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Costs of Upholstery

23 Jun

Since I recently had some upholstery sticker shock, it was nice to see this post on Apartment Therapy sent to me by Michelle.  I feel like I got a pretty fair deal.  Stacey (from A Goode House), this made me think of your recent find.  Jealous.

Case Studies of Real Life Upholstery Jobs: What Do People Really Pay?

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You have a funky but shabby chair that you can’t bear getting rid of — or an incredible chain store sofa, but are unhappy with the boring stock fabric options. You want to get upholstery work done but are new to this and have no clue what such a project would cost. Well, read on!

Here are some examples of real people who have had work done–and what they actually paid. And we have also included some words of wisdom (and pricing ranges) from a handful of designers and upholsterers.

Case Studies of Real Life Upholstery Jobs
Here are some real examples from friends who have upholstered various pieces of furniture. It should be noted, of course, that most of these folks live in Washington DC, which is hardly the country’s best locale for bargain goods and services! If you live in a smaller town you can count on lower labor costs.

Kevin:
I wrote about Kevin’s fabulous mid-century modern haven. Kevin knows his stuff and wanted only high quality work on his vintage furniture and chose expensive materials. His Knoll chair cost $450 to reupholster, and something like $650 total for the Spinneybeck leather material. His Knoll sofa was about $650 to reupholster and another $600 for fabric. He recalls, “the Womb settee was really expensive to reupholster because I wanted it to original specs and you need someone with specialized expertise. It was about $1800 total for upholstery and fabric.” Kevin recommends Dave Erbe (610-967-4658) for his high quality work and for being a “really nice guy.”!

Jen:
Jen recently had a club chair reupholstered by Calico Corners and it was about $560 for the labor.

Elizabeth:
Was considering getting a Bergere chair redone but has put it off because of the price she was quoted. She was told the labor would be $395 plus about 6 yards of fabric. The chair’s single cushion would have a Dacron wrap ($25) and if she chose down/feather it would be about $95. Delivery was $95. The real cost for Elizabeth was the Madeleine Weinrib fabric she lusted after, which was a whopping $250 per yard (meaning the fabric total would come to about $1,500!

Sarah:
Sarah got a basic contemporary 3-seater sofa reupholstered with similarly basic solid-colored fabric for $860, fabric included. She says it was worth it because the sofa is very well made and super comfortable but the original fabric was irreversibly stained.

Mary Anne:
About ten years ago Mary Anne inherited two very heavy club chairs and a sofa from her parents. She found a really good upholsterer named Ana who was incredibly economical. The upholsterer stripped the pieces to their frames, reinforced the frames and redid the pillows in spring down, a combo of manmade and down (she regrets not doing full down). “Ana works out of her home. She and her son picked up the 3 pieces in Skokie and delivered to Downers Grove, a suburb of Chicago. Fabric excluded, she did the whole job for $800. No lie. It was a gift beyond belief. She is a magnificent upholsterer with emphasis on finishing detail. She was extremely careful of matching seams and patterns. For example, she explained that the 3 sofa cushions can be turned for wear, like a mattress, and alternated so that the fronts and backs match the back pattern of the couch at all times. Even the arm covers match the pattern of the underlying arm of the couch.” A few years later Ana covered 8 dining chairs, including 2 armchairs, with fabric backs and leather seats. All together the labor was around $1,000.

Mary Anne’s advice is to ask around in unlikely places: “I found Ana through my hair stylist! Ana has done work for major hotels like the Hilton and Marriott, so maybe ask at those types of businesses.” Mary Anne also says that fabric stores can be a good resource for upholsterer: “Be careful though; make sure you see some of their finished work. If they’re good, they’re proud of it. Good upholsterers can give you great tips on fabric too.”

The Pros Weigh In
Because interior decorators are constantly referring out and contracting with upholsterers, they can offer a good general overview of the costs associated with upholstery.

Annie Elliott of Bossy Color
Annie Elliott of Bossy Color, an interior design firm in Washington DC, has some great, detailed advice for those considering reupholstering a piece of furniture.

Sofa: Allow 17-20 yards of fabric if you’re using a solid or texture, but if you’re using a large-scale pattern, you’ll need more. Labor cost can range between $800 – $1000, depending on whether you have loose seat and back cushions or not. “Of course there are less expensive upholsterers, but you do NOT want to skimp on this, especially if a pattern is involved.”

