm so nervous to reupholster it. Fabric is so expensive, and it will probably need anywhere between 18-23 yards. Yikes! Not to mention the cost of labor…I wish you could help me!!! The color and fabric is actually pretty cool – it's like an olive/gold and feels like a men's blazer from the 70's – like a wooly burlap or something…But, I agree with what you've written and would love linen/cotton or velvet. But, I'm so nervous to take a risk that I think we'll probably keep it 'as is' for 10 more years. But then, maybe that's ok too!!! Suggestions???

  58. heather a

    Thank you! I have a vintage sofa I looking to get reupholstered and this post helped a lot. I pinned it so I can refer back to it. Please keep the secrets coming!

  59. FashionMaven

    This is a great post! I'm currently getting my own couch (which I bought years ago new) reupholstered – but I just ran into some color matching issues with Schumacher velvet (you wouldn't think they'd have issues with color matching!)…

    Big tip: Buy ALL of your fabric at one time from ONE dye lot!

    Also – about bed bugs… I hate to be a Debby Downer, but be REALLY careful. It's not as simple as making sure that the bugs have died (suffocating them). It's their eggs you have to worry about – because then they hatch. I hate to creep people out, but the main problem with the bugs are the eggs that hatch. If they've gotten down into the stuffing of a couch and laid eggs there (the bugs can fit into openings wide enough only to accommodate something as thin as a credit card), you cannot see that – so even if you kill all the bugs you can see, there are eggs you cannot see and suffocation does nothing to them. The best eradication method is heat – but to treat a whole couch with heat would basically just kill the savings from reupholstering in the first place.

    At this point, I wouldn't purchase an old upholstered piece to have it recovered unless I had it completely stripped down to the frame and had it sanded/cleaned/heat treated.

  60. Great post. Super helpful. I've often wondered about this stuff. Thanks for sharing.

  61. Linda

    I will trade you the best homemade fish tacos you will ever experience for the name of your upholsterer. I "schnored" a 1970s swoopy curvy leather sectional from an open house. The last of the older couple had passed away, and I overheard the realtor talking to the heirs out of state about how much she was going to have to PAY someone to haul away the furniture, uh HELLO, can I take some a this off your hands??? Two truck loads for free…aaah. Anywho, my dogs have seriously scratched it up. Emily, do you like fish tacos? You will, I promise. My husband will catch it fresh. You will not reveal his secret spearfishing spot, and I will not reveal your secret upholstero. :-)

  62. kim dean

    Emily great post! I just recently bought a vintage chesterfield style sofa I want to have reupholstered. One question I have though, is how can you tell if the piece is quality enough to reupholster? If its great looking but maybe not the best quality-wise, kind of wood/ how it was made etc. would you still spend the time and money to reupholster?

  63. wow.. what an abundance of priceless information that I will never be able to remember.. I'm bookmarking this for sure. Thanks.

  64. karen m

    Emily – thank you!

    I'm in New England for a few years, was from Laguna Beach CA and have found tremendous deals on furniture here in the greater Boston area . I so miss the fantastically eccentric inspiring places. Not that they are not here, but I just haven't found much yet. I'm so inspired by your designs and I must say I love your Boots too! Thank you for showing us how to expand beyond the antique white walls and safe (don't make it too personal or it wont sell looks). I love that you make each design a personal inspiration for the dwellers. :)

    I have several pieces that are in line to be reupholstered. Your "secrets" are so so helpful. Thank you so so much for sharing.

  65. Brandy

    This is so rad! I found this post reading about your OKL sale. I have an empire sofa that I got on Craig's list for kind of a lot, but I just had to have it. I have been working on re-finishing it for a while, but kind of got stuck, a. Because its really a challenging piece, nd I am a N00b, and b. because I was a bit lacking n inspiration. This post has definitely helped in both areas. Thanks so much!

  66. That is some amazing work!!

    Keep forgetting that you can re-upholster furniture….

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