Your Guide to Professional and DIY Upholstery

By: Kristen Sanchioni

It’s likely that you have a piece or two of sentimental furniture in your home – maybe it was passed down from family, maybe you picked it up at a flea market. Maybe it’s from your old dorm room and you just can’t let it go. Whatever the case, your vintage couch or armchair has probably seen its day – frayed edges, thin fabric, and even out of style. However, if you have a well-built item or one with special sentimental value, re-upholstering is a worthwhile investment. 

Upholstering furniture is a job that requires skill and patience. Knowing when to tackle the project on your own and when to hire a professional is crucial to ensure you love your finished product. 

Try Your Hand

Maybe you’ve found a lovely piece at a thrift store or perhaps you have an old hand-me-down that needs an upgrade. Refurbishing furniture is a wonderful, environmentally-friendly way to bring new life into worn, faded items, especially when those pieces have quality materials and craftsmanship. Bear in mind that do-it-yourself upholstering requires time, effort, and basic sewing skills. If you want to tackle the project on your own, assess your budget and skill level. 

Some furniture is easier to reupholster than others. If you’re a newbie to the world of upholstery, choose your project carefully! One rule of thumb for beginners is to focus on pieces with straight lines. A simple, hardbacked chair with a removable fabric seat is a good place to start. Similarly, a fabric ottoman, bench, or footstool can be completely transformed in an afternoon without much more than fabric, a screwdriver, and a staple gun. 

With some basic sewing skills, recovering a worn fabric headboard or making a slipcover for a chair can be a weekend project. Avoid thick fabric which can be difficult to fold, sew, and lay flat. Pieces with foam and padding can often disintegrate, breed mold, and lose their shape. It’s worth replacing for comfort and longevity. 

If reupholstering furniture is something you enjoy and want to do more of, consider enrolling in a local upholstery class to expand your skillset.

The Finishing Touch

When is it time to call the professionals? If you’ve inherited a beautiful chair from a family member but the cushions are worn and the fabric is ripped, is it worth reupholstering rather than just buying a new item? It really comes down to quality and memorability. 

Custom reupholstering is a labour-intensive art form that takes years of training and practice. Investing in a professional service to reupholster your furniture is worthwhile if the piece has sentimental value and good bones. A new piece might cost less, but the quality won’t be comparable. 

“The benefit of a professional is, of course, the fact that your finished project looks beautifully and skillfully done,” says Tori Brock from Fairhome Interiors in Burlington. From choosing the types of fabric that will work best with your piece to envisioning the finished product, their team walks clients through the process. “We gently guide you with help choosing a fabric that is appropriate for the piece’s purpose and your lifestyle,” she notes. “We then take your furniture and our upholsterer masterfully and magically transforms your piece to look like new!”

Still think you can tackle Grandpa’s special chair? “A botched DIY project is often how we get new clients!” laughs Tori. “It isn’t as easy as Pinterest makes it look.” She explains that fully reupholstering requires removing old fabric and cushioning if necessary, fixing any flaws, possibly changing the style, restuffing, and applying new textile and decorative features. Professionals have the tools and skills necessary to do this without damaging the piece. Furniture, especially vintage, left in untrained hands can be permanently ruined.

Choosing to DIY on a memorable piece will likely leave you feeling as though you’ve overextended yourself and risks the finished product looking sloppy. Opting to work with a professional will result in a stunning piece, that upholds the quality of the item for years to come.

Local Links

Fairhome Interiors, Burlington

Andersons Interiors, Burlington

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