Upholstery Seattle Tips, Tricks and FAQ

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.

  • museum booth
    Museum Booth Frame
  • museum booth
    Fitting Cushions
  • museum booth
    Cool Comfort Soleil Vinyl by Architex
  • museum booth
    Wedge-Shaped Seating Pad
  • museum booth
    Contoured Cushion & Backrest
  • museum booth
    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.

  • cheetah fabric
    Serged Fabric Ends
  • cheetah fabric
    Custom Crafted Black Buttons
  • cheetah fabric
    Fabric Pattern Matched At Seams
  • zebra fabric
    Original Mid-Century Modern Chair
  • zebra fabric
    Aligning Zebra Print With Pattern
  • zebra fabric
    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.

  • rubbermaid
  • rubbermaid
  • rubbermaid
  • rubbermaid
  • rubbermaid
  • rubbermaid

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.

  • salon chairs
    Olympus Vinyl Fabric
  • salon chairs
    Reupholstered Seat Cushion
  • salon chairs
    Reupholstered Salon Chair
  • salon chairs
    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.

  • chaise
  • chaise
  • chaise
  • chaise

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.

  • old barber chair
  • 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.

  • chair restoration
  • chair restoration
  • chair restoration
  • chair restoration

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.


A Sleeker Design

When a Seattle chiropractic service needed to update its adjusting tables and office furniture, they called us. It would have been easy to recover the equipment and move on to the next project. Instead, we suggested some tweaks to improve the appearance and durability of the apparatus. Compare the before pics (burgundy fabric) with the after pics (black fabric) below.

headrest redesign

In addition to covering this headrest in a more durable fabric, we streamlined the design and restored the foam. If our upholstery team spots a way to improve the performance or appearance of equipment -- even if it's a relatively minor change -- we'll let you know. Details are important at Upholstery Seattle.


Custom Upholstery Buttons

Custom made upholstery buttons are often used to attach fabric to furniture when a chair or sofa has a curved shape. They're also an excellent way to dress up furniture, especially in an office setting.

Fabricating and attaching the buttons can be tricky and time consuming. But, when done properly they're definitely worth the effort. The process begins by collecting scraps of the upholstery we used to cover the sofa, then cutting the fabric into small squares.

  • custom buttons
  • custom buttons
  • custom buttons

In this case the fabric is a grey polyester chenille. Using a sturdy "cookie cutter" dye, we slice the squares into button-shaped plugs the size of an old silver dollar.

A heavy duty button maker then aligns each fabric plug with a steel button blank and snaps the assembly in place.

Attaching the buttons requires special care, especially when the cushions are spring supported, like the ones on this couch. Being careful not to damage the springs, we thread and tie the custom made buttons. The fabric grain on the buttons should align with the fabric grain on the cushion before the job is done.


 

Fabric & Leather Repair

People frequently ask us how to repair cosmetic damage in furniture. There's no easy answer. It depends on a couple of things: how do you want the item to look after the repair and how long do you want the repair to last.

colored tapeIf the repair is temporary or strictly for functional purposes, a few strips of colored cloth or vinyl tape is a popular fix. Of course, the brand of tape, its adhesive properties, the location of the tear and the fabric color make a big difference.

superglueOne thing is certain: at some point, the tape will tear or its adhensive will go bad. Then you'll have to "repair the repair". Removing old tape can further damage your furniture. We don't recommend this approach.

If the damaged section is tiny and the fabric edges are still in good shape, you can try Super Glue or Gorilla Glue; pull the fabric edges together, then apply a bead of glue. A strip of tape may be necessary to hold the fabric edges together as the glue dries. When done correctly, this sort of do-it-yourself repair works fine if you're not concerned with appearance.

vinyl repair kitThose vinyl repair kits and leather repair kits you sometimes see advertised on late night TV promise perfection, but rarely deliver. Using a repair kit requires a keen eye for detail and an artist's touch. Not only do you have to match the color of the damaged section, you have to properly mix the chemicals and then apply the correct texture before the substance dries. In many cases, the texture options provided in the kit won't match the damaged section. Colors can be problematic, as well. They can fade, wear off or simply go bad.

As a practical mater, it's just about impossible to repair anything other than a very small tear with a repair kit. The repair may hold, but we've never seen one that looks right. This is how one product reviewer describes working with a repair kit, "I'm not sure what I expected, I guess too much, or perhaps this just delivers too little. Its basically like fixing your leather with painted duct tape that has better stick than actual duct tape".

repair torn furnitureYou can also repair a small tear by stitching the fabric together with an upholstery needle and thread. This approach works if you don't mind your sofa looking like a darned sock or Frankenstein's forehead.

After decades of doing this sort of thing, we believe there's only one truly effectively way to repair damaged furniture. You have to replace the entire section of fabric surrounding the tear (left). Often times we can find fabric identical to the original material, which makes color and texture matching a breeze, unless the furniture is sun bleached. If you care about the appearance and durability of your furniture, this is the best way to go.


 

Flamboyant Fabrics

When upholstering furniture bound for the glitzy Côte d'Azur, you do things a little differently.

