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If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I had an AWFUL experience with an upholsterer here in Atlanta last week (Hurst Upholstery). I have 3 upholsterers that I generally use but decided to try someone new after I got a recommendation. I should’ve known better–my instinct was telling me not to use him, and I kick myself for not listening to it. In all honesty, the cheap prices were what pulled me in. I was looking to have quite a few pieces reupholstered and saw dollar signs when I thought about how much I could potentially save. But instead of saving, I lost…big time. $150 worth of fabric PLUS $40 in labor, and we’ll just add $10 (low estimate) in for my gas, time, and irritation, so $200 total. The problem started with an inability to pattern match and do detail work (even though this was discussed in the initial consultation), then ended with some awful customer service.  So I thought I’d turn my lemons into lemonade and share the things I think YOU should know when selecting an upholsterer.


1. Do Your Research: The easiest way to find a reputable upholsterer is to find out who your friends, family & neighbors have used (and loved!). Getting their opinion is great, but I also suggest you take it one step further and physically take a look at their reupholstered piece. Quality means different things to different people, so what’s fabulous to them might not be so hot to you. Do not pass go until you’ve had a chance to judge their reupholstery job for yourself.   Check the seams, symmetry, lines and decide for yourself if the work lives up to your expectations.

                                                                          House of Turquoise

2. Check The Inventory: Any upholsterer worth his or her weight will have at least one completed project you can see in their shop. And if, on the off chance they have not a single piece of furniture available, someone should be currently working on a piece, sewing drapery, or finishing a pillow. I prefer to check workrooms and actually watch people working on pieces so I can get a feel for whether they know what they’re doing or not.  It sounds silly and dictatorial, but when you’re buying 10 yards of fabric at $50-$100/yard PLUS paying reupholstery costs, being dictatorial will be the least of your concerns. If you go to an upholsterer and they have nothing to show you in person, RUN. (I feel stupid even typing this, but my “awful experience” upholsterer had nothing for me to see. NOTHING. If that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is!)  
                                                                             Little Emma English

3. Know What You Want: Unless you’re working with a designer, I don’t suggest you show up at the upholsterer’s and expect them to guide you in making the best design selections for your ready-to-be-refinished piece. Spend time gathering your inspiration  and getting clear about the exact style/design you’re looking for (Google, Houzz, and Pinterest are great places to start). Want to change the legs or add a skirt? Lose the loose cushions and turn it into a tight back? Add trim, banding, piping or nailheads? Figure this out before you get to the upholsterer. Yes, upholsterers are highly skilled people, but not all of them are great at coming up some of the same cutting edge ideas we see in shelter mags.  Don’t allow yourself to be discouraged from doing something you have your heart set on because you’ll only end up hating the end product. Save yourself the trouble and be clear about what you want before you go–don’t depend on the opinion of someone who doesn’t know your likes, style or needs.

                                                                           Decor Pad 

4. Pay Attention To Details: I’ve already mentioned it a few times, but I’ll say it again. 
DETAILS ARE PARAMOUNT. If you’re looking to have detail work done–contrasting piping, bias-cut trim, nailhead detailing, railroaded fabric, pattern matching–make sure you inspect your upholsterer’s work in this area. Check to ensure piping seams begin & end in inconspicuous places, nailheads are completely linear, fabric is railroaded when necessary, zippers are hidden, and piping is straight (not curvy!). Patterns should run the same direction on both sides of a cushion and should always match as it wraps a chair, pillow, bench or sofa (unless otherwise specified).  
                                                                              Simply Grove

Where nailheads are involved, does the upholsterer use the ones on a roll or individual nailheads? Ask if you can sit in one of the finished pieces–do the cushions feel solid and soft or fluffy and cheap?  What type of cushions does your upholsterer use–polyfill, down-wrapped, or some combination? These are all details to know before you start your project. 

Working with an upholsterer isn’t hard, but following these basic tips will ensure a successful and long-lasting relationship between you and your upholsterer. If you’ve had a really good (or really bad!) experience with an upholsterer, share your story below!


