Re-Covering The Old Pieces

rcopWhether you’re incorporating a hand-me-down sofa into your living room or simply sprucing up outdated upholstery, re-covering furniture in complementary fabrics can transform mismatched parts into stylish wholes, says Jason Roberts of Portland’s MCM League. Reasons to consider refurbishing old pieces are construction (it’s better to update sturdy antique and vintage furniture than replace them with lesser-quality pieces), design (the look of a favorite armchair may prove difficult to find again), and COST (new covers are generally priced far lower than new furniture). To make your decision just a little easier, we tried three options on the sofa and armchair above–reupholstery, custom slipcovers, and Sure Fit slipcovers.


UPHOLSTERY Reupholstering a chair or sofa involves a certain investment of time and money. Your furniture will be in the workshop at least one to two weeks. The whole process can take upwards of six to eight weeks, factoring in reviewing samples and fabric delivery. Depending on the size and form of the piece to be covered, reupholstery can cost about $400 to $800 for an armchair and $1,000 to $2,000 for a sofa, not including the price of the fabric.

CUSTOM SLIPCOVERS In terms of cost and the amount of time it takes, crafting custom-fitted slipcovers approximates upholstery. But if you select a company that sends a craftsperson to your home to take measurements and make fabric cuts, you can keep your furniture while the covers are being constructed at the workshop.

SURE FIT SLIPCOVERS Available through the mail and at home design stores around the country, Sure Fit slipcovers are the quickest and least-expensive option of the three. Depending on the type of fabric and style of cover, prices range from about $50 to $80 for armchairs and about $100 to $200 for sofas.


To reupholster furniture, existing fabric is stripped off the frame and new fabric is draped and molded In its place. (If a frame needs to be tightened or cushions restuffed or pads replaced before new fabric is applied, the overall cost will rise.) The resulting reworking conforms to every curve, making this a natural choice for formal Interiors or for furniture with especially graceful forms. For our sofa and armchair, we opted for tactile fabrics in warm caramel tones. A soft mohair blend covers the body of the sofa; in place of the two original seat cushions, we selected one long cushion and covered it with cut velvet in a complementary shade. (A coordinating cut-velvet pillow rests on the armchair.) Velvet trim on the cushions enhances the armchair’s herringbone fabric. Details like the sofa’s fringe and the chair’s exposed nailheads add extra texture.

Custom orders

Custom slipcovers follow the contours of your furniture, resulting in a look that is tailored but a bit looser and more casual than upholstery. Because slipcovers can be removed for cleaning, they are ideal for households with young children or pets. They are also a good bet for beach houses or weekend homes, where sand and dirt are often inadvertently carried indoors. Depending on your fabric choice, custom slipcovers can be machine washable or more suitable for dry cleaning (canvas versus silk, for instance); analyze your household’s particular needs before making your final decision. For this project, we chose neutral fabrics in an array of textures: For the body of the sofa, we used an off-white metelasse. Brown-and-white ticking covers the cushion–a fun twist on a traditional look. Cream damask swathes the armchair.


ASSESS YOUR ROOM to determine which re-covering approach and which fabric patterns would be best for you. Questions to ask yourself: What decorating style do you prefer? (Laid-back country? More modern?) What is the room usually used for? (Formal entertaining? Family TV nights?) What size is the room? (Bright colors and bold graphics can be overpowering, while light hues visually expand small spaces.)

ASSESS YOUR LIFESTYLE. As important as the design details of your home are the everyday details about how you live. Do toddlers and four-footed friends enjoy free rein in your home? Or are young children and pets infrequent guests? Likewise, do the rules in your house mandate that shoes be removed at the door or can feet–shoes and all–rest on the furniture?

CARRY SWATCHES of drapery, paint color, or carpeting with you to the fabric store to help you find the best matches. Snapshots of the room can be helpful as well. Bring home swatches of the patterns you’re considering and lay them over the furniture to get an idea of how they will look with other pieces in the room. See how sunlight and indirect light affect the colors at differing times of the day.

Ready made

Sure Fit slipcovers are designed to drape over a variety of sofa and chair styles; elastic and fabric ties allow you to conform them to your furniture. This option is a good choice for anyone wanting to give a room a quick change with minimal fuss and expense. You might also keep a set of covers on hand for holidays (luxurious velvet or damask, perhaps) or a more casual selection for summer (like cotton twill). We chose rugged denim for the sofa and washable suede for the armchair. The chair’s low, English-style arms were padded with foam batting for a better fit

4 thoughts on “Re-Covering The Old Pieces

  1. This was a great article. The art of re-doing classic pieces of furniture has been a major hobby for me for a while. I thank you for this article, mainly because there isn’t much insight on the web about this time honored tradition. I wish there were more sites like yours out there!


  2. I will not replace my upholstery for anything else. It is old but it has a certain appeal that no other brand new sofa can exude. It looks classy and very unique. Visitors cannot help but give praises whenever they see it.

  3. I would like to have my sofa reupholstered. I want to try on a different shade. I actually made plans about it a few months ago but I did not know how to start. I appreciate the pointers.

  4. When it comes to fixtures and furniture, I am a bit picky. I go for the old pieces. For some reasons, old ones seem more sturdy. The aesthetic is simple yet very classy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *