Makeovers for Inherited Furniture

Makeovers for Inherited Furniture

Wondering what to do with Aunt Wanda’s dining room chairs? Not sure if your Grandmother’s antique sofa will look great in your living room? Inherited furniture can be a blessing or a burden.

How do you decide if inherited furnishings have “good bones” and are worth revitalizing with fresh fabrics and custom details? The design mavens at Calico Corners offer the following advice:

First consider whether you really like the piece. Is it comfortable? And is there a place for it in your home?

“If you have a good quality chair or sofa frame, it is probably worth reupholstering — even if it is decades old,” says interior design expert, Donna Talley, the national spokesperson for Calico Corners, a retailer of designer fabrics, custom window treatments, upholstered furniture, bedding and accessories. “Good quality means that it has a hardwood frame and good lines, even if it is a little dated in style and fabric.”

Reupholstery is major surgery for furniture. Springs are replaced and retied. Fillings and foam are renewed. The frame is reinforced if needed. In short, you’ll practically have a new piece of furniture when the upholsterer is finished.

Although the basic shape of a furniture frame cannot be altered, a good upholsterer can restyle an old chair or sofa. Channeling or tufting can be removed. A cushion that is too hard-edged can be plumped and softened. Furniture can be given better proportions and updated details (such as a higher skirt), so that the piece you get back looks stylish for today.

Whether you are designing a new piece or redoing an older one, custom details can make all the difference. It’s easy to find great fabrics — Calico Corners offers more than 3,000 choices — to create a great new look for an inherited or antique piece of furniture. One fabric can be the main upholstery, another could be contrast welting and a third could be used for side pillows. The same frame can look completely different in a dressy damask compared to a casual washed chenille.

Talley offers other tips for home decorators when it comes to making over inherited furniture. “Slipcovers are a great way to transform a piece of furniture,” she suggests. “If you love the comfort of your parent’s old sofa but not the fabric, change the color, pattern or texture with a slipcover. Use contrast welting to further customize the piece.”

Traditional dining room chairs can be updated to fit with today’s eclectic decorating trends. Think beyond simply recovering the chair seat — a curved or rounded chair back can be customized with a slipcover that fits right over the top, closing with a placket and buttons. A chair seat can be dressed up with a tie-on shirred chair skirt.

Colorful contemporary colors such as aqua or raspberry instantly freshen an antique piece of furniture, creating a more modern look. Wood-framed chairs from the 1940s can become new classics when recovered with soft textured fabrics in pretty hues of robin’s egg blue or pale kiwi green.

Another approach is to go neutral and add accents with pillows. Reupholster an antique sofa with a textured solid fabric such as a slubby linen, and jazz it up with custom throw pillows in fashionable zebra or leopard patterns. You can also add a pop of color with forsythia yellow or parrot green pillows — in cotton for a casual look or in silk for a dressier look.

The bottom line? When it comes to inherited furniture, there are plenty of design options that can help you take quality older pieces from frumpy to fantastic.

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