Clients ask us all the time whether they should reupholster their old furniture or just buy new. The answer to that question depends on several considerations.
- Is the piece sentimental to you? Does it have a story? Perhaps your husband proposed to you on it. Or it belonged to your grandmother and she used to read to you while you both sat on it.
- What is the quality and value of the piece? If the quality is hard to come by these days or very expensive to replace then reupholstery may be the best option. If it was not good quality to begin with, and it has no sentimental value, then replacement is usually better.
- What is its design integrity? Does it still look good after many decades or does it clearly belong in a time of bell bottom jeans and polyester leisure suits? Keep in mind a lot of details can be changed, but there are limits.
Which brings us to the thirty-year-old loveseat. This loveseat has been in our firm since the 1980’s. It was custom made in the 1980’s for a Vassar show house. Then reupholstered in the 1990’s for our partner, Steven Weixler. It lived in Steve’s condo for twenty years, but when he died in 2014, we could not part with it, as it had become a piece of our past and a piece that reminded us of Steve.
So, another partner decided to try to repurpose it for his own home. However, it was a very traditional loveseat with rolled arms, a rolled back and a full fall skirt. In its original configuration, it had loose back cushions and a fringe. That had already been changed to a tight back and skirt. But for his new configuration the partner wanted more contemporary, so we changed the arms, changed the back, changed the feet, changed the seat cushion and reupholstered the entire piece. The result is a contemporary clean lined loveseat that looks nothing like the original. We still know what it is and where it came from, so the sentiment has not been lost. But now it’s ready to relive a life for another twenty or thirty years, and then who knows what. Maybe we’ll retire it at that point.
The bottom line is consider the three points above when deciding what to reupholster and what to pass on. Your fabric costs won’t change much for new versus old so you must compare buying new versus the labor costs to remake the old and that ca be very comparable. That’s when quality can be the deciding factor, especially if the old is so much better than what you can buy new. Of course, your emotions aren’t rational. If you really have a deep attachment to something, all the rest does not matter. Go with it. After all you can’t replace memories of grandma.