To reupholster or not?

Interior designers reveal trade secrets to help you decide!

home design, Reupholstering, design tips, Elizabeth Strianese Interiors, Decorating Den Interiors

Should you reupholster your old sofa?

Should you reupholster grandpa’s old easy chair? How about getting some snazzy new fabric to update your ten-year-old sofa? Reupholstering a large piece of furniture can be an expensive gamble.

How do you determine if the investment is worth it? To eliminate some of the risk, we spoke with two Hudson Valley interior designers and got them to give up their top reupholstery do’s and don’ts.

When talking about upholstered furniture, clients will often ask me, ‘Should I just go buy a new sofa or should I reupholster something I already have?’” says Liz Strianese of Elizabeth Strianese Interiors in Beacon. She is not a big fan of today’s upholstered furniture, unless it’s a custom piece made by an upholsterer who’s going to use quality wood construction in the frame, and quality goose down and foam mixture in the padding, she says a vintage piece of upholstered furniture can be the better way to go. She stresses you have to look for quality, well-made pieces.


“I would check the foam to see what is in the seating, in the loose cushions, the back cushions. Do they have goose down in them? Just unzip it. Look and see what’s inside. If it’s goose down, it’s probably a really well made piece of furniture. And for my money I would absolutely buy a $200 sofa that has goose down in it and pay the $800 plus the fabric to have it reupholstered, rather than go buy a thousand dollar piece of furniture that’s being made today that probably has all foam, probably not a well-cured wooden frame inside and probably not made with the same craftsmanship that you find in something that was made fifty years ago.

A different look


There are two, possibly three, scenarios where Sharon Hibbard of Decorating Den Interiors will recommend reupholstery over buying new. First, if the piece has sentimental value. “That can mean an antique or just an ordinary couch highly valued because it was passed down from grandma,” she says. Second, if it’s extremely comfortable—think Archie Bunker’s easy chair. “If those are your reasons, it may make sense. If you are just looking to update the fabric, reupholstering can cost up to ¾ the price of a new sofa,” and may not be worth doing, says Hibbard. “Even an inexpensive upholstery grade fabric is $25 a yard, and for a sofa you will need 15-20 yards.” Nine times out of ten, when the reupholsterer opens up the piece, they will insist on replacing the worn-out or compressed cushion cores, and foam and down are not cheap. And that’s all before labor costs.


There is one other situation where she will advise reupholstering, and that is if a client has found a stunning fabric. Although there is the custom option when you work with an interior designer, “Walking into a furniture store, you only have a few fabric options in most cases.” In this instance, to get the look you want, reupholstering may be the answer. “It all comes down to the client’s perceived value of the piece,” says Hibbard.