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The Big Furniture Question: Reupholster or Buy New?

When it comes time to move to a new space or redesign a room, many people paint the walls, clean the rugs and order new window treatments, only to wonder what to do about their old sofa and chairs. If furniture looks faded but you still love the comfort and quality, should the pieces be replaced with something new or reupholstered to extend their life? The question commonly presents itself to homeowners and renters in the process of making an interior design change.

The first step in the process, assuming the furniture shows no serious damage or need for repairs, is to have the pieces professionally cleaned. This way, one can determine how the pieces look when they are in their cleanest state. If after a deep cleaning, the furniture still appears dull and in need of a lift, the question becomes whether to replace or reupholster the piece. For many people, the answer comes down to cost, sentimental value and overall quality of the furniture, especially if the pieces are vintage or antique.

On the cost front, it is important to consider how much the furniture originally cost and how long it has been used. If, for example, one paid a few hundred dollars for a sofa more than 10 years ago, it probably makes sense to purchase something new rather than reupholster the well-used piece. The cost of reupholstering a sofa typically runs into the hundreds of dollars, which makes less sense if the job costs more than the old sofa is actually worth. On the other hand, if the sofa or other furniture piece is relatively new and could still be sold at a high price, it makes sense to freshen it with new upholstery rather than discarding it outright.

Another factor to consider is what the furniture means to the customer, no matter how little or much it cost at whatever time. If a sofa once belonged to a deceased love one, for example, or has been passed from generation to generation, it could hold high sentimental value that makes it important to reupholster the piece and keep it in the family. No price can be placed on emotions.

On the quality front, before one decides to buy new or reupholster an older piece, it is key to know how well made the furniture is. A frame made of hardwood, for example, that is tightly glued and screwed together, most likely offers many more years of use, provided the piece has not been reupholstered previously. Likewise, furniture with high-quality, hand-tied springs usually is worth keeping and reupholstering. The more a customer knows about their furniture, particularly if the pieces are antique or vintage, the easier it is to decide what to do.

Should you decide to reupholster the furniture rather than buy something new, know that it pays to shop around and get the best possible price for the job. One way to save is to gather sample fabrics from high-end retailers and then find the closest approximation to that material at a discount store. Make sure to involve the upholsterer in the selection process because they bring the experience needed to order the right amount of fabric.

In terms of labor, look for an upholsterer who offers an eye for old-fashioned detail and knowledge of vintage and antique products. Even if your pieces are newer, companies that focus on traditional work generally offer high quality, no matter the age of the piece. Remember to take the opportunity to update cushions to complete the look of the reupholstered sofa.

Whether to reupholster older furniture or buy something new presents one of the most common questions in home interior design. In general, the criteria are cost, the overall quality of the item in question and whether it offers sentimental value. Using these factors, one can calculate whether to hold on to their cherished piece, or open their home to something new.
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