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As I said in my last post, reupholstering old pieces is a great way to give them new life and to recycle.  It can save the piece from being tossed and in some cases can save you money from having to buy a new piece all together (depending on the fabric you choose, if you embellish, etc.)  So how do you know if a piece is worthy or reupholstery?  There are few tips that I can provide to help you decide.

*How is it holding up?  Are the cushions deflated, flattened or lumpy?  Has it basically retained its shape over the years?  How are the cushions constructed?  There are many materials from which your cushions could be constructed, including: down (most expensive), down lined with Decron Polyester fibers or Blendown (still expensive), and polyurethane wrapped in cotton or other fibers (most reasonable) are among the most common fillings.  If your cushions are made of high density, good quality foam they will not have broken down (or would have broken down less) over time.  Even your cushions are not holding up, however, there are other factors to consider in the construction of your sofa so don’t let this be the only deciding factor.  A good upholsterer can always provide you with new cushions to replace poor quality ones (of course, this will add to your overall price).

Client's reupholstered antique settee.

Here is another picture of the 50’s sleeper sofa I purchased and had reupholstered in a linen blend fabric…

1950's Sleeper Sofa reupholstered in linen blend. It was in excellent condition and is an incredible quality piece. The cushions needed to be remade and we replaced the mattress. We are very happy with it.

*Does it have good, solid bones?  If the piece is sturdy, strong and well constructed, you should definitely consider giving it a facelift. One of the tell tales signs of a quality piece of furniture is the joint system.  Good quality pieces have mitered joint systems or are dovetailed or tongue and grooved, and the frames are often glued and screwed together.  If the piece is made of particle board or plywood and the frame is held together with staples, it is probably not worth investing in reupholstery for the piece.

*Quality of exposed wood – if your piece has any exposed wood (dining chairs, sofas with wood legs, etc.) what kind of shape is the wood in?  If it has a few knicks and scratches it can probably be repaired fairly easily or these can add to the charm of the piece.  If the wood is rotted or broken or falling apart, you may want to reconsider as it may be costly to repair the piece.  Painting or restaining exposed wood is also an option but you may have to do some heavy sanding to remove any top coat that has been added so that the piece will take new paint or stain.  Here are pictures, before and after of my breakfast room chairs which I got from an old neighbor when I fell in love with the back design and I repainted and reupholstered them to be more interesting and updated.

Unpainted, pre-reupholstered dining room chairs I got from a neighbor. They are over 30 years old and were in great shape except for some scrapes and scratches. I had reupholstered them when I first got them in a paisley fabric.

My chairs now, painted in a blue metallic paint and reupholstered in brown polka-dotted fabric.

*Does it, or can it work with your existing or new decor?  It is important to consider if refacing a piece will allow it to fit more nicely into your decor.  There are some very creative things that can be done with old pieces to bring them up to date and give them updated style.  You can get creative with your fabric choice.  I love seeing traditional wingback chairs in very contemporary or graphic fabric patterns and colors, for example.  Don’t discount a piece because it simply looks dated.  Think about how you could make it into a contemporary piece that is perhaps fun and funky, or unique, or almost art like.  Paint can take furniture a long way these days.  Take a look at these pictures…

Traditional chairs in contemporary silk fabric from a project I completed in Alexandria.

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I am sometimes overwhelmed at the thought of going green.  I know I have to do it, I know how important it is but I also know that it can be challenging.  There is so much to think about, and research and learn and do to go green.  I often find myself frustrated that I am not doing more.  Then I take a step back and realize that every little bit that I do helps and that it is becoming much easier to do more and more, its becoming a lifestyle, a gradual change that, because it is important to me, is naturally occurring in my life.  I wanted to break down a few simple steps that I have taken to be more green in my own personal decorating.  I hope that you can take a few these ideas and incorporate them into your lifestyle so that you too can contribute to preserving mother nature.

*Recycle – don’t just throw out that old piece of furniture or accent pillow or accessory – think about a new way that you could reuse it in your design.  Perhaps reupholster it (in an organic fabric would be best, or in a great remnant that you find at your local fabric store).  Perhaps just moving to another room can give it a new life.  Maybe it needs refinishing, at the same time helping a small local business by providing them work.  Try to think outside of the box and give the old piece new life.

If it simply won’t work with your decor, think about consigning it.  You can make a little money while letting someone else give the old piece a new life.  Check out this sofa that I purchased at an estate sale and had reupholstered and some other treasures found at antique shops…

Reupholstered sofa bed from mid-century modern estate sale. It currently resides in our office space for additional guest sleeping.

Old wagon wheel found at antique shop in West Virginia. It will be hung on the wall as cool modern art piece.

Antique mold also found at antique shop in west Virginia. It will either become a table or a wall mounted art piece.

