Reupholstering Furniture is Pretty Darn Easy

Reupholstering furniture | Mid-century modern meets boho | Girlfriend is Better
Photo courtesy: Adored Vintage

Upcycling makes any piece of furniture more valuable depending on the materials you use. The more time and attention you give your vintage find, the better.  Give any chair a little bit of TLC and a pinch of creativity to instantly transform it!  Reupholstering furniture gives each piece an extra dose of sentimental value, too.  Take a sturdy chair and add an unusual fabric to add your own personal touch.  The end result is a labor of love you may never want to part with.

Reupholstering a chair? Check out our how-to guide | Girlfriend is Better
Photo courtesy: Homelife
Reupholstering mid-century modern chairs | Girlfriend is Better
Photo courtesy: Skinny laMinx

Reupholstering is Like Furniture Magic

Reupholstering generally involves taking the furniture apart to some degree, so be careful. As long as your furniture piece has simple lines, reupholstering is easier than you might think. First, remove the fabric portion. Next, use the shape of the seat to add new foam. Finally, cover with new fabric and fasten the bottom. Pretty quick and easy. After you get the hang of it, your eye will become more trained as you scope out your next upcycling furniture find.

Reupholstering furniture | Vintage Wing Back Chair Tufted Pendleton Hudsons Bay Blanket | Girlfriend is Better
Photo courtesy: PopScreen

DIY Articles + Videos

Here is a quick list of some of my favorite DIY articles and videos on reupholstering furniture. These are pretty easy to follow and give great step-by-step instructions with images. Give them a read and then apply the techniques to that boring chair in the corner!

  1. Mid Century Modern Chair Restoration | article | House of Hawthorne
  2. Learning New Skills (Adventures in Upholstery) | article | A Beautiful Mess
  3. A Mid-Century Chair Makeover Using Chalk Paint | article | Havven
  4. How to Reupholster a Chair Seat | video | Martha Stewart
  5. How to Reupholster a Dining Chair | video | This Old House
Reupholstering furniture | Reupholstering DIY articles + videos | Girlfriend is Better
Photo courtesy: Bel Ordinaire
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Play With Different Fabrics

Adding barkcloth or similar fabric adds to the cost of your cheap-o chair, but that’s part of the secret.  Using unique fabric when upcycling furniture easily raises its value. Try mixing prints and textures. Add velvet to leather or stripes with florals. The better your fabric choice, the higher the value of the finished item will be.

Reupholstering furniture | Use blankets as fabric | Girlfriend is Better
Photo courtesy: Retro Den

Best Fabrics Online

My favorite fabrics range from barkcloth to velvet. I love, love, love seeing chairs and throw pillows done in blanket fabric. I don’t know what it is. Just something unusual and it works! Here is a quick list of some of the best fabric companies to get you going.

  1. Skinny laMinx | fabric | sale | Based in Cape Town South Africa, their mid-century modern prints have a dose of African chic
  2. Hudson’s Bay | blankets | Wool blankets with an excellent reputation for quality and durability
  3. Pendleton | blankets | Wool blankets in gorgeous camping stripes or American Indian-inspired prints
  4. Gunn & Swain | blankets | Mexican Blankets designed in San Diego and handmade in Mexico
  5. Diamondhead Fabrics | fabric | Gorgeous floral and leaf prints if you’re going for the tropical glam look
  6. Cloud9 Fabrics | barkcloth | where to buy | Here is your one-stop-shop for barkcloth in retro patterns
Reupholstering furniture | Mid-century modern dining chairs | Girlfriend is Better
Photo courtesy: sfgirlbybay

Use a Professional for the Big Stuff

The DIY articles are for simpler pieces, such as dining chairs and arm chairs. For larger pieces, such as sofas, or more complicated chairs, please use a professional! The idea is to add to the value of your furniture, not take away from it! The best thing about collecting vintage furniture is that proper care and handling just improves its value. Save yourself the trouble of the tricky stuff and find that special fabric that will make it yours. Investing in the proper reupholstering of the piece is always a wise decision.

Reupholstering furniture | Mix fabric patterns or textures | Girlfriend is Better
Photo courtesy: Trendland

How to Choose an Upholsterer

I’d love to promote an upholsterer here, but unless you live in San Diego, it would do you no good! Instead, I’ve compiled a few handy tips you can use when selecting a professional in your area. Arm yourself with the right information before you hire someone. Learn what is expected as a professional courtesy and what costs need to be discussed in advance.

  1. Frame Repair: Most upholsterers will do small repairs as a courtesy. Make sure you know the cost of larger repairs in advance.
  2. Spring Tying/ Replacement: Good upholsterers will automatically take care of the springs. Double-check for any additional cost on this.
  3. Cushions: Look at the seat height of the other furniture in your room. Make sure to choose cushions that will be the right thickness and density to match.
  4. Fabric + Pattern: Make sure you discuss how the fabric pattern should line up when the piece is finished.
  5. Finishing: There are lots of ways to finish arm panels, etc. so make sure to have photos of examples.
  6. Cording: Look into the different styles of cording and decide where you want it. Researching little details like this makes communication and decision-making easier.
  7. Sides and Backs: Before attaching the outside fabric panels, there should be a base fabric that closes the hollows of the frame. Without this fabric, your chair will look hollow and flat.
Reupholstering furniture | Eames lounge chair | Girlfriend is Better
Photo courtesy: Alison Grieveson

As Always, Creativity is Key!

If you’re a beginner, start off slow and pick a dining chair and follow a DIY. Be fearless with fabric and go ahead and mix-and-match! Make your dining area fun and funky. If your sewing skills are on point, find a mid-century modern style chair with a solid frame. Makeover the cushions and give your living room a little style. Finally, if you’re doing a crazy wing-back chair or any type of sofa, please follow our guide when hiring a professional. Have fun with fabric and let us know what you’re up to below!

4 thoughts on “Reupholstering Furniture is Pretty Darn Easy

  1. I remember my mom reupholstering a worn out living room arm chair. I was probably 8 or 10 years old at the time. It personalized that chair and made it special. Today it sits in our great room and sitting in it brings nostalgia and pleasant memories.

  2. Hey! Just reading this older article on eames restoration and reupholstery. I do live in San Diego! Can you recommend a reupholstery place here to help do the work? And if you know a place to source beautiful leathers from, let me know too!

    1. Hi Molly! We’ve heard great things about Rigo’s Upholstry in San Diego. Not sure about sourcing leathers. If you are successful, please share!

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