Description of Job
• Reupholster sofas, chairs, ottomans, and pillows.
• Make slipcovers for upholstered furniture.
• Recover pillows.
• Design and create custom draperies.
Furniture is big, bulky, and expensive . . . and sometimes it gets cut, scratched, or
stained. Then there are times when we fall in love with an expensive sofa for the
living room and fall out of love with its color and fabric long before it’s paid for.
Normal wear and tear take their toll on furniture, accelerated by the presence
of children and pets. Tastes change; perhaps you’ve gone through your green
period and now you find yourself preferring more neutral colors.
The good news is that good-quality furniture does not have to be thrown away.
A reupholsterer removes the existing fabric and decorations to rebuild the
piece from the frame up.
Another option is to create custom slipcovers that fit over the original
Pillows can be recovered in new fabric to brighten up the furniture and deal
with damage and stains.
Upholsterers can also be called on to create custom draperies, working with
the same material used in remaking the furniture or in a contrasting or complementary shade.
This job requires a sense of design and some specialized expertise, including
skills in minor carpentry and working with fabrics. You need to be able to recognize a hidden gem and reject a makeover project when you can see that the end
result will please no one.
Consider carefully before working on a valuable antique or collectible; be
sure you are not taking on a huge liability in the event of damage or loss.
Know the Territory
You’ll find a tremendous amount of resources in books, magazines, videos, and
on the Internet. Read decorating magazines and special-interest publications
about furniture repair, restoration, and reupholstering.
Local craft stores may offer seminars or classes; area experts may teach
classes at community schools.
Make contact with suppliers of fabric and supplies for upholstering. They
will offer samples and consultation, and some may provide training for their
How to Get Started
Place flyers and ads at home supply stores, in community centers, at tag sales, in
used furniture stores, and on bulletin boards. Place ads in newspapers and shopping guides.
Contact area interior decorators and used furniture stores and make them
aware of your services; offer them a bonus or commission for business they bring
Consider teaching a class at a community school for publicity and perhaps to
You will need woodworking and heavy-duty sewing and fabric-working tools.
Some of the specialty tools you will need as an upholsterer include tack hammer,
shears, webbing stretcher, ripping chisel, staple lifter, upholstery needle card,
and upholstery pins. To make slipcovers, and for some upholstery projects, you
will need a heavy-duty sewing machine. Some jobs may require a serging
machine to bind the ends of fabrics.
You may be able to farm out some specialty sewing jobs to others as part of
the overall project. You can choose to purchase a truck for pickup and delivery of
furniture, or you can contract with a local shipping or moving company for such
Other expenses include advertising and promotion.
How Much to Charge
Give the client a bottom-line price that includes the purchase of fabric, stuffing,
notions, and other expenses as well as compensation for your time; be sure to
carefully consider the amount of time involved in a job.
Another pricing scheme is a cost-plus contract, whereby the client pays retail
prices for all material and you add a charge for your labor.
You can also add charges for pickup and delivery of the furniture, if necessary.
Legal and Insurance Issues
Special notes: In dealing with your client’s property, seek to limit your liability
for damage or loss to the actual replacement value of items in your possession.
You should protect yourself against claims for sentimental value or loss of use.