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Reupholstery or custom slipcovers: Old pieces can be made new again

  • Diane Caporale works on a wing chair in her Handcrafted Upholstery Studio in Hadley.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Diane Caporale works on a wing chair in her Handcrafted Upholstery Studio in Hadley.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Diane Caporale works on a wing chair in her Handcrafted Upholstery Studio in Hadley.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Diane Caporale works on a wing chair in her Handcrafted Upholstery Studio in Hadley.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Some of the fabrics Diane Caporale is using for patrons of her Handcrafted Upholstery Studio in Hadley.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Some of the fabrics Diane Caporale is using for patrons of her Handcrafted Upholstery Studio in Hadley.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Detail of a couch Diane Caporale finished for a customer at her Handcrafted Upholstery Studio in Hadley.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Detail of a couch Diane Caporale finished for a customer at her Handcrafted Upholstery Studio in Hadley.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Sydney Henthorn made these slip covers of fade resistant outdoor fabric for the atrium of the Hotel Northampton.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Sydney Henthorn made these slip covers of fade resistant outdoor fabric for the atrium of the Hotel Northampton.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Sydney Henthorn made these slip covers of fade resistant outdoor fabric for the atrium of the Hotel Northampton.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Sydney Henthorn made these slip covers of fade resistant outdoor fabric for the atrium of the Hotel Northampton.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Sydney Henthorn made these slip covers of fade resistant outdoor fabric for the atrium of the Hotel Northampton.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Sydney Henthorn made these slip covers of fade resistant outdoor fabric for the atrium of the Hotel Northampton.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Pat Bril of Hadley poses, Friday, behind a chair that features armrest slipcovers and custom-made pillows by Sydney Henthorne of Henthorne Sewing in Easthampton.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Pat Bril of Hadley poses, Friday, behind a chair that features armrest slipcovers and custom-made pillows by Sydney Henthorne of Henthorne Sewing in Easthampton.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Pat Bril shows the difference between her original beige couch and the red slip covers made by Sydney Henthorne of Henthorne Sewing in Easthampton. The couch is shown Friday in Bril's Hadley home.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Pat Bril shows the difference between her original beige couch and the red slip covers made by Sydney Henthorne of Henthorne Sewing in Easthampton. The couch is shown Friday in Bril's Hadley home.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • A custom-made slip cover, made by Sydney Henthorne of Henthorne Sewing in Easthampton, is used to match an old ottoman to new chairs in Pat Bril's Hadley home, Friday.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    A custom-made slip cover, made by Sydney Henthorne of Henthorne Sewing in Easthampton, is used to match an old ottoman to new chairs in Pat Bril's Hadley home, Friday.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • A yellow slip cover made by Sydney Henthorne of Henthorne Sewing in Easthampton is displayed on an armchair in Pat Bril's Hadley home, Friday.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    A yellow slip cover made by Sydney Henthorne of Henthorne Sewing in Easthampton is displayed on an armchair in Pat Bril's Hadley home, Friday.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Red slip covers made by Sydney Henthorne of Henthorne Sewing in Easthampton are displayed in Pat Bril's Hadley home, Friday. Custom made pillows tie the red sofa to the other furniture in the house.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Red slip covers made by Sydney Henthorne of Henthorne Sewing in Easthampton are displayed in Pat Bril's Hadley home, Friday. Custom made pillows tie the red sofa to the other furniture in the house.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Red slip covers made by Sydney Henthorne of Henthorne Sewing in Easthampton are displayed in Pat Bril's Hadley home, Friday. Custom made pillows tie the red sofa to the blue chairs, shown in back.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Red slip covers made by Sydney Henthorne of Henthorne Sewing in Easthampton are displayed in Pat Bril's Hadley home, Friday. Custom made pillows tie the red sofa to the blue chairs, shown in back.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Diane Caporale works on a wing chair in her Handcrafted Upholstery Studio in Hadley.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Diane Caporale works on a wing chair in her Handcrafted Upholstery Studio in Hadley.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Some of the fabrics Diane Caporale is using for patrons of her Handcrafted Upholstery Studio in Hadley.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Detail of a couch Diane Caporale finished for a customer at her Handcrafted Upholstery Studio in Hadley.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Sydney Henthorn made these slip covers of fade resistant outdoor fabric for the atrium of the Hotel Northampton.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Sydney Henthorn made these slip covers of fade resistant outdoor fabric for the atrium of the Hotel Northampton.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Sydney Henthorn made these slip covers of fade resistant outdoor fabric for the atrium of the Hotel Northampton.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Pat Bril of Hadley poses, Friday, behind a chair that features armrest slipcovers and custom-made pillows by Sydney Henthorne of Henthorne Sewing in Easthampton.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Pat Bril shows the difference between her original beige couch and the red slip covers made by Sydney Henthorne of Henthorne Sewing in Easthampton. The couch is shown Friday in Bril's Hadley home.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • A custom-made slip cover, made by Sydney Henthorne of Henthorne Sewing in Easthampton, is used to match an old ottoman to new chairs in Pat Bril's Hadley home, Friday.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • A yellow slip cover made by Sydney Henthorne of Henthorne Sewing in Easthampton is displayed on an armchair in Pat Bril's Hadley home, Friday.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Red slip covers made by Sydney Henthorne of Henthorne Sewing in Easthampton are displayed in Pat Bril's Hadley home, Friday. Custom made pillows tie the red sofa to the other furniture in the house.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Red slip covers made by Sydney Henthorne of Henthorne Sewing in Easthampton are displayed in Pat Bril's Hadley home, Friday. Custom made pillows tie the red sofa to the blue chairs, shown in back.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