One of our customers recently sent us an exceptional collection of furniture, including an early 19th century chaise lounge, to be upholstered and then shipped to Monaco. If the pieces were being upholstered for a Seattle home, we might have recommended more toned-down fabrics. But, this furniture was destined for the south of France where flamboyant colors and Byzantine furniture fit right in.

Small Stools
Fabrics Used For Project
Large Stool
Large Stool
Upholstered Bench
Upholstered Bench
Antique Chaise Lounge
Antique Chaise Lounge
Sette
Embroidered Fabric For Sette
slip cover
Slip Cover

The project took several days to complete. As you can see, everything turned out great. Fabrics used for the slip cover and settee posed the only significant challenge. Brightly colored, embroidered fabrics such as these are typically used for pillows, seatbacks and other accessories. Maintaining fabric alignment while matching an intricate pattern across the entire settee is literally impossible. Fortunately, the rich bullion braid covered many of visible seams, minimizing alignment issues.


 

Diamond Tufting Antique Chair

preparing foam for tufting
Buttons Holes Properly Aligned
finger-sized hole
Finger-Sized Button Hole
dacron wrap
Dacron Wrap To Soften Seat
aligning fabric with hole
Smoothing Pleats
tufted chair
Finished
sliding buttons into place
Threading Button
setting button
Setting Button
anchoring buttons under seat
Anchoring Buttons Under Seat

You'll often find decorative diamond tufting in fine antique furniture. When restoring one of these chairs or sofas, we're careful to match the tufting pattern with materials that mimic the original look. For this project we're using a durable eggplant-colored microfiber. The fabric's thick, old fashioned pile is perfect for tufting.

Tufting needs to be done carefully or results can be disastrous. Begin by measuring precisely. The primary row of buttons should be centered near the midpoint of the seat. Divide the seat length by the number of rows. Use the resulting number to evenly space the rows. The one closest to the midpoint will serve as the primary row.

Space the button holes -- in this case five -- evenly across the primary row. Repeat the process for each row.

This chair's tufting pattern is a little tricky because the button count on each row alternates between odd and even numbers. This is when high school geometry finally serves a purpose! We draw a series of vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines on the foam to make sure each button hole is positioned properly. After the button holes are measured and drilled, we wrap the seat in Dacron to enhance softness. Then we fabricate buttons to match the material and begin the actual tufting process.

Drape an oversize layer of fabric over the foam. Using a finger or pencil, push the fabric covering the first hole all the way down. Align and smooth the resulting pleats. Repeat the process in the holes beside, above and below the first one. These four holes form a diamond shape. Dress-up the pleats, then thread the buttons.

Using a long tapestry needle and heavy coat thread, pull each button into place. Anchor the thread to clumps of durable cotton batting beneath the deck. Make sure the buttons are set to the same depth. The tufting process sounds straightforward, but getting it right requires experience and a feel for fabric, foam and furniture. Diamond tufting is not for the faint of heart.


 

Repairing a Champion's Blanket

patched horse blanket
Blanket With Patches
damaged horse blanket
Damaged Championship Blanket

The Arabian horse is one of the oldest and most recognizable breeds in the world. Relatively small and refined, Arabians are prized for their intelligence, agility and temperament. They compete in all sorts of equestrian events, including walks, trots, canters and long distance riding.

Quilted blankets are often awarded to winning horses. These distinctively embroidered blankets are treasured by riders and horse owners. When a North Seattle owner recently discovered her championship blanket shredded by rats she was horrified. Tossing the blanket was out of the question, so she brought it to us. After fixing the damaged Dacron padding, we suggested two repair options: 1) restore the blanket to its original condition by replacing each of the damaged panels with matching fabric, or 2) limit repairs to damaged areas. The customer chose option number two.

Selecting the proper fabric to patch the damaged areas was pretty straightforward. The color had to match the blanket and the fabric had to be heavy-duty. Canvas Navy, manufactured by Sunbrella, turned-out to be the perfect choice. Despite the difference in texture between the two fabrics, the patches blend well with the blanket (above right). And full restoration is always an option down the road.


 

Custom-Designed Headboard

Traditional headboards go in-and-out of style. Today, they're making a comeback.

A headboard is typically coupled to the side rails of a bedframe, allowing the bed and headboard to move together. This custom-made headboard is engineered for a different purpose -- to fit inside an alcove specifically built for a queen-size headboard. Instead of being connected to the bed, this headboard will attach directly to the wall.

wooden headboard frame
Custom Headboard Frame
foam padding
Scrim Covers Foam Padding
corner application
Scrim Rolled Over Top
fabric
Scrim & Dacron Covers Base
sizing foam
Sizing Fabric
padded headboard corner
Fitting Top Corner
Stapling Fabric To Base
Attaching Fabric To Base
fabric attached
Fabric Aligned

Before designing it, the contractor consulted with us. We recommended covering the surface with two-inches of polyurethane padding. With that in mind, he built a two-inch gutter to accomodate the foam.

