Upholstery Seattle Tips, Tricks and FAQ

Restore Claw Feet Furniture

Some call them "Claw Feet", others prefer "Paw Feet". Either way, this style of furniture -- with ornamental animal feet carved into the leg bottoms -- were most popular during the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe and North America. They're often found on "Queen Anne," "Chippendale," "Victorian," or "American Empire" furniture.

This set of antique furniture -- two chairs and a settee -- features lion paws. The owner brought them in for new upholstery, but they were in such bad shape we had to do some serious restoration work first.

The first two rows show the antique chairs before, during and after restoration. The final two pics show the settee before and after restoration.

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    Original Chair
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    Reinforcing Frame
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    Restored Chair
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    Original Chair
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    Stripping Chair
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    Restored Chair
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    Original Settee
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    Reupholstered Settee

Based on the materials used to build this furniture set, we estimate it's nearly a century old. After stripping off the old cover, padding and burlap we went to work on the damaged frames. We glued together cracked sections and added support blocks in critical places (red arrows in first row). The old fashioned coil springs were still in good shape, so we cleaned and retied them. Then we touched up the woodwork, replaced the cotton padding with foam and covered the cushions in a durable blue fabric. This is another example of why you should think twice before junking old furniture.

Recover Ikea Chair

Generally speaking, furniture from Ikea is not worth reupholstering. Most of their stuff is so cheap you can buy a brand new chair for what it costs to recover the old one. But, if you like a specific Ikea chair and it's not being manufactured anymore, reupholstery is an excellent choice.

This vintage Ikea office chair is a cross between a 70s pod chair and a pedestal swivel.

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    Roundback Pedestal Chair
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    Vintage Fabric Removed
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    New Upholstery

The owner loved the chair, but not the fabric. She wanted it recovered in a solid blue microfiber. Microfiber looks and feels great. Unfortunately, it's a relativly stiff fabric. Ideally, you want something with plenty of "give" when upholstering curved furniture. If it's too stiff you get wrinkles.

Pleats eliminate wrinkles, but they clash with the sleek and simple design of a chair like this. A better alternative is steam. Steam temporarily loosens a fabric's weave allowing a tighter fit around curves.

Steaming did the trick. As you can see, the microfiber molded nicely to the old chair.

Inspired By Magazine Pic

magazine picCustomers often find inspiration for their projects in magazine ads or articles. Pictures of a tuffed sofa (left) recently caught the eye of a Seattle homeowner. She was building a six by eight foot dining nook and wanted the backrest tufted like the picture in the magazine.

Diamond tufting is an excellent way to dress-up a chair or sofa. It's less common in a casual dining environment where cravasses in the seat deck can trap food debris. With that in mind, she wanted tufting in the backrest only.

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    Button Holes in Board
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    Aligning Foam with Button Holes
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    Fabric Mark-up
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    Sewing Tufted Seams
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    Gap For Button Shaft
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    Threading Buttons
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    Button Properly Anchored in Tuft
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    Attaching Fabric to Board
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    Finished Backrests

This sort of project begins by preparing the backboard. We draw a pattern of interlocking diamonds on the board, then drill button holes where the lines intersect. Using the backboard as a template, we cut matching button holes in the foam padding. The tricky part comes next.

Marking and tufting the velvet fabric is among the most difficult tasks in upholstery. It takes a true craftsman to get it right. Not only do you have to pinch and sew the fabric just so, you have to do it dozens of times. Complicating the process, you have to leave a tiny gap in the center of each tuft. The gaps are for the button shanks. If a gap is too large or too small the button won't set properly.

After threading the buttons we slip the tufted cover over the backrests, build the seat decks and put it together inside the customer's breakfast nook.

New Fabric For A New Sofa

Let's say you walk into a furniture store and fall in love with a sofa. It's the perfect size and style. And best of all, the price is right. You just gotta have it, except the fabric is wrong. Maybe the color doesn't work or the pattern makes you nauseous or the material is too flimsy. Don't throw up your arms and walk away. Have it reupholstered.

Here's an example of somebody who liked a sofa so much they bought it even though the fabric was no good.

