Upholsterers give us the low-down on furniture makeovers

To reupholster, or not to reupholster - that is often the question when thinking about redecorating, buying new furniture, or poking around antique stores. Is it worth it to put money and time into giving an old sofa or chair a fresh outlook? If all springs point to yes, where do you go from there?


Quality control
The first step: Determine whether the furniture is worthy of reupholstery. If it's a R1000 sofa that you sit on and watch TV every night, you are better off buying a new one! The quality of the frame is key. Look for any warping or water damage, wiggle it to check stability, and lift it to feel the weight. Check out the cushions, and don't go by appearances alone. Many dealers will slap new upholstery on top of old fabric, so it looks great but it's hiding poor construction.

Look underneath the piece to see if the bottom is bowing, and try to determine what kind of support system is in use. Pieces that have webbed support systems with no metal are probably not worth reupholstering.

The great cover-up
Choosing fabric is the next step, and it can be intimidating. It helps to have some direction in mind before going in, so take colour samples and photos of your space. To home in on the perfect selection, think about where and how you're going to use the piece and how much you are ready to spend. If you fancy a pattern, consider that you'll need more fabric for the project.

 When you have big plaids with varying colours and stripes that must be matched horizontally and vertically, or large damasks or toiles with great big bouquets of flowers that have to be centred, that takes a lot longer than just cutting, sewing, and applying a plain fabric - so bear that in mind.

Consider the durability of the fabric as well as the pattern. Chenilles and mohairs are usually very durable. Choose a low pile because it has tighter fibres, but these can be expensive, and in time will develop highlighted areas. Most fabrics can and should be safely stain-guarded, with the exception of some suedes and silks, and this treatment can be applied after a piece is finished. Stain-guard is a liquid that helps keep staining agents from absorbing but you still need to blot up spills as soon as possible.



All stuffed up
Type of filling also demands consideration. A synthetic stuffing won't need to be constantly fluffed up. Polyfoam is a good choice for most applications, as it is inexpensive, has longevity, and has a better memory. Shops have samples with different densities and grades to check out, so have a squeeze.

If the depth of a sofa isn't quite right - you're sitting too shallow or too deep - and you will need to adjust this by reducing or increasing the firmness of the filling in the back cushions.

Decorative touches like tassels, nail heads, and braided cording are popular ways to individualise furniture, as long as they are used with restraint.