Whether you want to fix damaged fabric, usher in a new style for your home, or repair a family heirloom, reupholstering or having your furniture fitted for slipcovers brings new life to old or deteriorating pieces.

“If you love your furniture, you love the design and shape of it, and it fits nicely into your space, than getting it slipcovered or reupholstered is definitely worth it,” said Holly Hendricks of Holly’s Custom Sewing in Easthampton.

The work doesn’t always come cheap. A reupholstery job can range from $50 for a chair seat, to upwards of $8,000 for two chairs and a coordinating sofa. The price tag, of course, depends on the extent of the job, the labor it requires and the fabric that is chosen.

A slipcover project can also vary widely for the same reasons, but generally comes in at a lower price than reupholstering. But, still, a project can creep into the thousands.

Once you determine which route to take, there are several businesses in the area to choose for freshening up those well-worn, stained, damaged or out-of-style items.

Since slipcovering and reupholstery are very different processes, most often a business will specialize in either one or the other.

The reupholstery route

Reupholstering a piece of furniture will not only improve the way it looks on the outside, but will address problems with the springs and cushions as well.

“When we reupholster something, we strip everything down to the frame and springs. Then we retie the springs and build the piece up again,” said Diane Caporale, co-owner of Handcrafted Upholstery in Hadley.

In business with her husband, Richard, since 1974, Caporale says Handcrafted Upholstery does both commercial and residential jobs. It also carries a full line of fabrics including “green” fabrics made of natural fibers and recycled materials. Noting that price depends on many factors, Caporale says she is willing to give a customer a “ballpark” estimate over the phone.

Many people who opt for reupholstering do so to preserve older, well made furniture.

Northampton resident Donna Salloom, said that she has reupholstered a cherished 80-year-old family love seat twice, once 30 years ago and a second time 15 years later, the last job costing roughly $200.

“The love seat is one that you might see in a Victorian home, but it wasn’t made for anybody over 110 pounds to sit on,” Salloom said. “So I had the structure reinforced and then reupholstered.”

Furniture that is passed down through the generations may also be worth holding onto for all of the family stories it represents.

Nancy Cheevers of Leeds found that the $275 cost of reupholstering her 100-year-old chair was a good investment, allowing her to preserve a family heirloom.

The chair, which resides in her great room, belonged to my grandmother in Pittsfield. “Ted Kennedy sat in that chair while campaigning for his brother in the Berkshires,” she said. “I had to keep it because there is so much family lore in that chair. Proposals, birth announcements, politicking, military announcements, everything happened in ‘the chair.’ ”

Furniture rescue

Still, reupholstering isn’t just for antique or heirloom pieces.

Leatrice Archbald owner of Lea’s Re-Covery in Haydenville says she does reupholstering for “the average Joe.” A self-proclaimed “rescuer of furniture,” Archbald says that refurbishing is also an environmental plus that keeps usable pieces out of landfills.

“Before I started in this business, I never thought about reupholstering. It was just throw it out and get a new one,” Archbald said. “These days people are more aware of recycling and reusing and they are applying that to furniture as well.”

