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Upholstery 101

Uphol­sterers to give us the low-down on furniture makeovers

(page 2 of 2)

Anatomy Lesson: Ever wonder what your furniture is made of?

Roll over the buttons to find out.


Alternatives for breathing new life into old furniture

Slipcovers: “Slipcovers are great for three reasons. You can change home decor for the season; if you have kids or they get dirty, you can throw them in the wash; and if you’re not ready to reupholster, they are a transitional way to spruce up a piece—slipcovers cost about half the price of a re-cover. Tailored and tight is very popular; we can also do slightly loose, or full-blown shabby-chic. Bring the piece in, or we’ll pick it up—this is important for a good fit.” Jimenez prefers to work with pre-washed 100 percent cotton (“it doesn’t pucker,” he says), but if you like the look of linen, yet fear wrinkles, all hope is not lost. “A linen/cotton blend is better than all-linen, and there are different weights—stiffer is better, but some are impossible to upholster with,” he says. “Thinner linens could be knit-backed.”

Color: “There’s not a heavy color trend right now, like that tired chocolate brown/baby blue thing. But we are seeing a lot of vibrant, saturated colors, and people are not so afraid to experiment with them. Take a look at a West Elm or Design Within Reach catalog these days and you’ll see bright colors of furniture popping against dark backgrounds—a far cry from the tone-on-tone, beigey pages that were dominant five years ago. It’s hard to even find a true black upholstery fabric because it’s not selling. And everyone is done with brown.”

Indoor/Outdoor Fabrics: “Fabrics developed for commercial use in restaurants or hotels have come a long way, and are terrific for residential spaces such as sunrooms, pool areas, and any indoor area that gets heavy usage. There are new products that are durable yet pleasant in texture and great looking, not at all scratchy or feeling like canvas. You can even get indoor/outdoor chenilles—expensive, but so beautiful.”

Green: “Sustainable, eco-friendly fabrics started being used in the commercial and hospitality industries simply because they use more volume, but they’re slowly creeping into residential usage. I think people are realizing that reupholstery is intrinsically green because it means reusing furniture rather than trading it in for new. They are buying quality pieces and taking care of them, with the idea that they can be around for generations. It’s more bang for the buck anyway, in  the long run.” Slipcovers will get you more mileage, with less commitment

Add-ons: “Decorative touches like tassels, nail heads, and braided cording are popular ways to individualize furniture, as long as they are used with restraint. We make our piping individually, so seams can be edged with a contrasting fabric, and if one section gets worn it can be easily replaced. We can do a French welting, which is puffy and sewn by hand, attached to loose cushions. Be careful with piping, though, as you don’t necessarily want to visually frame out a whole sofa.”


Photography: Katrina Wittkamp


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