We have to tell you something about that hand-me-down chair tucked in the corner of your bedroom, you know, the one with the lovely shape and sturdy bones but hideous, striped fabric that you've been meaning to recover. Well, you're about to discover that a simple recovering isn't as simple as you thought.
Nor as affordable. Prices for furniture upholstery can range vastly depending on the scope of the project, quality, and amount of materials, and the upholsterer itself. Good news is, with so many choices, there's a ton of wiggle room for tweaking your project to fit your budget.
To illustrate our point, we went to the pros at A&B Upholstery in Costa Mesa, California, and asked for their bids on three make-believe upholstery projects using the same, standard, eight-foot sofa. A&B is a 30-year-old, family-run business whose expertise runs the gamut from recovering, refilling, and retying springs to building entire frames from scratch. Because their clientele consists mainly of custom work commissioned by interior designers, both A&B's work and price points fall on the higher end. "We wouldn't cover an IKEA couch, for instance," says A&B's Ana Melissa Madrid. "It's not worth it; chances are our upholstery would outlast the couch."
For this exercise, we used a photo of a basic non-tufted sofa with three seat cushions and three back cushions (pictured in the lead image above) for reference. They calculated the cost using standard sofa dimensions: 82" width x 34" height x 34" depth x 21" seat height.
If there were fine-print legalese on this story, it would say that all prices shown here are approximate and will vary greatly from project to project—and that one should consult their upholsterer for a more accurate estimate. Bottom line: Get at least two estimates and communicate your budget. "We don't turn away anyone based on budget" Madrid says. "We can be very creative."
Project #1: Sofa recovered in a solid, inexpensive fabric.
Fabric is an upholstery job's biggest wild card. "You could go with a $10 per yard cotton at the craft store or a $200 per yard vintage Hermes print," says Ana Melissa, whose business offers customers the choice of bringing in their own textile or purchasing it in-house at a discount. The only real restrictions around fabric are that it be upholstery-weight and come in sufficient yardage to cover your furnishing (around 15 to 20 yards for an eight-foot sofa). For this bid, we assumed a low-grade, basket-weave solid cotton at around $20 per yard.
TIP: Printed fabric ups the price slightly as it requires additional yardage and takes more time and skill to cut and align.
Project #2: Sofa recovered in same solid, inexpensive fabric and cushions refilled.
If your existing cushions are in bad shape, the price will go up. Fill material varies, too; although not as widely as fabric. On the very low end is foam, which can be found at a craft store for around $40 per cushion but won't be as comfortable or last as long as other, pricier fill options. A&B won't even work with all-foam filling unless it's a just-for-looks piece. What they will do is wrap a foam cushion in Dacron or down, which raises the price only slightly.
On the high end are goose-down blends, which in themselves range from low- to luxury-grade and can cost as much as $150 per cushion. "Even the low grade is really nice, though," Madrid says.
For this bid, we assumed an entire cushion's worth of mid-grade, goose-down filling costing in the neighborhood of $450 to fill an entire sofa (in addition to the same $20 basket-weave solid cotton used in Project #1 above).
TIP: To keep costs down, consider only partially refilling your old cushions. "As long as it's not disintegrating, I can keep some of the existing filling and just refresh with a little new," Ana Melissa says.
Project #3: Sofa recovered in an expensive fabric and cushions refilled.
A&B once took on a project for an upscale design house that involved covering a sofa in hand-sewn mohair at $200 per yard (you can do the obnoxious math on that). Sure, mohair probably isn't on the table for your project, but a quality linen might be. Vintage textiles are pretty hot these days, too. "Antique fabric can be tricky, because rarely is there enough to cover a whole piece," Madrid says. "But sometimes we can get creative by working in small sections of an antique or damaged fabric to a larger swath of new fabric."
For this bid, we assumed the works: a combo of high-end handwoven Belgian linen ($160 per yard) plus a complete refilling of cushions with high-grade goose-down filling ($150 per cushion).
TIP: Check thrift stores and your local wholesale fabric warehouse for good deals on good fabric.
The Expert: A&B Upholstery, 930 W. 16th, Unit D-1, Costa Mesa, CA, 92627