How to Transform Traditional Furniture for a Modern Space


A lot of clients come to me assuming that in order to re-design a room in their home, they’ll need to completely replace all of their furniture. They’re often surprised to learn that isn’t actually the case! Furniture that is in good condition, but simply doesn’t have the modern look that you’re going for, can sometimes be successfully transformed with reupholstery and refinishing.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions I get from clients who are considering reupholstering vs. buying new furniture:

(Upholstered chaise: Photo from August Black on Instagram)

Why reupholster furniture, rather than replace it?

Reupholstering old furniture, as opposed to purchasing new pieces, will often bring down the overall interior design budget for your project - especially if your furniture is high-quality, with a hardwood frame.

Another reason to consider reusing your furniture is that furniture can be sentimental - especially if it has been in your family for a long time! Instead of getting rid of the chair you rocked your baby to sleep in, give it an upgrade with a fresh fabric and a new frame finish and add an additional accent seat to your family room.

Reupholstering and/or refinishing your existing furniture is also an eco-friendly interior design decision. Rather than your furniture ending up in a landfill somewhere, it returns right to your home with an exciting new makeover!

(Fabric for Modern Reupholstery: Photo from August Black on Facebook)

Is it convenient to have furniture reupholstered and/or refinished?

You might be thinking that purchasing something new and having it delivered to your door would be more convenient than going through the process of reupholstering. But you’d be surprised!

Here are some reasons why reupholstering your furniture might be the more convenient choice:

  • You know that the existing piece fits well in the space. No measuring and hoping for the best - you already know that you like the size and shape.

  • When you reupholster, you can order fabric samples so that you can see and feel what your furniture will look like before making a selection. When shopping for furniture online, you’re often left guessing at the quality of the fabric based on photos.

  • Most upholsterers will pick up your item and deliver it back to your home. This cuts down on the number of moving parts to keep track of. When you purchase something new, you also have to figure out what to do with the piece you’re getting rid of.

(Photo from Charli Hantman, Owner of August Black Interior Design)

What are the best fabrics for reupholstering or refinishing traditional furniture to look modern?

The beauty of upholstery is that there are so many different styles and fabrics to choose from. Before choosing a fabric, I suggest considering how often the furniture will be used, who will be using it, and how long you want it to last.

For example:

If you are reupholstering the primary sofa in your family room - the one that your kids play on and your dog snoozes on - you will need to choose a durable fabric that repels stains and odors. I recommend a Perennials or Crypton fabric in high-traffic areas.

If you are reupholstering the headboard in your glamorous guest bedroom that’s used only once or twice a year, you have the freedom to choose a more luxurious fabric, such as silk or velvet.

Another choice that I love for making traditional pieces fit into a modern interior design aesthetic is lacquer!

(Before and After, Modern Refinishing: Photo from Hometalk)

Is it possible to reupholster outdoor furniture?

Yes! In fact, reupholstering the cushions on your outdoor dining chairs or adding outdoor pillows to your sun loungers is a fun, cost-effective, and stylish way to upgrade your outdoor interior design this summer.

More tips and tricks for designing your outdoor space this summer can be found here.

Next time you’re thinking of buying a new piece of furniture for your home, don’t forget to consider reupholstering and refinishing the pieces you already have!

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