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    New Sofa With Ugly Fabric
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    Stripping Original Fabric
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    Edge Roll Support
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    Compare Old and New Fabric
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    New Fabric
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    New Sofa Upholstery

The customer chose a bright fabric with a lively, contemporary pattern; quite a contrast with the original one.

Reupolstering a brand new sofa may seem wasteful, but under certain circumstances it makes sense. In this instance the sofa was on sale. When you add-in the cost of new upholstery the buyer got a great deal: the perfect sofa with the fabric they wanted at a price they could afford.

Piano Bench Cushion

Here's an example of why it's always better to order fabric from us.

A customer wanted a cushion for a piano bench made from fabric she purchased on her own; and she wanted the cushion reversible. Reversible cushions are an excellent way to double the life of a cushion, but you have to have enough fabric to make it work. And wouldn't you know it, she didn't have enough! Fortunately, there was plenty of fabric to cover a single side, so we went to work.

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    Piano Bench
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    Foam for Piano Bench
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    Sizing the Fabric
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    Foam and Fabric
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    Repositioned Tie
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    New Cushion For Piano Bench

Because there wasn't enough fabric, we had to make to make some design changes. One of the changes actually improved the look; we were able to hide the fabric seam at the bottom of the cushion (bottom row, center) and reposition the tie so it's less obtrusive. The cushion wasn't reversible, but it looked a little nicer.

Save Money When You Recover Seat Cushions

Let's say you want new upholstery or foam for your chairs, but you're on a budget. There are a couple of things you can do to keep costs down. Since upholstery is labor-intensive, anything you can do to keep labor costs down will save you money. For example, instead of bringing in the entire chair, you can take off the seat and bring that in. Removing the seat deck saves us time, which saves you money.

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    Charlotte Fabrics 4541 Topaz
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    Measuring Cushion Fabric
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    Finished Seat Cushion

You can also save money by selecting the right fabric. Upholstery fabric can be expensive or affordable. In most cases you get what you pay for. But, there are quality, durable fabrics available if you know where to look. This fabric (above left) manufactured by Charlotte Fabrics is an excellent value. It's snappy and it feels great. It's also incredibly durable. Best of all, it's priced right.

Drop by our showroom. We'll help you find the right fabric.

Deck Chair Refit

Deck chairs are often equipped with reversible cushions. Flipping a cushion every now and then is a great way to double the life of outdoor furniture. When this deck chair was brought to our shop for new upholstery, the cushions were held in place with Velcro®. They were not reversible, so we suggested a different approach.

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    Deck Chair
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    Deck Chair Rear
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    Custom Ties

Instead of using Velcro®, we recommended a set of ties for both the seat and the back rest. We made the ties from the same fabric we used for the new cushion covers. We built seams down the sides of each cushion, then tucked the ties into the seams. Placing the ties an equal distance between both surfaces allows the cushions to be easily flipped without altering the look.

Exam Chair Redesign

Here's something you don't see very often; a medical exam chair with biscuit patterns sewn into the upholstery. It looks kind of stylish, but it's incredibly impractical. Exam chairs and tables need to be kept clean. The gutters surrounding each biscuit not only collect microscopic debris, they're hard to clean.

The chair needed a new cover. Instead of reprising the pattern, we recommended a smooth, easily maintainable surface.

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    Exam Chair Before Reupholstery
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    Exam Chair Before Reupholstery
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    Exam Chair After Reupholstery
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    Exam Chair After Reupholstery

The vinyl we used to upholster the exam chair is called Soave Haze. It's manufactured for medical, office, automotive and home use. With a rating of 150 thousand double rubs, Soave Haze is extremely durable. At the same time, it doesn't have that stiff feel often associated with heavy duty vinyl. It's soft as leather, and the subtle pattern stamped into the fabric looks great.

In addition to being more practical, upholstering the exam chair without the biscuit pattern is less expensive.

David Bowie Exhibit

When David Bowie died in January 2016, the world lost more than a gifted musician and talented actor. Bowie had become a pop icon.

Paul Allen's Museum of Pop Culture, formerly the Experience Music Project, wanted to stage an exhibit documenting his extraordinary life and accomplishments. The exhibit required custom seating and other specialized upholstery work.

