This post is a long-time in the making! And, well, it’s also just long. If you’ve been following Burritos and Bubbly for a while, you may remember the orange chair that has been a signature feature of so many of our rooms over the years… for better or worst!!
Here are a few pictures of the orange chair over the years.
In our living room …
In our playroom… (which looks way different now, btw. We owe you updated pictures!)
In the family room of our old house …
And in the formal living room of our old house… (see the cat peeking out from underneath?!)
I bought this midcentury orange chair almost ten years ago for less than $100 at a vintage shop and had to recruit a friend to help me drag it up from the basement and into my car because my arm was in a cast! When I bought it, it smelled like cigarettes and basements, and for years our cat used it as her favorite scratching post. There were mystery stains on the seat (I don’t want to know), stuffing was literally coming out, and whenever you’d sit down, you could feel the springs poking at your butt. It wasn’t pleasant. Needless to say, this chair desperately needed to be reupholstered.
Besides, this chair was ORANGE. Really, REALLY orange.
But we didn’t know ANYTHING about reupholstering. We really just had no idea who to call, how much it would cost, how much fabric we’d need or even where to go to look at fabrics. So we just lived with the chair for years and years and were embarrassed anytime a guest sat in it. Luckily in a random twist of fate, the guy who does our taxes mentioned that his brother Frank owns Cleveland Upholstering and literally wrote the book on upholstering.
I emailed pictures of our chair to Frank and he quickly responded with an estimate for the labor and materials and let me know how much fabric I would need to order. We set up an appointment in about 4-6 weeks.
This was the hardest part. There are some fabric stores in town that I could have gone to, such as Schindler’s Fabric Shop on Lorain, and JoAnn’s has some nice options especially in their Nate Berkus collection, and Frank said he had books I could come look through. But with a newborn (Olly was about six weeks old while this was happening — not my best timing), Joey about 20 months old, and Andy and I both just back to work after our maternity/paternity leaves, wandering around town looking at fabric samples was just not an option. (Next time we reupholster something, I’ll make sure I give myself plenty more time to choose the fabric!)
Instead I turned to the internet and looked at tons and tons and TONS of little pictures. I first looked at Knoll fabrics. I love that they carry a lot of vintage-inspired and reproduction fabrics from the same era as our chair, which just seemed like the perfect fit. I ordered a bunch of samples, in shades of teal and pink of course! Some retail furniture stores like West Elm also sell their fabric by the yard, so I ordered several samples from there as well. The best part is that West Elm’s samples are free!
We debated between teal, aqua and pink. We had a pink chair in the living room for a little while before it moved into Joey’s room, and it looked great. But ultimately I decided that pink is a color we may tire of eventually and teal or aqua would be much easier to translate into a different room in the future or if our tastes or color scheme change.
We first decided on a teal fabric from Knoll, but when I went to order it, shipping was over a hundred dollars! Whaaat?! I get it, upholstery fabric is heavy and Knoll is in the “to the trade” business not as much consumer/retail/average gal off the street. But we were already at the top of our budget, so I was left scrambling to make another choice. And of course I was supposed to drop off the chair in a few days at this point.
West Elm just happened to be having their huge semi-annual sale — with free shipping — and I had a sample I liked of an aqua color in a nubby texture that was similar to what had been on the chair originally. But then… out of stock!! Argh. (Stress level through the roof at this point!)
So, third choice time. In the above photo you can see all three of my favorite options, from bottom to top, with the winner on top. It’s another West Elm sample in the exact same shade as the second choice, called eucalyptus in a heathered weave, so it’s a greenish-bluish aqua with a smoother texture. So I crossed my fingers and ordered it. Nonrefundable of course. It took about four weeks to ship, so I had to push my appointment back, which was no big deal.
I was terrified that I’d bought the wrong fabric, that Frank would take one look and say, “we can’t put that on this chair!” But that didn’t happen at all. Instead, about two weeks after we dropped it off at Frank’s, we had a gorgeous new chair!
Yipppeeee! It’s so good!!!
Our living room looks so much more cohesive, nothing smells, and it’s now a very comfortable chair to sit in. We don’t feel the need to sheepishly apologize for the chair whenever we have visitors. No more springs poking your butt! This may not have been my first choice of fabric, but I honestly have zero regrets. I’m very happy that this is the one we ended up with. The aqua is essentially a soft, calm neutral that we’ll be able to live with for a very long time. It’s a beautiful complement to the blush pink accents we have throughout the room, but it could also look great with any number of different colors or decor choices.
Since we had no idea what to expect reupholstering to cost, I’ll break down what we ended up paying.
Labor and rebuilding the seat with new springs and filling: $395
5 yards of fabric (on sale): $96
Definitely an investment, but we wouldn’t be able to buy a new chair that is as unique, as well-built, and as custom for less than $500 — or even $600 when you factor the original cost of the chair. This chair has history, it feels like part of our family, and with its brand new upholstery, it’s 100% one of a kind. It fits into our living room like it belongs there.
I think there are definitely times when reupholstering is a good idea and when it’s not worth it. If you can buy something new for less, if your piece isn’t particularly special to start with, if your piece wasn’t well made, it’s probably not worth the money. For example, our sectional is in pretty bad shape, even though it’s only three years old. It’s stained and the cushions are misshapen. Out of curiosity I asked for an estimate. Labor would be $1700 and I’d need about 30 yards of fabric, which would be another $1200 or much, much more depending on the fabric. Since our couch wasn’t well made or super unique, we’ll eventually get a new one for less than the almost $3,000 to reupholster this one. That being said, when you do have something you care about, reupholstering can be totally worth it.
We feel like we learned a ton during this process, and I’m excited to try reupholstering again, with a lot less anxiety. Luckily we have another chair that needs a refresh!
If you’re local to Northeast Ohio and looking for an upholsterer, I definitely recommend Cleveland Upholstery in Olmsted Falls. (This isn’t sponsored. He doesn’t even know we’re bloggers. It’s just our honest opinion.)
Have you ever gotten a furniture piece reupholstered or do you have something that you want to? When I talked about this on Instagram, I got a lot of comments from people who also had projects that they didn’t really know what to do with. Let us know if you have any questions!