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My name is Gerrie Wydeven doing-business-as Wydeven Designs. I have been conducting this small GREEN business since 2004. Wydeven Designs, based in the Atlanta, Georgia area, sells CHAIRS, LOVESEATS, CHAISES, SETTEES and other fine, well-constructed refurbished upholstered pieces. I love to travel, cook, take photographs and generally follow style and decor topics as well!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Refurbishing Upholstered Furniture - First do the Math!

I am often asked about whether a particular piece of upholstered furniture is worth redoing and how much it will cost.  To answer this question, you do have to answer those two parts separately.

Is it worth redoing?

Unless a piece of upholstered furniture has good bones and the construction features have the ability to yield multiple re-upholstering cycles, it is probably not worth redoing.

Here are two major rules/criteria I live by:

·      Does the piece have a solid seat foundation?  All upholstered pieces rely on the strength of this structure to make sure that many years of sitting (with varying size/weight requirements) will not cause “system failure”.  The best foundations include hand-tied eight-way coil spring construction.   It is SO easy to tell if this structure exists although many people seem oblivious to this test.  I always tell people to “flip the piece over” and see/feel the BOTTOM of the seat construction – if there are coils, they will be very easily observed; if not, the bottom fabric will only cover air. 
·      Is the woodwork in good condition – not broken or badly scarred?  Woodwork can be painted to cover imperfections but bad repairs or evidence of structural problems can shorten the life of a piece of furniture or make it so fragile that it cannot be easily moved or shipped.

How much will it cost?

Reupholstering the furniture is the major expense since expert hand labor is involved although fabric costs can come close.   I have found that the marketplace for buying good value fabrics is getting smaller and smaller with this economy and even an existing fabrics store like Calico Corners is changing their business model from one that stocks bolts and sometimes sells at a significant discount to one that only carries samples and has clients order just enough for their pieces.  Fabric warehouses do exist in larger metropolitan areas and ebay does offer some deals on fabrics.  But, overall, the marketplace has shrunk over the past five years.

Here are some average prices for expert upholstery work in my neck of the woods.  I have found that saving a few dollars to get a better deal is not worth it if the outcome is a less professional job and have had over a 1000 pieces upholstered in the past eight years.

Chart of Average Upholstery Costs and Fabric Requirements
Range of Upholstery Costs
Range of Fabric Requirements in yards

Chaise Lounge
Chair – complex
Chair – Simple
Chair – Cushion Only

The upholstery cost variables include whether the piece is skirted or not, separate seat and back cushions versus tight-seat construction, tufting, size, and other complexities. 

The fabric requirement variables include size, whether the piece is skirted or not; separate seat and back cushions versus tight-seat construction, and size of pattern and matching requirements.

So, it is important to complete the entire analysis before proceeding with a refurbishing and re-upholstery project.  It also makes sense to work with professionals including having someone (like me) do the analysis and put the whole project together for you – it may well be worth the cost including any shipping required. 

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