Should I Re-Upholster or Buy New?

Should I re-upholster or buy new?

It is decided. You’re going to remodel your downstairs. You’ve been living in the 90’s for way too long. You want a whole new look: new kitchen, new window treatments, new powder room, new color scheme, new furniture…

On second thought, wait… I really love that sofa and those chairs are classic and if I just re-upholstered them then it might shave a few bucks from the project…

Maybe. Maybe not. Re-upholstering a piece of furniture can be a great idea if you are doing it for the right reasons. I am always for anything that keeps old sofas out of our ever expanding landfills. However, re-upholstering your favorite sofa isn’t always the best move. First of all, your beloved sofa may not be a great candidate for re-upholstery. Secondly, it may not save you a lot of money. Upholstery work and upholstery fabric can be quite expensive. If, your sofa or chair isn’t of sufficient quality, then no amount of fabric will extend its life. It can be hard to assess the quality of a piece of furniture when it’s covered in textiles. Determining if re-upholstery is a good option (or not) can be quite the design dilemma.

So, how do designers decide which pieces are fit for re-upholstery?  These are a couple of the things that help me decide if re-upholstering a piece is a sound option.

Custom Sofa by Lee Industries

 

The 3 C’s of Re-upholstery:

 

Coils (& cushions). The first thing I do is attempt to assess the quality of the piece. I start by sitting on it. Seems like a no-brainer, but if there’s too much movement in the piece, then it’s probably not structurally stable and should not be re-upholstered. I walk around the piece and wiggle it. Does it move from side to side? Do all the legs sit evenly on the floor? If there’s too much lateral movement or if the legs are loose and don’t sit evenly, it’s probably not a good candidate. I remove any unattached cushions and rub my hand across the back and seat to feel the spring system. If the springs seem high and tight and aren’t sunken, then re-upholstery might be possible. I l will try to lift the piece to see underneath. I also check the quality of the decking, which is usually a neutral or plain piece of canvas or other sturdy material that covers the spring system. This can give an idea of the overall quality and condition of the structures that support the seat.

Then, I will attempt to examine the underside of the seat. This should be covered in a thin neutral colored cloth called a dust cover. If the client is ok with me taking a peek, using a staple remover, I will pull away part of the dust cover and try to get a look at the springs (coils) from the underside. It can be stapled back in place when I am done. If I see eight way hand-tied springs, this is a great sign. If the eight-way hand tied system is in good shape, then re-upholstering is an option. Sinuous springs, not so much, but a lot depends on the age of the sofa and the condition of the springs, though most seating with sinuous springs won’t be a good candidate for re-upholstery.

The last thing I do is look at the quality of the cushions. This can be accomplished by unzipping the cushions and taking a peek. If The cushions can be re-filled, but high quality sofas will often have an inner coil cushion that is kind of like a little mattress. If the cushions are in good shape and can be re-used, then re-upholstering is a safer bet.

Eight-way Hand Tied Springs

 

CustomizationThe question here is can you find the sofa you love in the fabric you want. If you want a fabric that doesn’t come on a sofa you can buy in a store, then re-upholstering is probably a good idea, if you meet the quality criteria. Also, if you had a custom sofa with a shape you loved or that specifically fit an area in your home, like a curved sofa, then re-upholstery might be a good option. This is especially true if the custom sofa is still in great condition.

So what should you do if you want a specific fabric and love the shape and size of your current sofa, but the sofa you want isn’t in great condition? Have a custom replica made. A designer who has access to custom upholstery furniture manufacturers can help you place an order for a high quality sofa that meets your needs.

With Re-upholstery, fabric choices are nearly endless!

 

Cost. If you’re primary reason for re-upholstering a sofa is to save money, you might want to reconsider. It’s not always less expensive to re-upholster. The cost of labor to re-upholster can vary, but it’s pretty consistent among most upholsterers. You can usually expect to spend between $700-1500 for basic re-upholstery labor of a full sized sofa.

If you are re-upholstering a custom sofa that cost $3000+ upon purchase or a cherished heirloom, then re-upholstery will likely be less than buying a new sofa of the same quality and customization. However, a lot depends on the quality, condition, and size of the sofa, and the fabric you select. If any foam needs to be replaced or anything needs to be repaired, the cost will increase. Upholstery fabric can range in cost from $40-50/yard up to $400-500+ per yard. Most sofas require 18-25 yards of fabric, depending on whether the pattern has a print and how large the print is. You could spend thousands of dollars on the print alone. It’s easy to see how those costs can add up, making re-upholstery more a labor of love than a budget friendly option.

In the end, the decision to re-upholster requires a lot of information and careful decision making. What has your experience been with re-upholstering?

If you’re ready to re-decorate a space and want to include re-upholstering a cherished piece of furniture, contact Paradigm Interiors for your complementary Design Plan Consultation (click here).

 

How Much Should I Spend on a Sofa?

How much should I spend on …. a Sofa?

