Before and After: A $75 Vintage Sofa Redo Takes Advantage of Surprise Materials

published Jul 26, 2020
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Before: faded, yellowed vintage couch with sagging seat
Credit: Alli Gannett

Well-made furniture can last multiple lifetimes—but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need care along the way. This vintage sofa, for instance, was in desperate need of a refresher. But fortunately for Alli Gannet, she was able to snag it for free, thanks to Facebook Marketplace. “The couch must’ve been from the 1950s, so I fell in love with the wooden frame and the clean mid-century modern lines,” Alli says. “It had so much potential just from the one photo in the ad. I knew with the right fabric it could look like the expensive mid-century modern couches I was seeing online.” But in its current state, it was clearly showing its age: “The fabric was old and the couch was very stiff, heavy, and slouching in the middle seat,” she says.

Credit: Alli Gannett

Alli knew she wanted to try her hand at reupholstering for the first time—and, she says, since the couch was free, the risk was low. She thought she’d wait a while to reupholster, but once she got the couch home she noticed it was in worse shape than she thought. “I noticed the old disintegrated original cushions were spilling all over my floor—it looked like sand,” she says. “So I decided to reupholster it that weekend.”

She started by taking the top part of the frame off the legs, removing all the old fabric and batting. “There were actually two layers of upholstery that I had to remove in order to get to the frame,” Alli says. “This meant I had to do twice the work of removing fabric and stuffing. My hands really took a hit, as I probably removed around 1250 staples total from this couch.”

Credit: Alli Gannett

Once she removed all the old fabric and stuffing, Alli bought new foam cushions and batting, a staple gun, and fresh bolts to re-assemble the couch and frame. With coupons, her total spend was just $60. For the upholstery fabric, Alli got creative, using hand-me-down IKEA curtains in a fun leafy pattern.

Alli gave the couch extra cushion by re-purposing a friend’s memory foam mattress topper on the seat. “The couch is also extremely comfortable,” she says. “Using a memory foam mattress pad makes this couch the ultimate cat-nap couch.”

When it came to applying the new upholstery, Alli jumped straight in. “I didn’t read any “how-to” blogs or anything about upholstery,” she says. “The only thing I knew going in was to pull tight and use a staple gun, and that was from watching countless hours of HGTV. To be honest, it was a lot of work but it wasn’t necessarily difficult.”

Credit: Alli Gannett

The end product is proof that even the saddest looking furniture pieces can be revitalized with a little elbow grease. “I love the mid-century look of the final product. I think the fabric works perfectly with the wood frame,” Alli says. And with such an inexpensive (read: free!) starting point, she felt totally comfortable learning as she went. To other aspiring furniture reupholsters, Alli says “my advice would be to just go for it. It is so satisfying to take something old and bring it back to life.”

Inspired? Submit your own project here.