Reupholstering a piece of furniture can give new life to an old piece that has a great shape, changing the feeling of your whole room. Thinking about updating upholstery opens up your options when you are shopping for home furnishings. When you are considering reupholstering furniture, evaluate the quality of your piece's basic structure as well as whether you have the ability to do the job yourself, or if it would be better to hire a professional. Then take a "before" picture of your furniture from the front, back and sides and bring it with you to the fabric store to evaluate your options.
To evaluate whether it is a DIY job or whether it needs professional help. You must consider a few things. If the piece require extensive sewing skills (such as a wingback chair or a sectional couch), then it's a great project for a sewer who wants to build on an existing skill set, but it is probably not the right job for someone who has not dusted off his old machine for a decade. If you have the sewing skills the project requires, consider whether you have the time to invest in the project. Measuring, cutting and fitting fabric so that it looks smooth and professional requires an investment of attention that may or may not be practical for you right now. It might be worth it to you to spend a little additional money to hire someone else to do the labor, while you focus on the fun part -- picking new fabric.
Reupholstering a large piece can be expensive, even if you do it yourself. Factors to consider before spending the money include: Is the piece well-built enough to endure extensive future use? Is the shape and feel of the piece rare enough to warrant salvaging this particular item rather than shopping for a new one? Does it have sentimental value -- such as an old family heirloom, that you want to keep, but would not otherwise use? There are many good reasons to go ahead with an expensive reupholstery job. However, if you simply don't like the look of an old couch you inherited with your apartment and are biding time until you can get rid of it and buy one you love, don't reupholster -- just throw a few beautiful textiles over it, tuck them in and work on building up your couch-savings account.
When you decide to reupholster, you need to select a fabric. An accent chair in a rarely used guest bedroom might look great with a light-colored fabric or showcasing a beautiful needlepoint design. That same upholstery could quickly become ruined if it is in a high-traffic area such as a dining room in a home with children. A couch in a living room where the whole family practically lives demands a resilient, sturdy fabric that resists or masks stains. Try dark woven tapestry-style fabrics, canvas, real or synthetic leathers, ultra-suede or synthetic blends. Most of the best options are grouped together in the upholstery section of a fabric store. On the other hand, a small antique love seat with a tufted back and hand-carved wooden legs that you are using as a bedroom accent might not see a lot of use, and would look silly in a contemporary rough-and-tumble fabric. Stick with silk or cotton velvets for special pieces like this, and consider getting the job done by a professional who specializes in detail-oriented refurbishing of historical furniture.
Once you have determined how sturdy and how washable your fabric needs to be, investigate style options. For children's bedrooms, any number of bright, bold prints can make the room feel happy and playful. Big white polka dots on kelly green cotton canvas make an adorable child's overstuffed armchair; swirls and twirls in pinks and reds are ideal for recovering a little girl's bean bag. In living rooms, see if you can bring home swatches of the fabrics that catch your eye in the store, and place them on the piece you want to recover to see how they look in your lighting conditions at different times of day or night. Dining room chairs with a formal feeling can look great in stiff, heavy dark cotton velvets. Casual dining chairs for a breakfast nook or sunny open plan can pop in bright cotton canvas prints, stripes, or solids.
If you are recovering a whole set of living room, dining room or bedroom furniture, consider using several different fabrics to make a personalized space rather than a super-"matchy" room. Find related fabrics grouped together in the upholstery section, then use your creativity to go outside of that zone and combine colors that strike you as exciting. A yellow, black and cream plaid couch in a room with sage green walls and cornflower blue curtains can look fantastic. Recovering the armchair in its set with hot fuchsia ultra-suede makes the room suddenly feel modern. Mixing textures is also key: a long, narrow red velvet couch looks great in a small sitting room when it is paired with a small, faux-rabbit-fur upholstered side chair, matching leather armchairs and several chrome tables. The key with mixing colors and patterns when you reupholster the furniture in one room is to choose fabric weights that seem to match. For instance, combining springlike pastel colors with tiny floral patterns on summery canvas with saturated embossed velvets can make the room feel confused.
If you absolutely love fabric colors and styles that clash with your current walls and flooring, don't reject the fabric, re-do your walls and flooring. Reupholstering furniture is supposed to breathe new life into a space. Let it dictate the tone of your new room and give you a fresh start.