Archbald said she has had clients tell her that she was the last stop before the pieces of furniture were heading to the dump.

“I really try to keep my prices down because I want this to be an affordable option,” she said.

Most commonly, she said, people want to renew chairs. “If it is just the seat of a chair that needs to be reupholstered, that is a pretty easy job that typically runs about $50 a seat,” she said. An entire chair would more likely cost $200, she said.

One item that Archbald recently gave new life to was an overstuffed chair cushion that was on a large metal frame.

“In that case, I was actually able to use a heavy upholstery fabric that I just happened to have left over from a sofa job. Reupholstering that cushion was $200,” she said.

Along with furniture for the home Archbald does upholstery for booths and chairs in local restaurants, motorcycle seats, antique cars and heavy equipment including forklifts and road graders.

Slipcovers instead

Slipcovers can be a more economical way to go, but their prices can climb, depending on fabric. They do have the advantage of being removable, however, so they can be washed or changed if the style gets tiring.

Sydney Henthorn of Henthorn Sewing Studio in Easthampton has been making slipcovers, pillow covers, drapes and bedding in her sewing studio at 1 Cottage St. for 24 years.

“You have to weigh the difference between buying a new chair and covering an older piece that you love,” Henthorn said. “Depending on the project, fabric for a slipcover can cost $9 to $20 a yard and labor can be from $175 to $300,” she said.

With the availability of inexpensive and discount furniture, reupholstering or slipcovering may seem pricey. However, Henthorn says that in the long run, a well-made slipcover or reupholstering job pays off in its quality and durability, while cheaply made furniture may last only a few years.

When some people hear “slipcover” they conjure the image of a loose-fitting fabric almost draped over a piece of furniture, but Hendricks says that is a style of the past.

“The slipcovers I do are all fitted,” she said. “I have had people see my work and ask if it was reupholstered, but it is just a nicely fitted slipcover,” she said.

After Cheevers had her 100-year old heirloom chair reupholstered, she turned her sights to her 20-year-old couch. Replacing the couch with a new one would have set her back about $2,000 and totally reupholstering the piece was not necessary, she said. So this time Cheevers went to Hendricks, who made a fitted slipcover for $400.

“The innards of the couch were solid and I loved the shape, so I thought a slipcover was the way to go,” Cheevers said. “I love what she was able to do with my couch. It just looks amazing,” she said.

Slipcovers can also be a convenient way to coordinate mismatched furniture.

When Pat Bril moved to Hadley, she brought with her furniture that had come from several of her former homes.

“Everything got consolidated into one place but nothing matched,” she said. “Sydney (Henthorn) turned a beige couch into a red couch and also recovered two of my chairs and a few other pieces,” Bril said.

While the larger business like Handcrafted Upholstery sell fabrics in house, many of the smaller operations do not, instead consulting with their clients and directing them to fabric stores.

In transforming her furniture into pieces that would complement her decor, Bril took a trip to Osgoods textiles in West Springfield to pick out fabrics that were the right color and texture. She said choosing the material on her own meant she got exactly she wanted with a wide range of colors, designs and prices to choose from.

“I don’t remember the grand total as I did it over a period of time,” she said of the project.

“It was definitely several thousand dollars, but that was much less than buying new furniture,” Brill said. “The beauty of it was that I wasn’t limited to the choices of the fabric a furniture manufacturer would have.”

Henthorn noted that one area that seems to be growing in popularity is refurbishing outdoor furniture.

“I am seeing a lot of people who want furniture for three-season spaces,” Henthorn said. “I think more and more people are finding that they like to spend time in these spaces and having nice pieces helps them bring a little of the indoors outdoors.”

She said that she can easily accommodate this trend as many fabrics are now mildew and stain resistant and they come with a UV coating so they do not fade.

With hundreds of fabrics made in an abundance of weights, patterns, colors and weaves, refurbishing furniture allows consumers to handpick the material that suits both their taste and their wallet.

“For me getting the couch slipcovered and the chair reupholstered was an exceptionally worthwhile financial endeavor. Both look great and looking at the fabric, you would never know how old they are,” Cheevers said.

Whether your project is large or small it is a good idea to get started well in advance of when you want the item to be completed. Many area businesses are booked two months in advance, and depending on the project, the process can take one to six weeks to finish.

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