Reupholstering is expensive.
Being bossy color is not always a fun job, but someone has to tell you the dirty truth. I’d rather you hear it from me than on the street somewhere.
– Is this piece really well-made?
– Does it have sentimental value?
– Is it an interesting shape or a quirky style? Or a hard-to-find size?
– Was it free or super cheap AND you love it, so you think it would be worth the investment to funkify it?
If the answer to any of these is a resounding yes, then by all means call in the professionals.
– Do you feel obligated to keep this piece just because it belonged to a relative? (Especially if that relative is, ah, no longer with us?)
– Do you hope to save money by reupholstering rather than replacing?
If the answer to either of THESE questions is yes, please don’t do it. You will be disappointed, I promise you. And you’ll be poorer.
Here are some cold hard facts. (These are metropolitan Washington, D.C. labor prices, so adjust for your geographic area.)
Case Study #1:
Each of the above chairs will cost $500 to reupholster. Each will require 5 yards of fabric. The fabric we like is $110/yard retail (I’m not factoring in a designer discount for this post, since it varies.) That’s a cool $2,000 to re-do these chairs.
WHY IT’S WORTH IT. These chairs are 50s-fantastic – check out the polished chrome legs! They’re also a lovely smaller scale, which makes them versatile. Bonus reason: the client has chosen a terrific whimsical fabric, Robert Allen‘s For the Birds (above).
Case Study #2:
WHY IT WAS WORTH IT. The chair and ottoman belonged to the client’s grandmother, OF WHOM HE WAS VERY FOND. That last part is critical. The chair is well-made and comfortable, especially with the new seat cushion.
Case Study #3:
WHY IT WAS WORTH REUPHOLSTERING THE FIRST TIME. The sofa was free. The fabric cost only a few dollars a yard, even though it’s high quality and was once quite beautiful (his mother brought it back from India). I think she also paid the upholsterer’s bill.
WHY UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES IT WOULD BE WORTH REUPHOLSTERING AGAIN. Our cats love this sofa in ways both natural (scratching, rubbing) and unnatural (use your imagination). The cushions are shot and would need to be replaced. It’s too low to the ground for the room it now occupies. And, finally, I’m plum sick of it.
Any other questions about reupholstering? Please ask. I’m here to help.
* This article first appeared on 9.29.08; while I’m on vacation, you don’t mind if I occasionally direct your attention to some of bossy color blog’s popular past posts, do you? As I find myself upholstery-obsessed these days, I hoped this article might be of renewed relevance to you, too. Please be sure and check out the comments on that original post if upholstery is a subject near and dear to your heart.Annie Elliott – aka bossy color – is an interior decorator and design blogger in Washington, D.C. She has been quoted in publications from The Washington Post to The Seattle Times and is considered an expert on color, residential space planning, and telling people what to do in the nicest way possible.