Reupholster to save time and money

As we are all painfully aware, there’s a long lead time on furnishings and shoppers – professional and homeowner alike – are scrambling to find pieces that will come in within a reasonable time frame. Of course, “reasonable” is a loaded term and means different things to different people. But, my point is – it is a crazy time. But, there is a great alternative that will save time, money and the landfill. Reupholster your old furniture or check out the many options available for 2nd hand, vintage and antique pieces. Older furniture is often much better made than newer as well. It’s where it’s at these days!

I thought I’d share some of the pieces I’ve reupholster ed over the years both for clients and myself. Some I’ve shared before, some I’ve dug deep into the archives to find!

This sweet boudoir chair below belonged to one of my best friend’s Mom. When he cleaned out her house, I snagged this petite beauty. It’s got adorable lines but was in need of some TLC.

Bedroom chair 1 before reupholster

And it now graces my bedroom. Read more about it here. This chair would easily retail for $3,500.00. Less than $1,200.00 to reupholster.

Bedroom chair 2 after reupholster


This image below is representative of a chair I had reupholstered for a Duxbury client a few years ago. I looked, but cannot find a photo of the original chair but I recall it was a dark blue plaid with rolled arms. The clients also had a mismatched English arm chair.

Linda Merrill beach 1 Plaid rolled arm chair before reupholster

We wanted to use both chairs and turn them into a set.  My upholsterer was able to change the rolled arm into an English arm piece.

Linda Merrill beach 2a garden home arm chair after reupholster

If you look below, you will see the two chairs together, now as a set, though one is slightly larger than the other. But the savings was enormous to use two existing chairs and with some creative workmanship, a pair is made.

Linda Merrill beach 2b after overhead chair reupholster


My clients on Cape Cod wanted to re-use this chair in their bedroom, but we all agreed it was dated looking.  Linda Merrill Cape Cod Chair 1 Before reupholster

A cute new fabric, removal of the tufting and changing the skirting to a longer pleated style brought new life to this old chair.

Linda Merrill Cape Cod w pillow after reupholster

A closeup detail of the tailoring I designed and my upholsterer created.

Linda Merrill Cape Cod chair detail after reupholster

After the chair was delivered, my client was so thrilled she decided she wanted an ottoman made to match. And so it was done!

Linda Merrill Cape Cod Ottoman reupholster



This one is digging deep, deep into the archives. This was my parents bedroom in the 1960’s (my Dad’s portrait always sat on my Mom’s dresser!). The rocking chair belonged to my paternal Grandmother, who passed before I was born. It was one of the few things we had from her. This cranberry red velvet version was reupholstered by my Dad – he took a night class to learn how. The chair runner had actually broken while my Mom was rocking with me in it (leaving me with a lifelong fear of rocking backwards) so my Dad fixed and refinished the frame and recovered it in this beautiful velvet. Fast forward to the 1980’s my parents downsized to a smaller house and I grabbed it for my various small apartments and condo – though I rarely sat in it myself because of the aforementioned bad memories!

Merrill rocker 1 before reupholster

Fast forward again to five years ago, one of my nieces was having a baby and needed a rocker. I had it recovered in a Bella Dura high performance fabric and made a cute pillow to match. So, now 4 generations of my family have rocked in this family heirloom.

Merrill rocker 2 after reupholster

Another from the Merrill family archives – this green stripe cut velvet chair was purchased in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s for the living room. It was in all their living rooms thereafter. When I cleaned out my parents house after my Mom passed 8 years ago, I thought this sturdy chair needed a refresh.

Merrill velvet chair 1 before 2 reupholster

I had it reupholstered in Lee Jofa’s Watersedge to match my headboard, which I wrote about here.

Merrill velvet chair 2 after reupholster

Apparently, I lucked out when it came to parental cast-offs… This blue silk damask Hickory Chair settee dates to the early 1970’s. Due to its diminutive size, once they had no room for it, it came with me in all my tiny apartments in my 20s and 30s. My first Boston apartment was a teeny-tiny studio on Beacon Hill in Boston. This loveseat was my only seating aside from the twin bed and tiny dining table and chairs. I used to curl up and nap on this little guy.

Linda Merrill Hickory Chair loveseat 1 before reupholster

By the time I moved into my Duxbury townhome (a little over 20 years ago!)  this loveseat was faded to a pale nasty blue and was literally shredding. Time for a makeover! I still have it in my Nook Cottage living room, but the lighting was better in the old place and I love how the back looks. When I originally reupholstered the tattered blue silk with the green “Les Insectes” fabric from Robert Allen (now discontinued), I estimated that a new Hickory Chair loveseat in a comparable fabric would have been over $4,000.00. I recall paying $1,350.00 for the fabric and labor (retail price, it was before I was in the business). Today I think we’d be looking at $6,000.00 for new and $2,500.00 for reupholstered.