You know the old saying “you get what you pay for?” When it comes to selecting furniture, a truer statement has never been said. Well… to a point. Sure there are some brands in furniture for which you will be paying for the name (I see you Mrs. Hunt). Not that I wouldn’t absolutely advocate a client going all-in and buying a Baker Sofa if they could afford it and wanted it. What I’m saying is that there is a quality tipping point. You can get a well made sofa that will last for years without spending a small fortune.

Sofas, and other upholstered pieces, happen to be a piece of furniture where quality can be all over the map and where “you get what you pay for” really comes into play. Where upholstered furniture differs from case goods (dressers, tables, etc) is that you cannot see the guts of a piece of furniture that is covered in foam, down, and fabric. You have to ask about the quality indicators. So, what are these mysterious qualities?
1. The spring system.
2. The filling.
3. The frame.
4. Bonus: fabric

How do all these quality indicators shake out? This is a quick guide to the cost vs. quality debate.

Super Budget. The lifecycle on this category is very short. You can expect these soft upholster pieces of furniture to look good no more than five years with very light use. Pieces of furniture in this category use lower quality materials including the fabric, filling, and spring systems. In this category you will find retailers such as IKEA, Rooms to Go, Ashley Home Furniture, American Signature. Most families with children will find that these super budget upholstered goods will look worn with six months to one year of heavy repeated use. The frames in these pieces are also made of inferior woods, such as MDF and plywood. Sometimes they even use cardboard to shape the arms. They also are stapled and glued and may not have any other joinery beyond that. This may be an option if you do have young children and you want something inexpensive to get you through the early years. However, if you can afford a high-quality sofa, you can use stain resistant fabric and/or have it recovered when your children are older. You cannot recover a super budget or budget sofa.

Expected investment: sofa: $400-800, sectional- $800-$1500

Ikea Söderhamn Sectional Sofa, $1200 Retail

Budget. Technically, this is where furniture stores like West Elm, Pier One, and even sometimes Pottery Barn would fall. The cost of their upholstered goods is a little bit higher, but the structural quality is not much better than the “super budget” category. You may find better joinery in the frame and the frame may be made of pine, instead of plywood, but overall these have a short life. The spring systems are usually lower gage sinuous springs, meaning that the couch will sink after a short period of time and the foam used in the back and seat cushions will also lose their loft in a year or two. In this category, you may also find some ability to customize the sofa, but it will be fairly limited. You can expect these pieces to last 3 to 5 years, but with heavy use they may look very worn after six months to a year. Expected investment: sofa- $800-2000, sectional- $1500-4000.

Pier 1 Ecru Rolled Arm Sofa, $900

 

Pottery Barn Comfort Slip Covered Sofa, $3000-$4300

Mid-grade. In the mid-grade upholstery you will find a combination of quality.  Most sofas in this category will be semi-custom, though there are some mid-grade manufacturers, like Universal, who offer little to no custom options. You will probably see that these pieces will have better joinery but may have lower quality fillers and lower gauge sinuous spring systems. However, you also may find eight way hand tied spring systems in this category. For instance, The sofa sold at places retailers like Restoration Hardware and Crate and Barrel are made by companies like Lee Industries. They may have eight way hand tied spring systems and higher quality filling in the cushions. This means that this couch can be reupholstered. They may even have a warranty on the cushions and frames. Sofas in the mid-range price point can last anywhere from 10 to 20 years. However, because of the higher-quality spring systems they can be reupholstered and the cushions re-stuffed, and thus, their life can be extended. Expected Investment: sofa- $3000-$5000, sectional- $3500-$8000 depending on fabric selection.

Eight-Way Hand-Tied Springs
Lee Industries 1303-03, retails around $4000 depending on fabric selected

 

Restoration Hardware Maxwell Sectional, $2400-$3800 depending on depth and fabric

 

High-end. How are you and is a category where the highest level of craftsmanship is employed and these are “heirloom” quality pieces. This means that they will last a very, very long time. The foam and batting used in the seat cushions is of the highest quality. They often have a down/feather blend top layer and a spring inner core, like a mattress. They always have eight way hand tied springs, if they are not sleeper style sofas. The frames are crafted with high quality, kiln dried lumber and joinery. They can be fully customizable or “designer”. The prices can vary widely, but typically the expected investment is >$7500.

Holly Hunt Waterloo Sofa

My personal mantra on sofas is invest. I’ve heard people say “…but, my taste might change! Then I’ll be stuck with a sofa that doesn’t work for my new style.” I would invite you to think back to all the previous sofas you’ve owned. Aside from the fabric, were they really all that different? Mine haven’t been. My advice is, if you can afford it, get something with a classic shape that will work with many styles. It’s an item worth saving for. You’ll be able to re-upholster it down the road if it’s of excellent quality.

If  you’re in the market for a new sofa and need some help or looking to redo your living room, schedule your Design Style Consultation with  Paradigm Interiors here!