Over a year ago I scored a pair of these vintage Milo Baughman -esque lounge chairs.
My plan was to have them re-upholstered…but then life got in the way.
Every time I put money aside to have them done, a kid would need money for basketball camp or for breaking his leg and need an $800. boot. Oye.
If you’ve ever received an estimate to have a piece reupholstered, it ain’t cheap (neither is a boot for a broken foot).
You may remember this $15.00 yard sale wingback chair…
I had it re-upholstered and it turned out great in our master bedroom.
Just to have the re-upholstery done was $500. not including the fabric which I bought myself for about $75. For that amount of money you could buy a brand new chair. It’s a romantic notion to think you’re saving a piece of furniture from the land-fill but with those kind of costs it’s sometimes hard to be vigilant about that cause.
So when is reupholstering a piece worth it? Here’s a few of my tips:
First ask…is the structure of the chair good? Does it have good bones? That’s sometimes hard to know unless you look at what’s underneath the upholstery but there are some clues that will help you determine its quality. Furniture these days is built as light as possible to save money on construction costs and to minimize shipping fees. As a result the pieces aren’t as quality as they used to be. If you ever tried to lift a cute, trendy chair from your favorite big box store you may notice it’s quite light. And if you sit on it, it’s really not that comfortable either. You get what you pay for. Those might not be the best candidates for re-upholstery. Older pieces were typically built to last and will hold up well through a new upholstery job. If you determine your piece is a good option for upholstery AND you have the money to do it then the next step is finding a good upholsterer.
I have some good contacts in Tucson but not in Salt Lake City. I decided to try my luck and see if I could find any recommendations on my favorite online site for finding home improvement pros…HomeAdvisor.
If you’re not familiar with HomeAdvisor, it’s a free site that will match you to a home improvement pro based on your criteria and area. Plus they have really honest reviews you can read before you hire. I’ve used the site for typical home improvement tasks like carpentry and electrical needs but never for an upholsterer. I typed in my city and what I was looking for then out popped Laura, who was an interior designer who sub-subcontracts her upholsterer.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that HomeAdvisor had interior designers on the site who could help with design and upholstery.
After having gone through the process of hiring an upholsterer several times now here’s what I have learned about having a smooth experience.
The best advice is getting a good recommendation or read reviews thoroughly. When you find a potential match for an upholsterer there are some boxes to check before you hire them. I typically treat the interview process as if I’m hiring a sub-contractor.
#1. Can you afford them?
#2. Do they have references or a portfolio of past work?
#3. Do they insure their work and for how long? If their work falls apart down the road with normal wear, will they fix it?
#4. Make sure they are clear on your vision for the piece. I always give them pictures as examples of what I want AS WELL AS pictures of what I DON’T want.
#5. What is their turn-around time? What can be expected if they don’t finish the job by that date? Believe it or not, many upholsterers keep “contractor-standard-time” which means, they’ll get around to your job when they’re good and ready. I hate to lump them in to THAT category but in all honesty, many of the ones I’ve worked will make promises they just can’t keep and I end up changing my whole schedule around from them just to have them not show up.
#6. If the job doesn’t result in the expectations you and they agreed upon, what is their policy?
#7. DO NOT pay the full amount up front. 1/2 down is a fair expectation for them to get started and pay for the fabric but giving them anything more, there is suddenly no incentive or priority for them to get your job done.
#8. Ask them if they will be re-using your existing cushions or replacing them. Many upholsterers re-use your existing cushions and re-wrap them with Dacron (a polyester fiber that goes on the outside of the cushion). When I had my sofa reupholstered they reused my cushions but I thought they were going to replace them. When I questioned them about after the fact I was shocked to find out how much it would have cost to have them replaced (crazy expensive). Not only that, there are several options for cushions and fills. Morale of the story, make sure to inquire up front.
Back to Laura, who I found on HomeAdvisor. I was quite surprised by her price which was around $275. per chair. Because I provided my own fabric the price was lower.
Being as how these chairs are classics, I’ve seen them sell for upwards of $2500. per chair on sites like One Kings Lane. $275. felt like a deal.
Here’s the before and after:
When the chairs first came back they looked great. However…
The bottom cushion was much too thick and my feet barely touched the ground. The beauty of the these chairs is that they are for lounging. You should sink in to them and your arm should rest nicely on the rest. I tried hard to get used to it and hoped that over time our fannies would break the cushions in but after a few days I just couldn’t take it. I called Laura and she came over and got them right away. No guilt trip, no feeling of an over-the-phone eye roll. She was totally understanding.
She took them back and had a smaller cushion put in which fits the style of the chair much better.
I’m really pleased with the chairs now and even more pleased I was able to find a good fit on HomeAdvisor and didn’t have to pay a fortune.
To learn more about HomeAdvisor visit their site here.
They also have a fabulous YouTube channel that has a whole library of tutorials and quick tips (staring yours truly).
You can also keep updated through Facebook and Twitter.
Other projects I’ve done with the help of HomeAdvisor:
Floating Corner Shelves.
How to repair cracked grout.
How to install a plank wall.
A big thank you to HomeAdvisor for partnering with me and sponsoring this post.