Choosing the Right Upholsterer

Choosing the Right Upholsterer

By: Carissa Stevens of Scout Studios

There is a huge soft spot in my heart for vintage furniture. They just don’t make furniture like they used to. Vintage pieces have the best lines, they were made so sturdy, and you can always tell a difference in the filling. There’s nothing like leaning back onto an old beautiful vintage sofa. You can FEEL the difference. Sure you can find replicas, but they just aren’t the same.

I’m always looking for vintage pieces for different clients. But trust me when I say this. 99.9% will always need a recover. No matter how much cleaning you do. Some stains just won’t come out. And usually the color doesn’t go with the design plan. So an upholsterer is almost always necessary.

Take for example this vintage piece I recently had recovered:

Choosing an Upholsterer

Choosing an Upholsterer

Isn’t it stunning? I mean, this green velvet is EVERYTHING. But it didn’t always look this way. Here’s what it looked like when I found it:

Choosing an Upholsterer

A French Provencial antique sourced from a local shop that had closed? I was in love! It had such great bones. It just really needed a recover.

Now it was time to find the perfect fabric. I knew that I was on a budget, and that I needed fabric that would be durable and sturdy enough to put up with my two dogs. I’m one of those dog moms who doesn’t mind letting the pups on the couch. So durability was so important. (Dogs are people too!)

Choosing an Upholsterer

So I was the world’s happiest girl when I came across this gorgeous green velvet from Their site is great because it lists all the projects that the fabric would be suitable for, as well as a price point. (Plus they offer swatches so you can be 100% sure that what you are ordering is exactly what you wanted- and that it’s the durability you’d hoped for!)

Choosing an Upholsterer

Luckily I’ve had enough pieces redone in the past, and I’ve made mistakes. A lot of them. So hopefully sharing these tips with you will help you save money (and time) by learning from mine!

There are several things I look for when I’m looking for a good upholsterer.

1) Do they “get” my vision?

There’s nothing worse than dropping off a piece for a recover and picking it up and it looking NOTHING like what you expected. Not only has your time been wasted, but so has theirs. (Not to mention the cost of redoing it to get it how you want it.) So bring photos and sketches. Sometimes I even pop in mid job for a “direction check” to make sure we are on the same page.

2) Do they know what they are doing?

When I was just getting started as a decorator, I didn’t do my research. I hired the first person I could find online who labeled themselves as an upholstery expert. Boy, oh boy, was I wrong. Not only was the job done improperly, but the fabric I’d purchased was wrong.

Even though the “expert” I’d hired told me it would be fine, it ended up being way too stretchy and after a month or so the shape was completely off. All this to say, hiring online is totally fine. Just research them first. Get references. Is this the first piece they have done like this? How long does a job usually take? How much time can they devote? Or is it something they just do on the side? (Also, totally okay, but always a question I ask up front so that I can manage my own expectations).

3) Do they deliver?

This is an important one for me simply because I don’t always have a crew member available to help with the heavy lifting. Plus, my personal car isn’t big enough, so delivery is always so nice. It saves so much hassle. Sometimes there is a fee, but it usually isn’t much. Totally worth it not having to worry about how you’ll get it home!

4) Do they have the time?

I’ve worked with upholsterers in the past who said they could “fit” my job in. If you have a hard deadline, let them know up front first. If you plan on having friends over for a big reveal, or are having a party or whatever the case may be and need to piece there- make sure they know.

5) Do they know their fabric?

And are they going to be honest about it? In my early days of decorating for a living, I was working with a client on a super tight budget. We purchased fabric from a discount place that was labeled “upholstery” fabric. When I brought the fabric to the upholstery place, they said it would be fine and I believed them. Except it wasn’t fine. The fabric was stretchy, and because it was stretchy, the piece didn’t end up looking like it was supposed to.

A good upholsterer, because they get your vision, will say, “Hey. No. This won’t work.” And to me that’s invaluable. It will save you time and money in the long run. The piece will last longer, and you’ll be happier. Just like I am with my gorgeous new sofa.

Choosing an Upholsterer

I’d love to hear about your adventures in upholstery! Leave us a comment below and tell us any tips we missed. We’d also love to hear what upholstery projects you are currently working on! Click here to shop all the latest upholstery fabrics on!

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