The Ins and Outs of Having a Piece of Furniture Professionally Reupholstered
A few years ago I found this garbage sofa on Facebook Marketplace. I thought it looked like it might have a decent shape and could possibly be rescued.
I wasn't wrong and a few months later had this beauty fully restored and looking like this (throwback to my old wedding planning office)!
The process can feel a bit overwhelming/daunting if you've never done it though so I wanted to share how it works and teach you how to not pass up garbage furniture on Facebook Marketplace.
1. Find Your Piece- Finding the piece you want to makeover is in my opinion the easiest part! Look on marketplace for very cheap or free listings. I like to spend as little as possible because the next few steps I'm going to discuss will start to rack up the expenses and I like to keep the end cost of the piece as low as possible! While cost is a big consideration, probably the most important factor is the shape- is the shape of the piece good? Look on Pinterest or Instagram for inspiration photos of the end goal you are hoping to achieve. If you can find a disgusting sofa that has a great shape then you're on the right track!
2. Find Your Upholsterer- This step could easily be exchanged with step number one. Sometimes it's easier to pull the trigger on a piece if you already know where it's going. Or in my case I was able to have my upholsterer pick up my sofa from the seller for me, which saved me (a non-truck owner) the trouble of having to rent a truck from Home Depot (more on this in a minute). How can you find someone that does this kind of work? Well, searching online will certainly yield you a ton of results, but will typically land you in a lofty custom upholstery shop... which will probably do great work, but may also charge you a fortune. I highly suggest asking your friends, neighbors, or colleagues if they know of anyone. Often times there may be a very skilled craftsman nearby that doesn't spend their time and money on a flashy website, but does amazing work. Ask in a local neighborhood Facebook page or other local group pages. Once you find a promising candidate- just ask them to send over a few before and afters of their work. Again, don't be concerned if they don't have a big flashy website, in my opinion that's preferred. Once you find your reupholsterer- here are a few questions to ask them:
Questions to ask your upholsterer:
- How much would you charge to reupholster this piece? Send them all the photos you have of the piece (the Facebook listing photos should be fine).
- How many yards of fabric will I need to cover this piece?
- You don't need to have purchased your fabric yet, but you do need to know a ballpark of how much money you need to budget for fabric- large sofas can need anywhere from 20-40 yards of fabric, so if your upholsterer is charging you $1000 for labor, make sure you know that doesn't include the fabric! You will need to provide that- a good upholstery fabric will cost $20/yard and up. I highly recommend selecting your fabric in person (more on this in a minute), but to get an idea of how much you might spend a quick google search for what you have in mind should help!
- What would your timeframe be for getting this piece recovered?
- Don't expect them to stick to the deadline they give you 100%, a week or two give and take is to be expected (especially if they don't even have the piece yet), but this will give you a good idea of what to expect/how busy they are at the current moment. If they are backed up for six months, but you're hoping to be sitting on your new sofa by Christmas, then you know it may be time to find someone else.
3. Get Your Furniture to Your Upholsterer- Not all upholsterers will act as a delivery service (or they may charge you a pickup/delivery fee, which is completely fair), but it doesn't hurt to ask. I do highly recommend still going to oversee the pick up from the seller, make sure the piece is what you saw online, pay, etc. Another thing to keep in mind is that some upholsterers may not hold your piece for you until they are ready to start working on it and they have everything they need on hand (ie the fabric). So these steps may need to flip flop around a bit, you may need to pick up your piece yourself and hold it at your house until you can deliver everything to your upholsterer together. Once the piece is securely with your upholsterer then you can start on the next part of the process.
Things to keep in mind at this time:
- Do I have a place to store the sofa? Depending on how gross it is you may not want to keep it in your house.
- Will I need to rent a vehicle to pick up the piece and then again to take it to the upholsterers? This may not be a deal breaker, but another logistic to think through and another expense to budget for.
- I like to think of every expense I might incur during this process because at the end of the day the goal here (at least for me) is to get a sofa that is cheaper than buying something new. So if my planned expenses start to creep up to the $2000-$3000 range then it might be time to start shopping for something brand new.
4. Selecting Your Fabric- I personally like to shop for fabric in person- color and texture can get completely lost on a computer screen. It might be an ok place to start and order samples, but ultimately I think you will save yourself a ton of time by just going to a fabric store with a large selection. Jo-Anns, Calico Corners, and High Fashion Home are all good local chains to start with. Keep in mind you are looking for upholstery fabric which is a very different texture and weight than fashion (or clothing) fabrics. If you're looking for stain resistant fabrics then I highly recommend Sunbrella (yes, you can absolutely upholster your indoor furniture with an outdoor fabric for durability purposes) or Crypton fabrics. Once you find your fabric I highly recommend taking a photo of the tag with the brand name, colorway, and price. It doesn't hurt to then take that information and search online to see if you can find a better price. Now that you've seen the quality, color, and texture in real life- you can sometimes save money by ordering it in bulk at a discount online fabric store.
5. Wait- Once you get your furniture piece and fabric to your upholster it's time to wait for them to complete the project. I don't recommend bothering your upholsterer too much during this time.
What can you do while you're waiting for your piece to be reupholstered?
- Do ask them what the timeline looks like, and if it has changed from when you first spoke so you have a renewed expectation.
- Do stop by their workshop once or twice (depending on how long it takes) and check on the progress of the piece.
- Do let them know you are coming before you pop in.
- Do ask for progress photos
- Don't stop by everyday.
- Don't message them constantly about your piece. Remember why you chose them and let them work!
- Don't change your mind constantly during the process, the more decisive you are upfront the better.
6. Pick up Your Piece/Have it Delivered- transport of the piece again comes into play here, I was so very fortunate to have my upholsterer again deliver my piece directly to me. But keep in mind you may need to rent another truck/van here if you don't have one.
That's it, it can be a long daunting process, but it's so worth it to me! Listings for sofas that look like this are usually in 5-6k range and I never would have been willing to spend that much. I've since moved this beauty of a sofa to live in our primary bedroom, but it truthfully looks good anywhere and I know it's a piece I'll keep my entire life.
Now that you know what the process looks like let's talk about cost a little bit. The labor of what your upholsterer will charge you is going to vary greatly depending on their experience level, your location, their schedule, etc. But I thought it would be helpful for me to share the cost breakdown of what I spent on this piece from beginning to end.
transport- I lucked out and my upholsterer not only picked my sofa up for me but also delivered it for me at the end
fabric- I spent about $300 on 20 yards of fabric
gold paint for frame- $50
labor for upholstery- $750
labor for sanding/painting frame- $100
Let me know if I missed anything or you have any other questions about this process!
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Our laundry room makeover budget breakdown