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What should my checklist be when I’m comparing buying new furniture to re-upholstery?

Deciding whether to buy new sofas, chairs, or footstools, or transform your existing furniture can be a tricky business. There are several things to take into account, from cost and look to the impact on the environmental sending your old furniture to landfill. There are probably lots of thoughts in your head. These are the most common questions I’m asked and the answers:

1. I need to compare buying new to having my old furniture re-upholstered – how do I do that?

If your question is purely a comparison in cost alone, then you will almost certainly be spending more on re-upholstery. There are many more questions to ask than just about the cost.

The best question that I have been asked is simply: “How can I compare my old furniture to buying new?” It may be that your sofa or chair is more than 70 years old and very uncomfortable. The cost will be considerable to re-upholster it.

However, you cannot compare this to buying new. It will cost you a large sum of money by comparison but it’s extremely questionable as to whether this is even a good comparison to your old sofa or chair. Traditional pieces tend to be of a high quality, which might not be matched by newer furniture. If your sofa is ten years old and brought from a cheap outlet centre, then buying new would almost certainly make sense.


2. I’m worried about new furniture being too big for my room. This is a big concern for most people looking for new furniture, along with: “I can’t find a high-backed piece of furniture.”

There are things to be aware of when looking for new furniture. A lot of furniture is displayed in very spacious show rooms, which can give you a very distorted view of the size. I know some shops do offer smaller range furniture which I guess is pretty good but just because it’s small to them it may not be to you. Always measure and check your space – it will save you a lot of hassle.

As to the high backed question, this can be a bit of a problem, as the fashion has been for low backs for a while now. If you look around you will find high-backed pieces, but the feedback I have got from my clients has typically been that they are not very comfortable.

3. My furniture is very old and tired – is it worth doing?

If you have a piece of furniture that is old and uncomfortable but you love it, then a good restoration will bring it back to its former glory. You will have to be prepared to spend some money on it but the standard and longevity of it will far outweigh the cost.

Pictured here are two options for your sofa, love it or throw it!

4. What guarantees do I have that it will last?

Most upholsterers won’t offer you a guarantee but, in most cases, they would look after you long after the event. If it’s a reasonable problem they will be very happy to help. A lot of high street outlet centres will offer you a guarantee of around 25 years, which may not mean a whole lot in reality.

After the big questions that I’m often asked, we come to a less obvious question. The big one for me is the environmental impact of buying a new sofa that becomes landfill in only a few short years.