  1. kerry
    January 31, 2012 at 8:41 am (7 years ago)

    Great advice, I’m about to do a few pieces soon! Wondering where the first photo is from – love it!!!

  2. Lori @ Lori May Interiors
    January 31, 2012 at 9:13 am (7 years ago)

    This is a great post, Dayka. Such good tips and you are so right about all of them. Thank goodness, I’ve only had good experiences, but I’m so sorry about you’re bad time last week.

    Heidi and I are headed to Scott’s next Friday. Wanna come?

  3. Karen@StrictlySimpleStyle
    January 31, 2012 at 9:21 am (7 years ago)

    Great tips Dayka. I recently had my first experience working with an upholstery shop and was very pleased with the results. I did inspect a few of their finished pieces, but I wouldn’t have thought to ask if I could sit on something. It took longer to get my pieces than I was originally told but the owner actually delivered the pieces himself and didn’t charge me a fee for it because of the delay.

  4. Design Esquire
    January 31, 2012 at 9:30 am (7 years ago)

    Great post. I haven’t had anything reupholstered before, but I’m forwarding your post to my sister-in-law, who is getting ready to hire someone to reupholster two chairs. Thank you.

  5. Tammy@InStitches
    January 31, 2012 at 9:55 am (7 years ago)

    It’s tempting to go for the best price, but you really do get what you pay for. So sorry you had a bad experience…….

    January 31, 2012 at 10:47 am (7 years ago)

    This is so timely! I just landed a huuuuge job which may have me reupholstering up to 50 pieces of antique furniture – and I realized the guy I usually use is not up to snuff since I have to sit on him to make sure everything is done correctly. No time for that with so many pieces! So I am hurriedly shopping, shopping, shopping for a new upholsterer. Fabric costs too much to have the end product look bad!

  7. Dayka
    January 31, 2012 at 1:35 pm (7 years ago)

    So glad you guys found this advice timely and helpful!

    @kerry: sorry, links are up now! i don’t where the image originated, but i found it on Pinterest.

  8. Dayka
    January 31, 2012 at 1:40 pm (7 years ago)

    @lori–i might be doing a shoot friday, if not, yes!

    @tammy: i’ve even found some seamstress’ and upholsterers who charged more than the average, but in the end their work didn’t reflect the price inflation. i’ve learned to stop depending on price as an indication of the quality of someone’s work and just check them out first hand…

  9. Renae Moore
    January 31, 2012 at 4:22 pm (7 years ago)

    Chong’s in Maritta are FAB!!!
    Let’s do some work together! 🙂

  10. Kenya@Greenhouse
    January 31, 2012 at 4:45 pm (7 years ago)

    Right on time, Dayka. Taking a few pieces to get reupholstered soon! Thanks!!! 🙂

  11. Tonia
    February 1, 2012 at 2:20 pm (7 years ago)

    I have 2 upholsterers I work with. One does nailheads and the other doesn’t. Fortunately I haven’t had an issues with either. Great tips for those who are seeking an upholsterer to work with and are not familiar with what to look for.

  12. Shelly@ConfettiStyle
    February 1, 2012 at 6:12 pm (7 years ago)

    Hi Dayka,
    So sorry to hear about the upholsterer nightmare. If you are ever looking for someone that can do real fashion forward pieces, check out The Upholstery Fashionista, owned by Julie Orr. She is fab, located in Roswell and does work for both private individual and retail stores, including the Saavy Snoot. Here’s the link to her Facebook page.

  13. Holly
    February 1, 2012 at 9:03 pm (7 years ago)

    I saw your post on Twitter about this and I felt so bad for you and the awful experience you had, but you certainly did turn it into a learning experience for you and all of us with this post. Thanks so much!

  14. Bernadette @b3hd
    February 8, 2012 at 3:11 pm (7 years ago)

    Such great eyecandy here. Love the photo from Simply Grove to pieces.

  15. Decor & Harmony @ 4290
    February 29, 2012 at 12:02 pm (7 years ago)

    This is a great post! I have been taking upholstery classes for the past 5 weeks and it’s been great. You have given your readers food fo thought. Stop by and see my project.


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