Dining chair, seat only: You might only need a yard of fabric, but it will still cost $75-$100 per chair to upholster.

Comfy living room armchair: “You might – shockingly – need 10 yards of fabric if you have loose seat and back cushions. If there aren’t separate cushions or a skirt, you might be able to do 7 yards.” Labor would be around $500.

Bench or ottoman: You may only need a few yards of fabric, depending on the repeat. Labor shouldn’t be too high; maybe $150 – $200 depending on whether there’s welting, cording, etc.

Annie says there are some factors that will affect the labor costs:

Tufting is labor-intensive. Also, will the buttons be covered w/ the same fabric as the piece? That’s more work for the upholsterer.
Welting (that cord-like edging) is also more work.
Zippers on the cushions
Making sure patterns line up. Geometric or striped patterns are harder to work with

Other factors to consider include whether any structural repairs need to be done to the frame or springs and whether you want arm covers or delivery.

Should you try to DIY? The only upholstery Annie thinks a novice should attempt is a dining room chair if the seat pops right up out of the frame. “There’s practically a sticker on the bottom of those seats that says, ‘Go ahead. Staple gun me.'”

Annie wrote a great blog post that provides some very wise advice and some case studies of actual upholstery costs.

Meaghan McNamara
Meaghan has an interior design and furniture rehab business in Washington DC (301-509-1098) . According to her, “the size, shape, and fabric all weigh in on your final price. But typically for an arm chair you are looking at $250 to $350 and for a couch it can be even more of a range in price anywhere from $600 upward.”

Meaghan also adds that tufting, piping, and trim require more labor and are therefore higher in price. Some fabrics like a vinyl can also be more time-consuming then a cotton because it is harder to ensure smooth surfaces and edges with a thicker texture.

As if that weren’t enough information, Apartment Therapy also posted this the next day.  I love this handy dandy guide!

Next time you are standing in that thrift store (or your great aunt’s living room) pondering whether to take home the groovy chair with the hideous and shredded upholstery, this tool may come in handy. Because sometimes it is hard to imagine just how much fabric would be needed to redo a chair or sofa. And every yard counts.

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Via: Honey & Fitz. – click through for an option to download them for easy printing or to keep them on file for handy reference.

What have you paid for upholstery work? Was it worth it? Why did you decide to redo the piece instead of replacing with a new piece altogether?

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5 Responses to “Costs of Upholstery”

  1. Kate June 25, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    Here’s my two cents: If you are going to pay someone else to upholster your furniture, thoroughly check their references and their work. Yes, it is expensive, but if it is for a piece of furniture that you really love, get the highest quality work you can afford. Saving yourself 15% on labor can result in 15% lower quality work.

  2. Stacey June 23, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    Wow Brandy, this is a really great post with TONS of good info. I get asked about upholstery quite often so I’ll make sure to refer them to this post. This is such a hard thing because you’re trying not to buy new but it ends up costing a fortune so which way to go. (sigh)
    I have been lucky enough to have learned how to do most of it myself. It isn’t easy and it takes lots of time and patience. For me it’s the fabric that’s a killer. If you get the good stuff (and of course I always go for the stuff that costs a FORTUNE!…. why do our eyes go there?) it can make or break you.
    I am seriously considering reupholstering our Eames Sofa Compact myself, as it looks like it would be pretty easy. (ha! what do I just say? Nothing is ever EASY!) It will only take 6 yards of fabric which is nice. I did get a quote for $600 from someone I trust to do it but HOLY HELL! That’s labor – and that blows my mind! We’ll see… and I’ll be sure to post if I do. Great thought provoking topic here. I think it’s something so many of us who collect and refinish face at one point or another. Always better to have the facts when going in. It gets confusing. Thanks, B.

  3. Dana@Mid2Mod June 23, 2012 at 8:25 am #

    Another good source for a referral is a local mid-century dealer. We give our upholsterer’s name to people when they ask (although a few dealers in town won’t divulge theirs). Another thing to consider is looking at sites like winterbeachmodern.com and modern-fabrics.com for bargains. For example, right now there’s some Maharam George Nelson fabric on one of those sites for $40 a yard that sells for over $100 a yard at other fabric stores.

    • Brandy@midcenturymodernlove.com June 23, 2012 at 8:30 am #

      Thanks, Dana. Those are wonderful resources. Hopefully I will find something soon that requires me to look there again!
      Brandy

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