Before & After: An $80 Sofa Gets an Affordable and Easy Refresh

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(Image credit: Amy of The Gray Duck )

Amy fell in love with this sofa’s good bones and excellent cushions, even though the fabric was a little drab. After inspecting the piece to make sure it wasn’t too good to be true, she took it home and got to work and giving it a super easy and affordable refresh.

(Image credit: Amy of The Gray Duck )

From Amy: This is one of those sofas built with an incredibly sound construction, it’s something that is hard to find these days for an affordable price. When I sit on this sofa I feel supported, yet cozy, and the massive cushions weigh a ton because they are filled with high-quality foam. No squeaking, no sagging, and no rocking. This was, indeed, a good find. But, as you can see from the “before,” it needed some tweaking to bring it into the modern era.

The upholstery was in great condition (no rips or tears) but the color had faded quite a bit and was splattered with some water stains. One of the reasons I was excited about this piece is because it is upholstered in chenille fabric. Why? Well, for several reasons. Is it soft? Yes. Is it classically chic? Of course. But most importantly, chenille fabric has an incredible ability to take color. Dying fabric is an amazingly affordable way to update faded furniture. And, it’s incredibly easy.

After we got it home I let it air out in the yard. After a few hours, I gave the piece a good cleaning via my vacuum. Then, I began the updating.

The first thing I wanted to do was remove the skirt. So, I closely examined how it was attached and verified that all the fabric beneath was in good condition (which I checked at the viewing, but it is always a good idea to look again before you tear anything off). The upholstery looked great so I loosened a few staples and pulled it off – it took about five minutes.

Then, I mixed a spray bottle of hot water with 1/4 cup of blue Rit fabric dye. I then soaked a sample of the fabric (this was a good use for the skirt I just removed). I didn’t want to change the color, just brighten it up, so I diluted the dye with plenty of water and tested a few swatches until I found the color I wanted. I then made up a new bottle with the appropriate portions and went to work.

To spray furniture, take it outside if at all possible, otherwise protect any surrounding areas you don’t want to be dyed (including your hands). Soak the fabric evenly and thoroughly. Be sure to let it dry completely – the dye will not come off on your clothes once it dries (which can take up to three days depending on humidity). An important note, however, is that water will reactivate the dye, so, just be sure not to put anything wet on your newly dyed fabric.

The final step in my sofa update was to replace the legs. I had an old ottoman with the exact legs I wanted, so I swapped them with the sofa. I added a few pillows, arranged it in my living room, and am thoroughly enjoying this awesome “new” piece. With a little time and creativity, all-in, this piece cost me $80.

I adore how this piece turned out. The bright blue of the sofa offers a modern contrast to the classic dark wood of my living room. If I had it to do all over again, I would not change a thing.

Amy’s words of wisdom: When buying fabric pieces there are a few things to keep in mind, and unless you are a master upholsterer, which I am not, avoid anything that smells pungent, or has large stains or tears in the fabric. Also, check to see if the covers are removable, and if there are zippers, what condition are they in? Are the legs stable? Are the cushions in solid condition? Are springs poking out? Not every piece is worth the cheap price. Reupholstering an entire sofa or even replacing the foam in the cushions can add up quickly. Make a list of “musts,” and definitely check it twice.

When it comes to looking for pieces to dye, anything upholstered in fiber should work – my piece is chenille, but velvet, wool, polyester, or cotton should work. Avoid anything that has a glossy, smooth finish, like vinyl, leather, silk, rayon, and some polyester fabrics. I would also avoid any fiber pieces that appear to have a shiny coating, like Scotch Guard.

When it comes to actually dyeing the piece, make sure to cover everything in the vicinity. And always, always do a test piece first.

Thank you Amy! You can see more on Amy’s blog The Gray Duck.