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Should I reupholster my chair?

With an increasing focus on sustainability and being responsible environmentally, I've noticed an upswing in clients considering reupholstering their chairs rather than buying new. I'm totally onboard with the idea of reupholstering as it allows you to really personalise and reinvigorate that item but there are some things to weigh up as part of the process. I outline these points below:

1) It's costs more than you might expect!

When you take into account the cost of transporting the item(s) to and from the upholsterer AND the time it takes in labor to reupholster a chair, you might be surprised at your quote. And that's before you even look at fabrics! For eg, the price to reupholster a dining chair can start at $300 + freight + fabric and to do a sofa is around $1100. Having said that though, the job is usually beautifully executed and if you've used gorgeous fabrics, you're really creating an heirloom!

2) Freight costs

Transport costs in capital cities can cost a bomb! And if you're transporting a sofa, that's a 2 x man and a truck job, right there at approx $130 - $500 each way (depending on stairs, lifts, parking difficulties etc). The upside is that at least it's local! Most new furniture items are shipped internationally which means it probably clocked up a big carbon footprint on its way here! Of course, if you have some brawny friends or relatives and have access to a truck, you can do this yourself and put the moolah towards the fabric!

3) Costs of fabrics

If you're going to the cost and inconvenience of reupholstering something, don't go cheap on the fabrics. Good quality plain fabrics start at the $40/m mark. A dining chair will need from 1m per chair while a sofa will need at least 5m. If there's a pattern, you will need to allow an additional 20% (at least) of fabric to be able to pattern match. Fabrics prices can go up enormously depending on quality, where it's made, brand names and many other factors. It's quite common for beautiful fabrics to go up to several hundreds of dollars a meter - especially if there's silk in it or it has embroidery. Once you're aware of the potential price of the fabric, you can then focus on choosing something that you absolutely LOVE!!!

4) Know which types of fabric to use

Fabrics are generally broken into those that can be used for drapes (ie curtains) or those used for upholstery. Curtain fabrics are usually not suitable for upholstery because they simply aren't strong enough to take the higher wear and tear typically required for that of a chair. Within the upholstery fabrics, there are those suitable for residential use (ie not heavy use) to commercial (definitely needs to accommodate heavy wear and tear!). In technical terms, those in the industry use a 'rub rate' number with the higher the number indicating a more robust fabric. If it's an occasional chair, you can choose something with a lower rub rate or in other words, a fabric suitable for light or general domestic use.

Also, you shouldn't use embroidered fabrics for seating BUT you could use it for around the back of a chair (or for a scatter cushion!). Any fabric with a loose weave can easily be snagged and damaged should be avoided. Sometimes it's just a matter of common sense.

5) Go crazy

The wonderful wonderful thing about reupholstering something is that there are literally a gazillion different possibilities. From mixing fabrics (plain on the front, pattern around the back) to introducing extra details such as bullion (ie fringing), stud detailing, contrast piping, gimp, buttoning detail and much MUCH more! There's no down side to this point and it is literally one of my most FAVOURITE things to do - to explore these options!

6) Internals matter

Once you've decided on the fabrics and any additional details, then there's the insides - or, fill - to address. Do you want a firm feel or soft? Or a mix? Foams can help achieve a firm feel and a clean line. And in the foam world, there is a range of firmness-es and thickness-es. Soft, sink-y type seats means feathers! If you want your seat cushions to not be too soft (and possibly saggy), then a feather-wrapped-foam situation will be your answer. If you're unsure, just ask your designer or upholsterer for more detail. Or, pop into a designer furniture showroom and test the different options on the floor!

7) The frame

OK, so once the upholsterer strips back the original chair to its frame (aka nudie rudies), it may need repairing. You can also use this opportunity to re stain it, or paint it too. By using a contemporary colour, such as black (maybe in a gloss??), you can give a traditional silhouette a modern twist.

8) Use protection (wink wink nudge nudge!)

Now that you have your drop-dead-gorgeous newly upholstered masterpiece back home, you might want to consider safeguarding it with something like scotch guard. Some new fabrics these days actually have this 'built in' to their fibres, but if they don't, then don't skip this step. There are professional providers that come to your house and do it. Or you can buy a can of scotch guard spray and do it yourself BUT I personally would recommend getting the professionals to do it. You wouldn't want to have spent all this money only to somehow screw up this last step, not would you!!

9) Explore the possibilities.

So, now that you've read this and you're even more keen to take the upholstering leap, it's time to enjoy exploring all the possibilities out there. Of course, Pinterest is the place to go and start searching. This is like a rabbit hole of magical things and if you're like me, I can lose hours in this one app alone! If you're after some great use of colour and unique options, then check out Kit Kemp's work (some of my faves!).

And, if you're getting overwhelmed by allllllllll the options out there and need help, you know who to call! (Me!)

Extra tips

* be careful of dark denim on light fabrics as it can rub onto the seat

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