Captain's chair transformed with Harris Tweed: How to make your upholstery project a success

How to make your upholstery project a success: Top tips from an insider

I love to see a successful furniture revamp. It’s not just about finding the perfect piece and pairing it with an amazing fabric, though. When you have a process that is seamless from start to finish, it all helps to make the end result absolutely stunning. Over the years, I’ve learnt the elements that lead to upholstery project success. So, here are the key things I think YOU need to know before you take your much-loved piece to be transformed!

Banquette seating in Romo Black Maroque in colour Lazurite.

Banquette seating in Romo Black Maroque – Lazurite. Chair in Sunbury Design Madison velvet – salad.

Create Something Timeless

It’s not just growing concern over the cost of living that’s making us all watch the budget. Salvaging a piece of furniture is an investment, and when you choose to re-upholster, it’s my job to make sure it’s worth every penny of your cash. My biggest piece of advice is to steer away from micro trends and think rather of the styles and designs you’re likely to love forever.

Sofa in Arley House Surabaya in colour dusty pink

Sofa in Arley House Surabaya velvet in colour dusty pink.

That doesn’t mean playing it safe – far from it, this is the perfect time to express your personality. But if you’re drawn to something that’s flavour of the month, think hard about whether it is actually your taste or just a passing trend. Mood boards can really help here, plus I always conduct thorough fabric meetings to establish what sort of styles will hit the mark and remain timeless.

Don’t do it on a whim

Quite often, if you’ve just moved into a new place or you’re having an interior reshuffle, you can end up buying or revamping furniture on an impulse. I’d always advise anyone to consider whether the style, dimensions and quality of the piece you have in mind for upholstery are actually fit for purpose. It’s better to wait and find something ideal than make do with what’s easily to hand.

Pair of chairs upholstered in fabric by Kitty McCall, Rousseau.

Vibrant fabric from Kitty McCall (Rousseau) made this project a 100% success!

That’s why I rarely recommend buying brand new from the high street. If it’s cheap, there’s a reason, and if it’s pricey, you can often recreate the equivalent by re-imagining a pre-loved piece or an item of furniture you already have. Stop and think about what it is you really want. I bet you can find it online or at a vintage market – and the best part is that you then get to reinvent it entirely your way with a fabric and colour you’ll love for a lot longer.

Is your fabric fit for purpose?

“An experienced upholsterer will always be able to find you a fabric that looks great but is practical too.”

It’s no good selecting a fabric that won’t stand up to repeated use. I’ve seen it so often where a customer (or an interior designer – yes, really!) chooses a fabric based on its look but hasn’t considered whether it’s functional. Big mistake.

Bed upholstered in Kirkby smooth velvet, colour Wedgewood.

Bed upholstered in Kirkby smooth velvet, colour Wedgewood.

Use your upholsterer’s knowledge of the practical aspects of fabric. For example, some velvets will show up every mark, natural cottons can fade very quickly, and if you have pets, children or a particularly sunny room, there are all kinds of elements to consider. A good upholsterer will talk you through it and come up with a fabric that not only looks great but also lasts the distance.

Don’t compare the cost

It’s all too easy to disregard upholstery as ‘too expensive’, but I’d honestly implore you to consider what you’re getting. It will never cost the same as an inferior piece from the high street, but what you end up with is always so much better. First of all, let’s not forget the positive impact on the planet. When you choose to restore rather than ditch what you’ve already got, you’re easing the burden on landfill and making an eco-friendly choice.

Chair upholstered in Diane Hill Marsha Velvet in shade magenta.

A successful transformation for this beloved chair – fabric Diane Hill Marsha Velvet, magenta.

I can also say from first-hand experience that creating your own piece from scratch is a joy like no other. Whether it’s second-hand, a family heirloom or found on a skip, when you restore a pre-loved piece beautifully, it is good for your SOUL. You end up with something that you’ll treasure, infused with your personality and with a heap of good energy on the side. Can you put a price on that…?

If you enjoyed reading my tips to make your upholstery project a success, take a look at Upholstery: The Customer Journey – an Interview with Sarah Jane.

Do you have a piece in mind for upholstery? Let’s chat! Email me at to see how we can give it a whole new look. Alternatively, you can fill in my online enquiries form.

*Featured image top: Captain’s Chair in Harris Tweed.

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