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Upholstery Basics

Is your sofa looking worn and tired? Or maybe it just doesn’t fit in with your new color scheme? Is that garage sale chair you picked up for $15 just sitting there…unused, untouched, unloved? Perhaps you just don’t know where to begin.

As with any decorating project, you begin with a vision and a plan. You need a clear idea of how you want your furniture to look. Start by taking a good look at your furniture and your décor, and make some decisions. The answers to the following questions will help you choose well.

ARE YOU DECORATING OR REDECORATING?

Are you creating a whole new ambiance or just changing one or two pieces? Will you be integrating your reupholstery with a new or existing décor? Is the piece key to the scheme or does it take its cue from other elements in the room?

WHAT ABOUT STYLE AND AMBIANCE?

What style is the furniture you plan to redo? What kind and how much of a statement should your new cover make: Quiet? Tailored? Casual? Have you considered the trims as well as the fabric? Is the piece in everyday use, reserved for entertaining, or more decorative than functional?

WHAT SHAPE IS YOUR FURNITURE IN?

Does it simply need a new cover or will the reupholstery require structural repairs? This is an important question because substantial repairs make the job much more difficult and possibly more expensive.

IS THE FURNITURE WORTH THE INVESTMENT IN TIME AND MONEY?

Reupholstery can be expensive and new upholstery won’t transform a piece of moderate quality into one of great value.

CHOOSING FABRIC

Fabric allows you to introduce pattern, color, and texture to your décor. Pattern may relate to or establish a style. When you think of styles such as country, lodge, French or English, Victorian or another period, distinct images come to mind for each. Color establishes mood and can change your perception of space or proportion – and some palettes are associated with specific decorating styles. Texture contributes to the way fabric reflects or absorbs light, and therefore affects its color. Fabrics can be smooth, soft, crisp, or coarse textures – or a combination of these.

A wide selection of upholstery weight fabric is available today. Most upholstery fabrics are often blends of cotton and other fibers. The fabric you pick should have a tight weave and should feel stable, but not stiff, when you handle them. Also consider the piece of furniture and the amount of use it will get. Always consider the scale of the furniture when choosing a fabric. A pattern that isn’t in scale with the furniture may or may not be pleasing or look well in the overall décor.

DETAILS

Trim, welting, decorative cording, tassels, fringe, braid, gimp, or even decorative tacks - add polish and panache to upholstery. Trims should usually be in scale with and have the same visual weight as the upholstered piece; however, there are times when larger or heavier trims are very effective. Trims come in a myriad of colors. A trim that makes a subtle or strong contrast can be more interesting than one that blends into its background. You can use trim to add interest and accentuate the lines of your piece.

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