Upgrading the upstairs sofa

While the living room was still in a state of chaos and we were holed up in the captain’s bedroom watching TV, Aaron turned to me and said, “Now that the living room is going to be white, we should think about getting a bright rug.” My reponse? “What we need to do is think about getting rid of this. (Motioning to the off-white couch) Have you thought about how ugly it’s going to be an in a bright white space?”


Honestly, the current couch wasn’t even our first choice when we bought it several years ago. We had our hearts set on a white (so predictable) couch for our FIRST studio in the basement of our suburban house (my, my how things have changed.) In our typical we-decided-let’s-do-it-NOW fashion, we didn’t realize that choosing custom fabric for a couch meant several weeks of production time. Instead we opted for this in-stock, “it will do” off-white sofa.

It’s always been “just fine.” But with the new paint job and lighting, this space is feeling so much more finished and that couch is looking so much dingier.

So instead of spending money on a rug… oh wait, we bought one of those already… So, before spending money on a rug, we decided to do some serious sofa shopping. We checked a few online stores and were leaning toward something mid century inspired when Aaron found this on craigslist:


It’s a great size: 8′ long, 3′ deep. We keep sitting on it exclaiming, “We’re not touching.” Apparently after many years of a too small couch, you get excited when a piece of furniture allows you to lounge without being on top of each other.

The clean lines and the legs had us more than interested. It’s also in phenomenal condition – very sturdy. The woman we bought it from nabbed it at an estate sale about 8 years ago, making us likely only the 3rd owners.

But what really got us was the curve on the front.


Hello sexy!



Ok, ok, she’s not quite beautiful yet, but at a negotiated price of $400 we thought we were getting quite a steal. We went in knowing that we’d have to reupholster this piece to make it feel right for our space. The color and condition of the fabric confirmed it. This couch has had a good run… and it shows.


Recovering it will allow us to have the middle cushion cut to mimic the shape of the base. We can also get rid of some of the piping to make the whole thing feel a little more modern.



Legs: You’re staying. I love you.




With the couch safely tucked into the car, we mulled over colors. Yep! We’re going with a color. We love white spaces because they allow your eyes to really focus on pops of color. Usually that means artwork and other furnishings, but I had been secretly pinning and falling in love with the idea of a bold, jewel toned sofa. Emerald green had me drooling and Aaron was quickly on board.


(via Pinterest, original from Melissa Mercier)


(via Pinterest)

The hunt was on for an upholsterer. We learned that you should definitely get a lot of quotes. Many places will let you email a picture to get a rough estimate on the labor. Fabric will always be extra, but they can give you an estimate of the yardage you’ll need for a particular piece.

The estimates for our couch ranged from $2,900 to $750 (all without fabric). We were shocked at the discrepancy. We opted for a mid-range quote from an upholsterer who is also an artist and lives above his shop. His space was profiled in the newspaper and he talked about his love of white walls and bright accents. We’ve clearly found a kindred spirit… and it didn’t hurt that he called our couch cool when we sent him the photo.

After a little online searching we were coming up short in regards to emerald green fabric. We headed to the upholstery shop to peruse some swatch books and couldn’t find anything even close to the green we had been lusting after. After flagging some jewel toned blues (and even eyeing a bolt in his showroom) we changed courses and opted for a deep blue. Not surprisingly, a check of my Pinterest board confirmed that deep blue was also on my wishlist.


(via Pinterest, original from Design Milk)


(via Pinterest, original from JCPenny – oh! And it’s on clearance!)

The swatch we finally settled on as “perfect” rang out at $100/yard… also known as “not gonna happen.” Luckily, the bolt of fabric in the showroom had nearly the same tone AND he was offering 50% off all in-stock fabric. So we walked away with a gorgeous peacock blue at just $25/yard. He even cut me a sample to take home.


I’ve been a fool with this fabric swatch – caressing it, toting it around, showing it to everyone. It’s a little bit too Frodo up in here. (Please note: that will be my first and last Lord of the Rings reference. Sorry/you’re welcome.) Suffice it to say, we’re very excited. The couch was picked up yesterday and then we have an excruciating 6 week(ish) wait. Good thing I have that swatch to keep me happy…

Has anyone else taken the upholstery plunge? (It seems to be the season for it based on Yellow Brick Home’s recent find.) What piece did you get done? Were you surprised by the variance in quotes? Did you have trouble finding a fabric?


