December 16, 2018

Trying My Hand at Upholstery (Spoiler: It did NOT go as planned)

Trying my hand at reupholstery

Always sounding like a broken record: I can't believe it's been so long since I wrote! And it's almost Christmas?! When did that happen?

Time has been flying by, and I feel like every spare moment I've had over the last four months has been spent doing something for our home makeover. I don't have a huge update, but we had a couple of fails that I thought would be entertaining to write about (at my expense, haha). Actually, we have had a lot of things go wrong during this whole renovation, so I'll probably make a whole blog post about it when we are done: "What NOT to do when making over your house".

As it stands now, the things we have left to do are:

*Finish the kitchen island (which I'll write about in another post)
*Choose and install the flooring (the expense is holding us back right now--we have to save up a bit to buy the flooring, because I refuse to go into debt again).
*Paint and install molding on the floor (which has to be after the flooring, obviously)
*Slowly replace living room furniture (we've gotten a couch and chair, but now I'm looking for a small couch/love seat and some end tables... I'm planning to buy these things used, so I've been looking just about every day for new ads). There is no big rush on these, so we'll just see if something comes along.
*Eventually, replace the lighting fixtures.
*Replace the door and frame for Eli's bedroom (we replaced the door slabs in the rest of the house, but his room needs a new frame, so we'll do this eventually--it's not urgent).

Anyway, remember how I mentioned that I'd like to try reupholstering a piece of furniture? You all know I love all things crafty, and I've been DIY'ing this entire project so far. And I've done a good job of it! So, I expected the upholstery to go smoothly.

Spoiler: It did NOT.

I found a couch at a used furniture store that I could tell was built very well, and we were able to get it for $240. The designer is Charles Schneider, and his company made very high quality furniture back in the day. I did not love the fabric on it (and that's an understatement), but I figured it would be a great piece to reupholster because it has "good bones" underneath.

Charles Schneider sofa

I only had it in my house a few days when my mom saw it and really loved it--as-is. When I told her I planned to reupholster it, she tried to talk me out of it. Eventually, she wanted to buy it from me to put in her house--because the quality was amazing.

Interestingly, a few days after I sold it to her, I found a couch on Facebook that was so similar I just knew it had to be another Charles Schneider. The fabric definitely needed to be reupholstered, and the price reflected that--they were only asking $30! So, I paid $30 for this couch and planned to try reupholstering it myself. I watched a trillion YouTube videos and I felt like I could do it!

Charles Schneider sofa

Sure enough, it was another Charles Schneider. I worked on it immediately after we bought it. I was really excited to try the reupholstering, because I love learning new skills. I bought an upholstery staple remover from Hobby Lobby, and went to town on the couch, removing staples left and right.

The evening that I worked on it, I kid you not, I spent six hours removing staples. And it still wasn't done. The next morning, I spent another four hours on it, and I finally had the old fabric removed. However, I discovered that due to the style of the couch, it was going to be much more challenging than I expected.

(To give you an idea of why this took TEN HOURS... each of these staples needed to be removed by hand! I have no question anymore about why it costs upwards of $700 (plus materials!)  to reupholster a couch):

upholstery staples

Also, thanks to the staple removing, my carpal tunnel came back with a vengeance.

I hadn't had many symptoms lately, because I'd taken a break from the tedious painting and things like that. But pulling out all of those staples definitely flared it up. And I knew I'd have to actually staple about two thousand staples back IN to the wood using the new fabric. I felt super overwhelmed, and I decided to call it quits.

After 10 hours of removing staples, I didn't even get far enough to start reupholstering. I had discovered that I would need to buy more foam (the couch had been quilted to the foam underneath, so that foam was unusable). Also, the front curve of the couch would make things challenging as well. I should have started on something small, like an ottoman!

Thankfully, I was only out $30 instead of the $240 we paid for the first one. (The first couch looks really good in my mom's house, actually! And she loves it. It worked out well.)

So, now we are back to square one with the couch. I adore my orange couch and chair, and I clearly will not find another couch to match (if any of you happen to have an orange 1976 Citation by Kroehler sofa, please let me know!) so I'm thinking that gray will work well. I don't want to jump the gun, so I am going to be patient until the right one comes along (like the orange one that I adore!).

So, for now, I've learned that upholstering furniture is definitely not my forte, and I'm okay with that. I almost felt relieved knowing that I don't have to worry about it now.

Meanwhile, I am working on the kitchen island, and it's been a big project. The island itself wasn't too difficult (I built the entire thing from scratch!! Except for the cabinet doors--I just painted those).  Here is what it looked like before (a pile of materials):

materials for a kitchen island

And then several hours later:

DIY kitchen island

Pretty cool, right?! I love love love the Kreg pocket hole jig. I made the whole thing using pocket holes, and it was so fun to build!

However, the finish that we have planned for the top has been a challenge, so I will write a whole other post about that. The countertop itself is done, but we have plans to make it kind of "special". Hopefully I'll have a good update next time! (And hopefully, I'll write the update much sooner than the previous)


  1. i'm with you on the re-upholstering. I got most of my staples out on two armchairs I got for $10 each and then it remained that way for about 5 years and I finally dumped them.

    1. Hahaha, I know the feeling! I briefly considered keeping the couch for "one day when I feel like finishing it" but I know that day will never come ;)

  2. I definitely thought the little thumbnail picture when you click on this blog post was a birds nest lol. That's an insane amount of staples! Kudos for trying though!! You gotta try or you'll never know.

    1. It does look like a bird's nest! Nope, just a trillion staples ;)

  3. Your island is amazing! I don't blame you a bit about the couch. I have done smaller projects with upholstery (chairs and ottomans - haha!), but sofa's have always intimidated me. For good reason, apparently. Good grief, all those staples!!

    1. Hey, if you do chairs and ottomans, I am still totally in awe. I don't know how people do that! I was SO sure that I was going to love upholstery and it would become a hobby. Hahaha! Then again, I AM bipolar ;)


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