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    Building Display Panels
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    New Foam and Vinyl
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    Finished Display Seat
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    Perfect Stitching

The craftsmen at Upholstery Seattle have completed a number of similar projects. The museum's time frame was the only part that proved a little bit challenging; the exhibit was already under construction and they needed a quick turn around. Aside from that, the project went smoothly and the display turned out great.

Cat Claw Shield

Just like their wild cousins, house cats like to perch in high places. That way they can regally survey their domain. Just as important, being high up allows them to look down on people.

When a kitty turned this headboard perch into a scratch pad, the owner called us. Replacing the cat was out of the question. Could we fabricate something to save the headboard from further damage?

Not a problem.

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    Damaged Headboard
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    Double Layer Vinyl
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    Slip Cover
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    Velcro® strips

A double-thick vinyl fabric reinforced with fiberglass would protect the headboard, but industrial strength vinyl is hardly suitable for a bedroom. The solution: an aesthetically pleasing slip cover to go over the vinyl. The cat will eventually tear up the slip cover, so we attached it using Velcro®. That way all you have to do is replace the slip cover when it wears out.

Museum Booth

Standard seating booths tend to be symmetrical. The common angles are not only asthetically pleasing (in a Main Street sort of way), symmetrical booths fit together even after being moved or reconfigured. But, symmetrical doesn't mean perfect. Not in the real world. Each seat in this booth has slightly different dimensions. As a result, we had to individually pattern all four cushions and seatbacks for a seamless fit.

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    Museum Booth Frame
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    Fitting Cushions
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    Cool Comfort Soleil Vinyl by Architex
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    Wedge-Shaped Seating Pad
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    Contoured Cushion & Backrest
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    Finished!

Selecting the proper fabric and foam for a seating booth depends on how it's going to be used. This one is being built for a museum in California, so the fabric needs to be tough and easy to clean. The designer selected Cool Comfort Soleil Vinyl by Architex. A nice choice.

For standard home furniture, we recommend a medium density foam — HR45. It strikes a nice balance between comfort and support. While HR45 is perfect for living room chairs and sofas, it's too soft for this. A foam that provides greater support — HR55 wrapped in Dacron® — is better suited for seating in a public setting.

If you're refinishing or installing booths, drop by our shop. We'll help you do it the right way.

Out Of Africa!

Hunting for a faux animal skin fabric can be tricky. Most mills carry a standard yellow and black tiger stripe. Other manufacturers dabble in more exotic colors and patterns. The hard part is finding a faux skin that's durable and looks convincing up close.

One of our customers recently selected two excellent faux skin fabrics for a reupholstery project — Zebra M8271 manufactured by Barrow and Duralee's DP61208-623. The zebra fabric is polyester, the faux cheetah is made from cotton. Both look and feel great. Both are rugged.

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    Serged Fabric Ends
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    Custom Crafted Black Buttons
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    Fabric Pattern Matched At Seams
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    Original Mid-Century Modern Chair
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    Aligning Zebra Print With Pattern
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    A Brand New Look!

As you might expect, faux animal skin is not the easiest fabric to work with. It can be challenging to match fabric seams when a pattern design is erratic. In addition, the cheetah skin had to be hand stitched at the corners and serged at the bottom to prevent fraying.

The extra care required to reupholster this chair and ottoman paid off. Both pieces turned out great!

Meeting Room Insert

Rubbermaid recently asked us to put the final touches on a wall insert for an office meeting room. The project required us to upholster 50 rectangular panels with foam and fabric then mount them on the interior walls of the insert.

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The company selected a durable wool blend fabric — Coda 722 — manufactured by Kvadrat, a Danish design textile firm. Because the booths were u-shaped, nearly half of the panel inserts were curved. Fortunately, the foam had plenty of give and we were able to stretch the fabric enough to upholster the rounded inserts without too much difficulty. Turned out great!

Chairs For A New Salon

We often upholster chairs for hair salons, spas and barber shops. In this instance we're recovering 32 chairs for a new hair salon in Seattle's Pioneer Square neighborhood. This sort of project can be time consuming, but it's usually pretty straightforward. The tricky part is selecting the right fabric.