Linda Merrill Hickory Chair loveseat 2 after reupholster


This chair below was purchased at a good local 2nd hand furniture store (either Elite Repeat or Furniture Consignment Gallery) for a client bathroom project and reupholstered in this fun velour polka dot fabric. My client wanted a chic and comfy chair to perch in, but didn’t want to spend a lot given it was going in a bathroom. I recall we looked at a new one from Kravet, maybe, that was going to be over $2,500.00 (this was almost 15 years ago). I think we spent $250.00 on the original chair at the 2nd hand shop and probably $750.00 for fabric and labor to reupholster.

Linda Merrill 2nd hand chair reupholster

And, let us not forget the easy projects – slip seats are an easy DIY reupholster project. I had a pair of these reproduction Sheraton style arm chairs and they came with the tapestry look fabric slip seat.

Linda Merrill Slip seats 1 before reupholster

I recovered them in this super cute embroidered fabric that was leftover from another project. Read more about this process here.

Linda Merrill Slip seats 2 after reupholster

And finally, I had found this cane settee at Elite Repeat several years ago for $100.00. It was covered in a dingy looking white fabric. I can’t find a “before” pic, but I reupholstered it with a fabric remnants and finished it with a braided gimp.

Linda Merrill dining settee floral french dining banquette settee
Photo by Michael J. Lee

A custom-made long lumbar pillow makes it comfy to sit in. Total cost – $150.00ish. $100 for the settee, $30 for the down lumbar insert and $20 or so for the gimp, plus my time. I think it took an afternoon since I’d never done this work before. I actually didn’t strip the off white fabric off, I just put the new fabric over it.

Linda Merrill design custom lumbar pillow bench seat floral fabric french cane settee


So, I hope I’ve inspired you to consider the value of a good old chair or settee and how reupholster ing it will make it like new!

Here are examples of pieces currently available at a couple of local 2nd hand/consignment places local to me. Click the image to view the listings. (Obviously, all these pieces will be unavailable at some point but they are good representations of what’s out there.)

Furniture Consignment Gallery (three Massachusetts locations in Hanover, Plymouth and Natick)




Elite Repeat in Hanover.

16 thoughts on “Reupholster to save time and money”

  1. Oooooh you know I am over here doing my happy dance reading this. I love what you have done with these previously loved pieces. The transformations are all so lovely and they look fresh and up-to-date. Yay!!!

  2. What an inspiring post Linda! I loved every one of your examples and can see that you clearly had the vision to see how great each piece could look in new fabric! Very well done, I loved seeing it all!

  3. Thanks for showing us all the possibilities inherent in re-covering and re-using good quality furniture whose foam or fabric has worn out or is dated looking, Linda.

    You’ve done a beautiful job for your clients, and I can only imagine how happy they are to have been able to keep pieces that have meaning and history for them.

    And I love how you redid the rocker that’s been in your family for 4 generations! What a thoughtful gesture!

  4. Great idea and an amazing way to honor your family. I especially loved reading about the rocking chair. What a special piece that has been loved for so many generations. Thanks for sharing all of the wonderful examples and even potential listings.

  5. Hello Linda, I admire all your wonderful examples, but I think a caveat is needed that you need an upholsterer who is recommended and talented. Reupholstering still isn’t as cheap as buying moderately priced furniture, so it needs to be beautiful to be worthwhile. Perhaps consider sending a sample piece first. Or, if you buy lots of furniture and are moderately skillful, consider taking an upholstering class–this would save tons of money, and perhaps create a side business for some people.

    • Hi Jim – yes, a great upholsterer is key when making changes to a piece – such as the armchairs I showed with changes to the back and arm styles, tailoring, etc. Easier projects like my settee and even the rocking chair which my Dad did are very much potential DIY projects. You’re so right that a good reupholstering project is not cheap as I’ve outlined – but you do get a first quality piece for less than new of similar quality. But not all pieces are worth that investment.

  6. Preeeeeach! Such perfect examples of repurposed pieces! I LOVE reupholstery as an option. As you say, older good pieces are totally worth recovering and it keeps furniture out of the landfill. And right now it is waaaay faster! I’ve been keeping my upholsterer busy😁 I hate the throw-away mindset of “we’ll just buy cheap schlock since it will get destroyed anyway”. In the end it’s more expensive (financially AND environmentally) and more challenging to keep buying and throwing out disposable furniture than just buying well made or upcycling good stuff in the first place!


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