Perhaps the best part of custom upholstery is the “custom.” And whether you’re a do-it-yourselfer like I am, or a “custom”er, there are five important ingredients that make a delectable recipe for the perfect custom piece.
1. The Frame
Have you had your eye on Grandma’s sofa or a flea-market bargain? Before you inherit or invest, do the furniture lemon check. If the piece has exposed wood, check to make sure there aren’t missing pieces you can’t live without. When you pick it up, the piece should feel fairly heavy, and the joints should be tight, not loosey goosey.
Now put on your X-Ray goggles, and look through the nasty fabric and dirt. Do you see the silhouette you’re looking for? If it has good bones, issues with length, height and even styling can be remedied. I’ve replaced legs to make chairs taller and even cut sofas down by 20+” to accommodate the needs of the client.
2. Padding and Comfort
Certain components of a piece of furniture can greatly contribute to its comfort. When considering a piece for upholstery, place your hand under the seat. If you feel a solid layer on the bottom plane or see round metal objects, you have coil springs. Although time consuming to retie, coils compress and flex to support the weight of the body, making for a much more comfortable seat.
And since you are “custom”izing your piece, choose a foam density that is right for you. Just as mattresses come in firmer and softer varieties, so does foam. Want the pillow top version for a seat? Consider a down wrap to give an extra layer of cushiness.
And now for the part we all love…fabric! Although design plays the biggest role in what we choose, durability is also an admirable quality. When determining how long fabric will last, check out the double rub count. Anything with 30,000 double rubs or more should hold up to the activities of a high traffic household.
Are you on a shoestring budget but in love with designer fabrics you can’t afford? Search for vintage fabric, curtains, or even tablecloths online. Some of the most amazing fabrics I’ve used were unearthed from the depths of eBay and Etsy.
4. The Upholsterer
When learning the skills of upholstery, it’s best to take a class from a professional. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and frustration by taking advantage of the tricks others have figured out the hard way. If you’re headstrong and up for the challenge, I say, “Go for it!” Take plenty of photos and notes along the way to reference as you’re putting things back together.
If you’ve decided to leave the heavy lifting to someone else, take recommendations or look online for reviews and photos of past work. Ask questions, and know what to ask for. The styling of a piece can be changed beyond recognition, but you may need to know exactly what you want, as many times it may not be offered as an option. Did you know you can remove or add skirts, change the number of cushions on a piece, remove or add buttons, pleating, cording, and decorative tacking? The list goes on and on. If you don’t like it, change it!
5. Upkeep and Care
After you’ve spent so much time creating the perfect piece, make sure you take the necessary steps to give it a long life. If you have furry friends like me, you know that they can wreak havoc on upholstered furniture. As you can imagine, I’m regularly introducing new furniture to Bonnie and Clyde. To keep their PAWS OFF, I attach clear packing tape to the edges and surfaces they like the most. After a few rounds of getting their claws stuck in the tape, they lose interest.
We always think of animals and kids as the number one furniture enemies; however, Mother Nature can be just as treacherous. Be careful when placing furniture near windows. UV rays and the heat of the sun can fade and ruin fabrics very quickly. Tint windows or apply a coat of UV spray to fabrics to keep those beautiful hues bright.
And just as a car needs its tires rotated, rotate your cushions to keep them evenly worn and comfy.
Don’t forget to stay tuned for more Restyling 101. We’ll be here all week!