apartment progress: remaking an old couch.

May 25, 2021

If you’ve been reading these tea leaves for any length of time, you might recall that our family currently uses a small, high loveseat as a couch. It’s a simple piece of furniture made from honest materials and straight lines and I’m just not ready to quit it, no matter how appealing a little more lounge space might eventually be.

I recovered the couch myself two summers ago, but my DIY drop cloth upholstery job is looking (and feeling!) worse for wear due to a combination of using a cheap drop cloth, failing interior cushions, and living through a global pandemic with a family of five spending altogether too much time on it. Well, that plus all the liberties and shortcuts I took when tackling the thing myself.

This time, I decided to hire someone else to do the job. I’m doing my best to crank out a whole bunch of apartment projects this summer (see also!) and this is the undertaking that felt the wisest to outsource from a time, space, and peace-of-mind perspective. I’m glad I challenged myself to the job last time around and I’m just as glad to allow someone else to take the reins this time around. With any luck, I’m hoping it will mean ending up with a finished project that’s a little more sturdy and a lot more comfy.

Last week, from deep in an upholstery fabric research rabbit hole, I scheduled a half-hour consultation with professional upholsterer Nicole Crowder so that I could 1) convince myself that I was right to pass on doing this project myself again and 2) to have someone to ask twenty questions about piping and stuffing and fabric orientation, not to mention what it might be like to cover a couch with denim. (Nicole was delightful and knowledgable and if anyone is hoping to tackle an upholstery project themselves or even to pass it to someone else, here’s my enthusiastic endorsement.)

After chatting with Nicole, I decided to take the plunge on a heavy-weight engineer stripe denim that I’d seen earlier in the week at Brooklyn General Store. It’s affordable, hardwearing, and classic without being too stuffy or…expected. I’m going to have the upholsterer place the fabric wrong-side out so that the stripe is a bit more subtle and I’m so excited to see how it wears organically overtime. Mostly I’m excited that it’s basically guaranteed not to pill or snag or show every single smudge of dirt from my kids.

Anyway, that’s it. Apartment progress sometimes means dreaming about gutting a kitchen and sometimes means the simplest solution is to sew my own damn blinds, and sometimes means hiring someone else to reupholster a twelve-year-old couch.

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  • Reply Judith A Ross May 25, 2021 at 3:02 pm

    Will you be able to have it done as a slipcover that you can wash? Or does the need for re-doing the cushions preclude that? Either way, I love the fabric and the loveseat’s simple lines. I’m going to give our old couch another look — thanks for the inspiration!

  • Reply Haley May 25, 2021 at 3:31 pm

    We have a reverse denim covered chair!!! I found the fabric at a close out store and thought I was crazy asking the upholsterer to use the wrong side out. I am feeling very validated with your decision :). I had it reupholstered 5 years ago and it has held up remarkably well! I’m so excited for your sofa.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 25, 2021 at 4:46 pm


  • Reply Rinette May 25, 2021 at 4:29 pm

    We have a 20 year old couch from IKEA that we love and just do not want to part with. In March, I took the plunge and ordered a new cover for it from a place that makes replacement covers for many old IKEA sofas. It arrived last week, and went on this weekend, but we heard something rattling around when we flipped the couch over and the back seemed a little loose. So- inspired by you, Erin!- we carefully removed the dust covering on the bottom of the couch (so many staples!) and a side panel and found that an entire bolt had just worked its way out over the years. We were able to screw it back in, tighten up the other side, and replace everything we had removed before putting the new cover on. It’s like a new couch- for a fraction of the price of something new and nothing had to go into a landfill. We are so proud of it- thanks for sharing your efforts to inspire others to try these things, too!!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 25, 2021 at 4:46 pm

      ah, i’m so glad to hear that! bravo!

  • Reply Maria May 25, 2021 at 9:30 pm

    I have an IKEA couch I would also love to slip cover. Could Rinette provide the name of the company she used? Thank you!

  • Reply Alicia May 25, 2021 at 9:43 pm

    I am eager to read how this project unfolds as well (and am intrigued by the denim choice)! We currently make do with a 60 year old midcentury modern sofa from my husband’s aunt that is in dire need of help, from its web-like supports underneath the cushions to the cushions themselves. The sofa is a fab design and we want to hang onto it rather than sell it as is and find some less-interesting replacement. We do need to find someone else to redo it (it’s such a unique shape and size, it would probably be disastrous if we tried it ourselves). One of our concerns is how to make sure the new materials used are as healthy as possible for our family’s indoor air (and not too crazy expensive- is that even possible?). I’m curious to learn more about our options and to see what you choose!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 26, 2021 at 10:10 am

      This couch was made with wool and latex and we’re having it replaced with the same. (Professional reupholstery is definitely not cheap. I called around to a bunch of places though and was eventually able to find a solo upholstery operator who charged 1/2 the price of the larger shops that also had very long waitlists.)

  • Reply Cussot May 28, 2021 at 6:23 pm

    I love your little couch. Perhaps you could make some arm covers for it with your new sewing machine once it arrives back hom in its fancy dress/overalls. Your smallest child is too young, I suppose, for you to attach them with twist pins, but I remember being fascinated by them when I was small. They work so weirdly well!

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