Before and After: An Epic Tale of One Estate Sale Mid-Century Sofa

published Sep 22, 2018
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This estate sale sectional had its issues, but what it lacked in legs it made up for in mice. Don’t let the beautiful backdrop distract you: This sofa needed some serious (read: professional) TLC to go from threadbare and disintegrating to refined and rodent-free.

Here’s how this sofa was acquired:

The day before I moved 1,000 miles to my current home, I spotted a mid-century sectional sofa at an estate sale and bought it for my new place. It was NOT easy cramming it into the U-Haul but it was such a score. It was SO comfy—especially for a vintage sofa. It had a deep seat, with a high back, and was the kind of sofa you could really lounge in. Sadly, the upholstery was threadbare, the foam was disintegrating, the wood was in rough shape, and it came with a gift with purchase (hello little mouse).

Now the sofa looks so dreamy and incredibly comfortable, with its deep seat, high back, and cuddle-able shape. Tanya of Dans le Lakehouse is responsible for the sectional—and this room’s—makeover, and the results are impressive. The sofa has all the mid-century modern charm that countless retailers are going for, with an authenticity that’s impossible to replicate. The reupholstering and refinishing jobs have given it a new life—it’s the best combination of then and now.

Here’s another glimpse of this sectional in its native habitat, as well as a bit more information about how this project came about (there’s a twist!):

After saving up for YEARS for the upholstery, my spouse and I decided to spend that money on a new, much larger, leather sectional sofa instead. In the end, the scale just wasn’t right but I was so sad about not being able to restore that vintage gem.

Luckily, I was helping someone decorate their tiny apartment with a staircase so narrow, no store-bought sofa would fit. Because the vintage sectional I was still hoarding comes apart, it was the perfect fit so I sold it for the $200 I paid and helped choose fabric, find a good upholsterer, decorate the space a little (still a work in progress), and I even tracked down a coffee table which I hacked into an ottoman. It was so much fun because I got to see the sofa get restored and didn’t spend a dime, haha.

I love how this room is full of pale pieces with intriguing textures. You’ve got the chunky braided rug, the shimmering tweed, the grasscloth lampshades, the baskets, and the burnished side table. It all adds up to a pearly glow that reminds me of San Francisco.

When I lived in my former city, I had a go-to upholstery company and had a couple of vintage chairs re-done (which have been featured on Apartment Therapy: the Mingo Masterpiece and the Beat-Up Beauty) but in my new city I didn’t know who to turn to for help. The furniture shop I bought my sectional from recommended the upholster we used and, for a job like this, it’s so important to find a good company! For choosing fabric, make sure you see the fabric in your own space. Some of the samples that looked good in store, looked awful and dull in the apartment. But this silvery tweed has a luminous quality that looked beautiful even on a dreary day.

That is excellent advice. Your home’s own lighting makes such a difference, and you’ll also want to see how a fabric looks at different times during the day.

Here we can see the sofa with its new companion piece, this intriguing ottoman/coffee table with storage space below. It’s a totally practical piece, but it’s also just fun—it’s playful despite its lustrous wood and restrained upholstery.

The sofa was professionally done, which meant new foam, new fabric, plus a restored and refinished wood frame and legs. It was an investment, price-wise, but no more than similar sofas in stores. It’s perfect for the space and easy to move—perfect for an apartment dweller.

While we waited for the perfect storage ottoman to drop out of the sky, I found a vintage oval coffee table which I hacked into a circle. I asked the upholsterer to make a round cushion and attach a grippy rug underlayment material to the bottom so it just sits on the wood surface and doesn’t slide around. Although a storage ottoman would be ideal in an apartment this tiny (every inch counts) this table offers a cozy spot that doubles as additional seating while offering a spot below for a drink or book.

The throw pillows are in similarly pale, shimmering fabrics, meaning the cushions blend in with the sofa and don’t distract from its lovely lines. However, bolder pillows and perhaps a throw blanket would also look beautiful, perhaps in one of Tanya’s dream hues:

Although I pushed hard for a teal or indigo upholstery fabric (the latter was discontinued), the pale silver gray we chose works so well in a small space and pairs beautifully with warm wood tones. Down the road, it can be made bolder with colorful throw pillows or a rug. But for someone who isn’t in their “forever” home yet, the versatility is really nice.

Thank you, Tanya of Dans le Lakehouse!