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Reupholstering thoughts. or tips. or just words about it.

I just wrote a big ‘tips to reupholstering flea market chairs’ post, then my interweb crashed.  Screw those webs.  and the inter things between them.  So annoying. 

But I’ll do it real quick like.  

Here’s what to look for:  good lines, good bones, vintage vibe and cheap. 

The chairs I got at the Rose Bowl on Sunday:

Clearly the color is questionable. I could make them work, but not easily (and I don’t plan on it).  These chairs were $300 for both, so in my mind I figured in $150-$200 each (ended up $180) to get re-upholstered, which makes them $700 plus cost of fabric = $850.  Not nothing.   But they are a good investment because they are:

1. totally unique.  vintage, my friends.  No one else will have one.

2.  They have integrity, good bones, super strong yet simple,

3. modern shape that lends itself easily to an update.  

4.  its a pair…which is worth a lot more than a couple singles, they are worth the investment.  

5. they are comfortable (even though the reupholsterer will replace all foam) and

6.  they are large scale, so are bang for their buck.  

And I love the shape: modern, masculine, high back to contrast with a low-back sofa.  and screaming for the perfect throw pillow.

So these guys:

Are effing adorable.  Their scale is small, yet quirky.  They have these cute little pocket/tufting thing on the side that i’m going to pimp pout with some brass buttons. you know it. They were $50 each and at $150 a pop to reupholster they become fairly cheap custom chairs.  They have this adorable cartoon element to them, that when recovered in a sophisticated and masculine color, they will become ‘those’ chairs that people want to sit in.  I mean, can’t you see them as characters in ‘Beauty and the Beast’, their tufting are the eyes, the arms are the..well….arms….

You’ve all seen my sofa:

I saw the lines, i saw the color and I was like BOOM, done and done.  No need to reupholster.  thank god. ANd $900.  holla.

Here’s what I would do to find a reupholsterer:

Take pictures of your piece and shop around.  Go to the fancy places and go to the what looks like kinda shady places.  If you have the time and patience, have the cheapest place do a sampler piece – a bench or stool or ottoman.  Sometimes the cheapest places give you the worst quality and sometimes, well they are just underpriced and give you a great price with great quality.  So you take a risk, but once you find the right place you are set. 

Put everything in writing.  I mean everything.  I’m not talking about contracts, i’m talking about exactly how many tuftings (is that a word?) you want, or what kind of piping you want (all around or just the front or just the back, etc.).  I’ve made this mistake a bunch.   For instance, for Ian I had this headboard upholstered and the bench reupholstered.  The headboard was supposed to have box piping on the front tops and sides, with lots of tufting, not just 10 in the middle (don’t tell Ian, he hasn’t noticed).  And the bench was supposed to have piping around all edges and not so much foam and NOT dark mahogany legs – he was supposed to strip them and leave them natural.  

I got what I paid for.  It’s not terrible, but its not exactly what I wanted. I think in this case the headboard was $350 (including wood) and the bench was $100 to reupholster. 

Reupholster in classic colors.  Sorry, but you’ll regret it.  I love me a crazy pattern, you know it, but I tend to save those risks (at least for myself) for the throw pillows.  Don’t hold me to that, by the way, on the show i might get all ikat on that chair.  You won’t go wrong with grey, white, grey-ish blue, navy, black, charcoal, taupe etc.  I love a hot pink floral, but if you aren’t a millionaire then save your trends for your throw pillows and invest your pieces in simple always-in-style colors and fabrics.  just sayin.

If you guys live in LA, I know that 453 Modern Vintage has a guy that does really really great reupholstering work.  And Staci’s store has awesome vintage furniture and accessories.  She’s on Fairfax, south of Wilshire in Little Ethiopia.  Really fair prices for awesome stuff.  

Pepe’s on Sunset in Echo Park does cheap, and fast but he’s who I had a miscommunication with.  I would still got back to him, but i would put things in writing.  

Diamond foam and fabric is awesome, but a pretty penny.  If you buy their fabric they’ll give you a deal, but their fabric isn’t cheap either.  

here are the prices that I try to stick with  – chairs under $250, wingbacks or large club chairs can go up to $450 (but I try to stay under $400)

sofa’s – $1000.  Can be slightly less or more depending on tufting. And normally chairs take about 6 yards of fabric and sofas 15, so calculate that in.  

If you can get a great chair in the exact fabric you want for under $400 (including the reupholstery and fabric) then its a good buy at a flea market.  Most chairs even at crate and barrel and room and board are around $599 so you are already spending less than retail, and getting something totally custom, that you designed in a way.

Hope that’s helpful.  


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