  1. katie paynter

    Now I feel so lazy and un-cool with my generic-bought-from-Nebraska-Furniture-Mart-sofa. I can’t wait to see your sofa when its all dolled up and in the space!!!

    • Heather

      Ha! Not un-cool at all πŸ™‚ Besides you just up and moved your life. We’ve totally been there, remember? It took more than three years to get to a place where we would even think about reupholstering something.

  2. Kim // Yellow Brick Home

    Oooh, I love it! It’s going to be so phenomenal! Scott and I are headed to a local ginormous textile warehouse tonight, and this morning he called me to say, “Happy fabric shopping day!” Oh, man. We are dorks.

  3. Kati from so happy home

    Gah! Love that swatch! You’ll switch from pertting your swatch (and Mojo) to petting your glorious sofa. It’s gonna be so worth the wait.

    We did have something, or rather things, reupholstered, and I think we spent too much. For the first piece (the colorful chair in our flat) we provided our own fabric, and while it came out really nicely, it was rather pricey. We used the same upholsterer for the second time (vintage swivel barrel chairs), and it was a costly error. I think he rushed the work so he could get paid (and insisted we order fabrics through him, which cost way too much), and just didn’t understand that we would see the sloppy work (we are, admittedly, perfectionists). We’re mostly happy with how they ended up, but we felt like we paid for top quality work and got mid range quality at best.

    You win some, you lose some, right? Your sofa is going to be divine. I’m so jealous. But, like, in the way that you’re happy for the person to have what they want. Maybe envious. Whatever. Ok, jealous.

    • Heather

      Oooh! I can’t wait to pet the sofa. (File that under: Things I should never repeat.)

      Interesting. Now I’m a little nervous. I hope we picked the right guy. We liked the pieces in his showroom and he just seemed to get it. Plus we get to go see the piece before they deliver (presumably in case something needs redone?)… I don’t know if that’s standard or not.

      Sounds like you might need to find a different guy for the next piece?

      • Kati from so happy home

        Our options were really limited when we got ours done – the guy we found was the most modern around, and presented us clean work examples. Trouble was we were asking him to *gasp* be creative and think about modernizing older pieces. I think he was in a bad way financially because the second pieces were supposed to take weeks but he pushed them to the front of the line. Our delivered pieces were covered in chalk marks, stray threads, and he didn’t shore up the seats as well as he said he would.

        I’m sure yours will be perfect, really. We just trusted the wrong person. But they did come out nicely. See? http://www.sohappyhome.com/2013/05/and-after-1986-what-else-could-be-new/

  4. Pam Hipp

    That sofa is going to be gor-ge-ous. Can’t wait to see the final result. If you end up happy with the work, would you be willing to share the name of your upholsterer? I’m in St. Louis too and looking for good referrals.

  5. Anne @ Planting Sequoias

    Oh, this is gonna be good! I *think* I’ve talked Kenny into a gorgeous peacock blue “modern-take” on a Chesterfield (sounds weird, but it’s cool). He’s more concerned than I that we’ll be sick of it in a few years, but blue’s the new neutral right?

    Thanks for letting me blather on. I’ll stop now. πŸ™‚

    • Heather

      That doesn’t sound weird at all! I totally get it. Maybe it is the season of blue couches? Seems to be going around πŸ™‚ I think if you choose the right blue you can be happy with it for quite a few years!

  6. Cheryl

    That will look fabulous in your space!

    I’ve had several things reupholstered over the years and always hold my breath until it is done & delivered. Luckily I’ve been reasonably happy with the results – the perfectionist in me found small issues but considering the price it was fine. Now that I’m retiring soon maybe I’ll try slipcovering something if the original upholstery isn’t to my liking.

    • Heather

      Thanks! We are definitely holding our breath. Kudos for thinking about making a slipcover. That is way beyond me range… which truthfully involves making a pillow in junior high and ordering a sewing machine a few years ago (after a few drinks) that hasn’t even been taken out of the box.

  7. Megan

    SO. JEALOUS. That is going to be drop dead gorgeous!

    I’m planning on reupholstering our kitchen chairs [I know, I know, faded burgundy tweed is perfect for a place where people will eat] but I’m afraid to get quotes….and your range justifies my fear….but I’ll be sure to post when I do take the plunge!

    • Heather

      Hmm – I don’t know if 4 chairs would be less than a huge sofa? It would definitely take less fabric. You could always send the pictures out and get an idea. That part was relatively easy and hassle free.

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