After fitting the foam, we draped a pink, quarter-inch scrim over the facing then added a Dacron wrap for softness. This resulted in a smooth, seamless surface on which to fasten the fabric.

The fabric is a blended weave selected to match room decor. We're careful to align it so the pattern angles-up around the edges.

Since the headboard fits snugly inside the alcove, the sides won't be seen. Even though they're not visible, we sew snug corners all the way around to keep the fabric from wrinkling. When finished, the headboard is a fine addition to an elegant bedroom.


 

Vintage Husky Tailgater

Aladdin Travel Trailers, originally built in Oregon from 1963 through 1969, were King of the Road in the sixties and seventies, especially in the Pacific Northwest. Most were built to be affordable, using relatively inexpensive materials and manufacturing techniques. Owners were sometimes called "Tin Can Tourists". For obvious reasons, you don't see many of these 50-year-old trailers on the road anymore. Most are either long gone or in pretty bad shape.

Vintage Aladdin Travel Trailer
Vintage Aladdin Travel Trailer
Dining Nook
Dining Nook
Bright Fabrics
Fun Fabrics
Husky Purple Pillows
Husky Purple Pillows
Sleeping Loft
Sleeping Loft
Bright Fabrics
Fun Fabrics

This vintage Aladdin from Omak was all but abandoned when J.E., a University of Washington alumnus, had a brainstorm -- transform the old thing into a state-of-the-art tailgater for Husky Football games. What a great idea!

It took lots of elbow grease to get the old Aladdin back together, not to mention roadworthy. By the time it reached the parking lot of our shop, it looked fresh off the production line! Well, maybe not that good...but, J.E. had done an excellent job renovating it.

With the trailer back in shape, it was time for new upholstery.

Instead of restoring the interior upholstery to its original look, she decided to have a little fun. Husky Purple -- in a nice assortment of prints, solids, and faux alligator leather -- was a must. Add in some eye-candy green and blue and you end up with a tailgater even author Ken Kesey might have envied. Then again, who cares about Kesey? He went to the University of Oregon.


 

Upholstering Cupped Surfaces

One of the more challenging tasks in our craft is upholstering a concave or extremely cupped surface. It's not the sort of project we see every day, but when furniture with a severely rounded surface does come through our door, Upholstery Seattle takes special care to upholster it properly. This curved restaurant booth is a great example of how its done.

attaching fabric
Sliding Fabric Over Foam
sewing crown
Sewing Sections In Place
pre-cut foam
Pre-Cut Foam Pad
fabric for crown
Fabric For Cushion Top
sunning fabric
Tightening Fabric In Sun
gap over cupped surface
Gap Over Cupped Surface
tugging fabric
Tugging Fabric
steaming wrinkles
Steaming Wrinkles

The first thing we do is order a specially shaped slab of polyurethane foam. It's pre-cut to match the foam it replaces. There's little room for error, so we measure carefully and work closely with our foam suppliers. When the foam arrives, we turn our attention to the critical piece of fabric on a concave surface, the cushion top. This section is cut to precisely match the curve in the foam. If it's not just right, the fabric will pucker and wrinkle.

Using the curved fabric as an anchor, we sew the other sections in place, then slip the upholstery over the foam like a glove.

As you can see, the fit is a little loose at first. There's also a big gap between the fabric and the cupped surface (bottom row, left). This is where years of experience counts. We tug the upholstery so it's flush with the foam, then staple it to the base. This has to be done with just the right amount of tension; too much and the fabric tears, not enough and it wrinkles.

A judicious application of steam erases all but the tiniest flaws. After steaming the fabric, we bake it under the afternoon sun for a couple of hours. This shrinks the gap between the fabric and foam resulting in a perfect fit. In the end, the restaraunt booth turns out just right!


 

Powered Recliner

You may think the recliner was invented by the same guy who dreamed up the TV remote control and pull top beer can. The concept actually goes all the way back to 19th Century France and Emperor Napoleon III. Early recliner designs were loosely based on the chaise lounge, another French invention.

old motorized recliner
Old Powered Recliner
lift mechanism
Recliner Lift Mechanism
massage unit
Recliner Massage Unit
recliner stripped to frame
Stripped to Frame
control box
Control Box
reupholstered power recliner
Finished

If Napoleon III was alive today, he'd probably demand a powered recliner with all the bells and whistles; something like this motorized recliner equipped with a built in heater, a mechanical massager and a control panel worthy of the Starship Enterprise.

This top-of-the-line powered recliner retails for roughly $5000. With that much money invested in comfort, you don't want to cut corners on upholstery.

As you can see, everything but the kitchen sink is built into this thing. The chair weighs more than an NFL linebacker. Moving it takes plenty of manpower, but the hardest part comes when we get inside the shop. Before reupholstering the recliner, we have to literally take it apart. Carefully dissasembling all the mechanical and electronic parts takes nearly a day. After stripping everything off, we reupholster the recliner in a heavy duty Acrylic/Polyester Chenille. The foam is in good shape; all it needs is a Dacron wrap and we're done. A few hours to reinstall the mechanical bells and whistles, and the powered recliner is out the door looking better than ever.