*Buy from local consignment stores and antique shops – give those old pieces a new lease on life.  I am a consignment store junkie.  If you read my blog you know how often I find fantastic treasures at STUFF and The Very Thing in Haymarket.  I love treasure hunting and finding unique pieces that you won’t fine anywhere else.  Paint, reupholstery, refinishing can all go a long way and can bring out your creativity.  Craigslist is also a good place to find quality home furnishings and other items at great prices.  I have found the most amazing chairs on Craigslist.  Check them out…

Aren't they amazing? I got so lucky with these. The seller had just purchased them and then changed her decor. There were many people after these...

*Buy local – find furniture and other household items that are made locally.  I am a Bassett Furniture dealer partly because Bassett manufactures much of it furniture right here in Virginia.  I give local, small companies business as often as I can and I try to make sure my fabrics and furnishings are made in the USA as much as possible.  We live in a global economy where its often hard to tell where things are coming from.  Simply asking the question and doing a little research can go a long way.  Check out my Bassett Furniture chairs and dining table…

Chandler chairs upholstered in Raffia with Chocolate accent pillows from Bassett Furniture. The lamp base without a shade is STUFF find. I am waiting on the new shade.

Louis Phillipe pedestal dining table from Bassett Furniture. The chairs came with the other two blue chairs as a package from a Craigslist seller. Aren't they gorgeous?

*Using Low and No VOC Paints – We hear a lot about VOCs these days.  VOCs are volatile organic compounds and they are hazardous to the environment and to our health.  Luckily, most paint manufacturers are responding to the demand for more environmental and health conscious products by creating paints that have low and no VOCs.  Not all are successful at making a product that is still of quality and easy to handle.  Some, however, have the technology down to a science.  I am a huge fan of Benjamin Moore paints.  I have used both the Aura and the Natura paints and love, love, love the way they paint.  They are more expensive than big box store brand paints but I feel its worth the extra cost in the health of my family and the health of the environment.  Plus, I have found that both of these paints go on easier than most other paints that I have tried.   My entire house so far has been painted in either Aura or Natura paints from Ben Moore.  Aura is a low VOC paint and Natura is a no VOC paint.  Check out a few pictures…

The only finished room in my house so far. The color is Ivoire from Sherwin Williams color-matched by Vienna Paint of Gainesville in Aura paint.

Another view of the finished family room in Ivoire. It really gives it a nice brightness without being in your face. The finish is Matte.

A recent view of the dining room which is coming along. Its painted in Ben Moore's Annapolis Green in Aura with a matte finish. I still haven't painted or done anything with the tray. There should be more hours in the day!

Decorating green does not have to be overwhelming or difficult.  Try out a few of these tips and ideas and you will be on your way to helping the environment and your family breathe a little easier.

I have these fantastic chairs that I actually got for free from a neighbor at my old house.  I drove by them in the morning and fell in love and they were still there when I came back in the afternoon.  They were with a circular dining table (which I regret not getting) and I asked him if he would sell the chairs alone.  He told me to take them.  He mentioned that they were 30 years old.  They have seen better days but are in good condition.  I loved the detailing on the backs.  The fabric on the seats was atrocious but I was able to look past that at their potential.  When I first got them I reupholstered them in a more traditional paisley fabric.  But when we moved here I decided I wanted to do something more fun and contemporary with them.  My solution, I had Andrew at Vienna Paint of Gainesville help me to paint them in a metallic blue color.  Vienna Paints sells a great metallic product that can be used for walls, furniture and other things.  On the walls you typically want to use a sprayer as painting this product with a brush will leave streak marks.  It is a glaze so you have to give whatever you are painting a base coat of regular paint and then go over that with your metallic glaze product.  I love the way it looks.

So I painted two of the chairs.  It took Andrew a while to get these two painted because it seemed like every time he started to paint, someone came into the store and needed help.  This product dries quickly and will leave streak marks if you are not careful so starting and stopping was not a good idea.  He finally got two of the four chairs completed.  Now I’m trying to decide if I want to do the other two in the same color or if I want to be creative and do them in a brown metallic, or a regular brown paint color.    I would love to hear thoughts if anyone has an opinion on this either way.  I am leaning towards doing all four in blue but I’m not so sure…

I changed the fabric on the two chairs that I had painted once more to a more contemporary circular pattern design in a brown that matches more closely with the rug that the chairs sit on.  Take a look at the before and afters..

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Another view of the chair newly painted and reupholstered.

I love finding beautiful old pieces and giving them a new life.  You would be surprised how unique and updated an antique piece can look when you place it among more contemporary furnishings.  I have acquired this beautiful antique sofa that was made for my great, great grandmother in the Dominican Republic.  It is a beautiful sofa that has more traditional lines.  However, I have decided that it will have a home among my more contemporary and updated traditional furnishings.  I have happily placed it in my living room.  It patiently awaits a new coffee table which I have yet to find.  I am having some beautiful accent pillows made to compliment the damask fabric that my aunt reupholstered it in.  It is a piece of my past, that has been handed down from family member to family member and I so honored to have it my home.  I personally think it looks fantastic here.  Check it out.

Here is a photo of my great, great grandmother's antique sofa in my living room.

I love the traditional lines and the detailing on the arms and legs.

Check out our interior decorating and design articles published at www.Ezine.com

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