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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ask Michelle: Updating a Vintage Sofa

It's our first "Ask Michelle" Q&A where Michelle Dirkse, Interior Designer, answers your tough design questions!  Did you miss our interview with Michelle?  Check it out here.  Now let's get on with the question...

Hey Michelle,

I have a vintage sofa that was given to me after my Grandma passed.  It has amazing lines, but the upholstery leaves much to be desired.  With a large extended family, we are tough on furniture.  What is the best fabric to use that is both classic and will stand up to a lot of wear?

~ René


Hey René,

I'm so happy to hear that you've decided to keep your grandmother's sofa and make it your own!  Reupholstering a vintage sofa is a great way to get a custom look without the custom price, while also getting to hold onto something that's already meaningful to you.  I picked up my grandfather's 8 foot long sofa last weekend and I'll be doing the same thing.

Here's my plan of attack:

1) Remove the skirt
2) Change the wood legs to metal legs
3) Instead of 3 cushions along the back and 3 on the seat, change to 2 larger wider cushions across the back and two along the seat
4) Change the mauve and blue fabric to Dark Gray Mohair with a Dark Gray Satin Welt

Here are a few do's and don'ts for reupholstering your sofa:

First Step:
  • Do your homework and find inspiration images to pinpoint your style.  Search online, in catalogs, in magazines and in stores.  This will help you to figure out (or confirm) your favorite color while also helping you see the details that you love.
Next, Choose Your Upholstery Fabric:
  • Do choose fabrics that are specifically designed to be upholstery fabrics since they'll last longer and look better. Consider Mohair (not velvet), natural leather, wool fabrics and/or fabrics with stain resistance. 
  • Do choose a neutral or classic color if you plan on keeping the sofa for awhile.  Then again, the sofa was free so maybe you want to have some fun and use a color or a pattern that you'd normally reserve for the sofa's pillows?
  • Do extend your search beyond the big box craft stores.  You can search online for fabric wholesalers that typically sell to the trade and then ask your upholstery shop to purchase them for you.  If you're doing the upholstering yourself, the company may be able to suggest a retail location.  And don't forget to check Ebay or Craigslist.
  • Don't choose a fabric with "loops" on it that will easily snag if you have pets and Don't use thin silky fabrics or fabrics without any texture since they're less forgiving with stains and will show more wear and tear. 
  • Above all, Do choose a fabric you truly love.  Have fun!
 So you've found your upholstery fabric, now what?
  • Do consider changing the legs.
  • Do add a personal touch with detail, like the nailhead trim above.
  • Don't forget that you can change the number and type of cushions.  Tailored box cushions can be replaced with large feather and down pillows.  Maybe you'd rather have two cushions across the back and one along the seat rather than two rows of three.  Use your images for inspiration and direction. 
Keep me posted on your progress and I'll do the same!

Michelle Dirkse
BLEND Interior Design Studio

Wish YOU could pick Michelle's brain?  Well, send in your design questions and one will lucky reader will get Michelle's full attention.  Have photos to include?  Great!

Submit your questions to revamphomegoods(at)gmail.com, on Facebook, Twitter or in the comments section below and YOU might be featured in the next "Ask Michelle" post.

*Michelle Dirkse is a founding partner of the design firm BLEND Interior Design StudioBLEND Interior Design Studio, based out of Seattle, offers distinctive interior design both locally and nationwide and provides its clients with a multitute of service options.



  1. How's the work on the sofa going? I'm looking forward to seeing just how great the final product is.

  2. It was just delivered this week! www.ARIANEHIGGINS.com


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