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Replace or Reupholster?

Written by Jane Trabert Schmitt
Imagery by © Thibaut Inc.

It’s a question many will ponder as they eye the timeworn settee salvaged from Grandma’s house or a wing chair that was a thrift store find and part of their decor for years but now looks shabby.
   Consider this, said Maureen Zawacki, co-owner of Upholstery Unlimited with her husband, Brian:
1. Does the item have good bones?
2. Do you have an emotional attachment to it?
   If the answer to both questions is no, the obvious choice is to discard or recycle the item. But if one or the other merits a yes, consider hiring a professional to breathe new life into a prized possession that you’re not ready to give up.
  “A quality piece of furniture is the key ingredient, whether it is something that has been in their family for years or highquality furniture with a brand name,” Zawacki said. “We will strip it down to the frame and rebuild it from there. So they are essentially getting a new piece of furniture. If the bones are good, you could get another 20 years out of it.”
   Perhaps it’s a sofa whose frame has stood the test of time but the fabric is outdated or worn. Or a vintage ottoman that would look more modern if the original tufting was smoothed
out. A favorite old chair, meanwhile, can be refreshed with nailhead details or decorative trim such as cording or banding. Cushions that have seen better days can be replaced with sturdy new material. Hand-tied springs can be tightened for better support.
   Zawacki said every client of her Buffalo-area upholstery business is unique and so is the object of their attention. “I got a call from a client last week for whom we did furniture 14 years ago,” Zawacki said. “She said it’s still in immaculate shape but she’s tired of the fabric and wants to redo it.”
   Another client who brought in a chair to be recovered confessed that the motivating factor was pure sentiment: The chair had been made long ago by a beloved uncle. Indeed, emotion often is a driving force in reupholstery projects, said Sarah Clere, Manager of Operations for Decor Fabrics & Design in Rochester and a division called The Fabric Mill. “People will come to us and say, ‘You know what? It’s not necessarily my style chair or sofa but it was my grandmother’s and I would like to keep it around.’ So they invest in that piece because of an emotional attachment,” Clere said.
   Remember: Reupholstery is “major surgery,” says Better Homes and Gardens on its website. This is custom work done almost entirely by hand so cost will vary depending on project details such as size, fabric and the amount of labor that’s required.
   “It’s not inexpensive.” Clere said. “Whether or not the furniture was well-built is a huge factor in whether people want to move forward with the cost of reupholstering. Customization, which is what we do, is what people want and they will spend the money to get that.”

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