Sofa Reupholstery – When you know, you know

Boston Design Week Alex Papachristidis Mitch Owens Kyle Hoepner

I want to share a new sofa reupholstery project but first: the other day I attended a talk with decorator Alex Papachristidis and writer Mitch Owens (writer, editor Architectural Digest, Elle Decor and more) about their collaboration on THE ELEGANT LIFE Rooms that Welcome and Inspire, © 2023 Rizzoli, a walk through some of Alex’s work as an “old school decorator” as he puts it.  I’ve long loved his work and followed him on Pinterest and it was inspiring to hear his thoughts on design at this talk moderated by Kyle Hoepner (design writer and producer, former editor New England Home magazine).

Buy the book here.

I love that he refers to himself as a “decorator”. There has long been a heated debate in design circles about designer vs. decorator.  Some of the most influential and pivotal players in design history (Elsie de Wolfe, Sister Parish, Albert Hadley and more) were referred to as decorators. Don’t get me wrong, education is vitally important. But talent and people skills aren’t taught in school.

You know what else isn’t taught in school? What fabrics work in different applications – such as on window treatments or upholstered furniture. You learn by doing, trial and error and asking those who do know. Also not taught in schools – scale, proportion and the innate sense of what goes with what and when the “rules” can be broken. And when to know when something works there’s no point in replacing it just for the sake of something new.

Among Alex’s thoughts on design:

  • Once he’s decorated someone’s home he doesn’t understand why they’d want to re-do it with something entirely new down the road. Maybe replace something (with the same thing) if it’s worn out. But why change? He said discontinued fabrics are the worst because if something needs replacing he wants to replace it with the same.
  • Always look at the best   – the best antiques, furniture, fabrics – what have you. Learn what makes something “work” in terms of scale and proportion, workmanship and quality. One we know what makes something the “best” we can better adjust our selections to fit our budgets. True gems can be found in thrift stores but we have to know what to look for.  I thought this was great advice.
  • He never uses the same item. Nothing in any of his projects can be re-used in any other, even if the client specifically asks. From his own home sure, but not something used in a client project.
  • He loves his dog and feels dogs belong everywhere we are and that houses can be elegant and sophisticated and yet used by kids and pets.
Photo of adorable Cooper courtesy of Alex Papachristidis IG

Anyway, speaking of upholstery and wanting what we want, my Colorful Cape Cod client reach out to me a few months ago about having her sleeper sofa reupholstered. It’s a quality piece in good shape so it was an excellent candidate to recover. The thing about reupholstery is that in some cases, it costs as much to recover as to replace the entire piece. But if the bones are in excellent condition and it fits the space perfectly, then new isn’t always better.

This is the “before” below. I’d specified the wall and trim colors and had the sheer drapery made for the room nearly three years ago.  This is a tiny den so the sofa is it as far as seating in the room.

So, the color palette was set and  my client wanted another blue and white sofa though we could look at plaids, checks and stripes. And you know what we ended up with?

Linda Merrill Colorful Cape Cod blue and white sofa drapery pulled

What can I say – the heart wants what it wants!

Linda Merrill Colorful Cape Cod blue and white sofa sofa closeup

I did add a snappy blue welting which punctuates the new look nicely.

Linda Merrill Colorful Cape Cod blue and white sofa to closet straight

You can see more of this project here. What do you think of this sofa reupholstery project? Would you be happy with the same or would you want to have something new as long as you’re going about recovering it?

Pin for future reference.

Sofa reupholstery - when you know you know pin 1


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7 thoughts on “Sofa Reupholstery – When you know, you know”

  1. The welting really makes the sofa fresh and updated, even if the fabrics are similar. The entire room is lovely Linda.

  2. The welting took it over the top and made it very new and fresh. I love it Linda. Such a pretty room too.

  3. Fun to read what you learned about Alex, and love his advice to know what makes something the best! And as to your client sofa? Subtle change, but beautifully done and right up Alex’s alley of ‘why would you want to change something that works perfectly?’


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