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    Olympus Vinyl Fabric
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    Reupholstered Seat Cushion
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    Reupholstered Salon Chair
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    Durable & Stylish Fabric

The owner of the new Pioneer Square salon operates successful salons and spas throughout the area. Based on his reputation, there'll be plenty of customers from the get-go. It promises to be a busy, upscale business, so both style and durability are important considerations when selecting a fabric.

Today's premium vinyls are almost indistinguishable from leather. We recommended a slightly textured, satin finish black vinyl manufactured by Olympus. In addition to looking great, this vinyl is easy to work with. It's also sturdy -- it's rated 1.5 million double rubs -- and it resists damage from most chemicals found in a hair salon.

This was a rush order; as soon as the fabric arrived, our craftsmen went to work. As you can see, the chairs -- trimmed in matching welt -- turned out great! And by using the right fabric, they'll last for years.


Recovering A Double Arm Chaise Longue

The traditional chaise longue (a.k.a. psychiatrist's couch) is manufactured without arms or, in some cases, with only a single arm. They're built this way to make sitting down and getting up easier. Of course, there's always a outlier insisting on something different. Here's an example of a chaise we recently recovered with two arms.

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The double arm style makes rising from the chaise a little awkward; it's necessary to slide forward before swinging a leg over the cushion deck. The designer of this chaise makes the process of standing up a little easier, however. Instead of being parallel with the deck, the arms on this chaise are short and angle down immediately. The arms are so low and truncated that they don't get in the way. It's an excellent compromise between style and comfort.


Restoring 1950s Barber Chair

It's not a Captain's Chair from the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. And it's definitely not the latest Decepticon Transformer about to unravel. This is one of those massive, "a little dab'll do ya" barber chairs from the Eisenhower era. Check out the ash tray built into the arm! Then lean in close and maybe catch a whiff of Brylcreem or Vitalis.

As you can see, from these pics (below left) it hasn't aged well.

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  • old barber chair reupholstered

Just moving this barber chair required a monumental effort. It tips the scale north of two hundred pounds!

Restoring the chair was pretty strightforward once we replaced the deck padding and chair back with new polyurethane foam and Dacron wrap.The "industrial strength" vinyl selected by the owner was a bit brighter than the orginal cover, but perfect for this application. Next thing you know, Don Draper or Roger Sterling will swing by for a hot towel shave and light trim.


Send The Right Message

Even the most durable vinyl on a chiropractic table eventually wears out.

There's nothing fancy about a padded, retangular table, so it's tempting to go online or visit a fabric store, order a roll of vinyl and recover the table in-house. Here's an example of why that's a terrible idea.

chiropractic table before recovering
Chiropractic Table After Recovering
chiropractic table before recovering
Chiropractic Table Before Recovering

The pics on the left show a chiropratic table upholstered by a do-it-yourselfer. As you can see, it's badly wrinkled and the corners are a mess. What you can't see is even worse – the sloppy upholstery screwed-up the padding. The polyurethane was so badly stretched and compressed we had to toss the old foam and start all over.

What sort of message does the do-it-yourself upholstery send? Does it inspire confidence? Would you feel more comfortable walking into a clinic using the table on the left or the one on the right? Enough said.


Aligning Fabric Patterns

Properly aligning a print fabric can be tricky and enormously time consuming. Often times the customer wants a chair reupholstered with a specific fabric even though its pattern doesn't quite work with the chair's geometry.

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This sturdy wingback chair isn't quite an antique, but it's well worth saving. Instead of replacing the fabric with a similar velvet or microfiber, the owner wanted it reupholstered in a lively print. As you can see, a series of large, spade-shaped figures dominates the fabric they selected.

Centering the spade-shaped figures on the seat deck, chair back and down the sides was hard. It was even more difficult to align the pattern inside the arms, down the front and around the corners while maintaining proper spacing through the deep diamond tufting. As you can see, the pattern not only lines up perfectly, the two sides mirror each other. This wingback is a great example of how the craftsmen at Upholstery Seattle properly align a difficult fabric.