Design dilemma: To reupholster or not reupholster

Linda Brigida

Question: My husband and I are trying to decide whether we should put a slipcover on our sofa or have it reupholstered. Can you tell me what you think? What are the pros and cons of both?

Answer: Friends of mine just went through this same thing. They decided to have the reupholstering done, but there are certainly advantages and disadvantages to both.

The first is cost: Obviously, reupholstering a sofa is going to cost more than having a slipcover made. Although, a slipcover is not just something you pick up at a local store and tie on your sofa. There are custom slipcovers, which are much nicer and fit much better than the old standbys. A custom slipcover has separate covers for the removable back and seat cushions. With a better fit and a more precise cut, custom slipcovers are also fairly pricey.

You need to decide why are you covering the sofa. If the fabric is worn and faded and you never want to see it again, then I would say you should definitely consider reupholstering the piece. I also think that even though the new custom slipcovers are much better than the old types, they still don’t have the same clean, tailored look a reupholstering job would have. If you really like clean lines then the loose look is not for you; do not consider a slipcover.

When you reupholster your sofa you also have the option of changing the seat and back cushions. For example, if you have three seat cushions and three back pillows you might want to have one seat cushion and two back pillows instead. This will change the entire look of the sofa and you will really feel like you got a new piece of furniture. This will add extra cost (for the new foam), but the end result will be well worth it.

Well-constructed furniture should last for a long time, and if you really like the sofa and it’s in good condition – the frame, the springs, etc. – in the long run reupholstering will be less expensive than buying a comparable new piece of furniture.

If you are just tired of the fabric but it is still in great condition and you might want to see it again, then have a custom slipcover made. In either case, the cost of the fabric is separate and, depending on the grade of fabric you choose, the cost will reflect that. 

You should also be aware that not all fabrics make good slipcover choices. The fabric for a slipcover should not be stiff as it will not drape over the sofa well. Any fabric with backing is too stiff. It should however have a tight weave. No matter what you end up doing, there are a lot of fabric choices and you will be happy to have a “new” piece of furniture in your living area. Have fun.

Question: I am considering reupholstering my dining room chairs. I would like to choose leather but am not sure if it is going to be too costly. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer: Actually, I love the look of leather. But if cost is a concern, you should definitely check out the new faux leathers available. I have some samples and I don’t think anyone could tell the difference if they didn’t know. Faux leathers have come a long way, and they are available in all colors and types. The cost will be much less, and cleaning them is as easy as wiping them with a damp sponge. This is great if you have children or a sloppy spouse.  

Linda Brigida is the owner of Interiors, a new decorating business located in Plymouth, Mass., and specializing in window treatments, room design, color choices and furniture selection. E-mail your questions to or call Interiors at 508-746-2166.