Bluffs Advocate

Reduce, Reuse, Reupholster

Is reupholstering your furniture worth it?

By Robert Parise

           Ask anyone in the custom upholstery business and they will tell you they have been asked that question more than any other. Indeed, it seems like a dying trade in our disposable society. The furniture market, like so many others, has gone through a huge transformation in the last decade. More pieces are brought in from overseas than ever before and this trend will likely continue. So how can a small upholstery shop compete with these large, bulk-buy retail monsters? And why choose to reupholster anyways?
           There are several reasons to consider reupholstering furniture. Some of the more obvious factors such as loving the piece for sentimental reasons or wanting to keep the sofa that is too comfortable to throw out make reupholstering an easy choice. Other factors to consider include recycling furniture creates less garbage in our dumps, there is an abundance of fabrics to choose, and sometimes a particular piece is proportioned just right for a room. The value conscious consumer may also benefit.
           In most cases, it is less costly to reupholster a good quality piece of furniture than to purchase a new piece of similar quality. The question then becomes - how do you know if you have a good quality piece? The answer is simple. Educate yourself. Before purchasing new, conduct a furniture analysis and you might be surprised to find out the greatest overall value is already sitting in your living room.
           Quality pieces of furniture begin with the inside which includes the frame and spring work. Those act as your skeleton. Better quality brands use nothing but hard woods like maple. Corner joints are dowelled together and reinforced with corner blocks. Springs, whether coil or sinuous style, are tied and fastened properly. As a general rule, older North American made sets were made to last. If you have used a sofa regularly for decades and everything is still in tact, it must have been well made to begin with. Some great Canadian made brands include Barrymore, Cooper Bros., and Redpath. If you are uncertain, contact a local upholstery shop to help you with your analysis. Sending a digital picture via the internet can also be helpful. While it may be difficult to fully analyze a piece through a picture, the upholsterer can at least give you an idea of the costs involved. If it is decided the piece may be worth it, the next step is to choose an upholsterer.
           Unlike other trades such as plumbers and electricians, there are no certifications when it comes to upholstery. It takes many years to become a true upholsterer capable of working on a variety of pieces including antique and modern styles. Word of mouth is most likely the best way to select an upholsterer. Questions should be answered and the process explained. Be wary of quotes that seem too good to be true, overly aggressive sale representatives, or of quotes that seem exaggerated. Asking for references and visiting the production site is also a good idea. It is a buyer beware situation so doing your due diligence beforehand can save much aggravation after the deal is made.
           As an upholsterer, I think it would be great to say that reupholstery is always worth it. Indeed, there are times when it makes sense for many reasons. However, it may not be practical in certain situations. Educating yourself, conducting an analysis, and choosing the right upholster plays a part in ensuring you get the best value when deciding if it is worth refurbishing your furniture.

Robert Parise is a reupholstery expert at Scarboro Interiors Inc. 416-693-1603.