Linda Merrill: Upholstery, the Value Proposition

February 1, 2011

Hello, my name is Linda and I am a fabric addict. I just love it all–the colors, the textures, the prints. When I start a new decorating project, it’s usually in the fabric showrooms. So it naturally follows that I am a big fan of custom upholstery as well. They say in fashion that a good tailor is the fashionista’s best friend and I do believe it’s the same in interiors. A good upholsterer can breathe new life into an old piece of furniture, customize a new piece or build something from scratch to specific requirements.

Courtesy of Linda Merrill Decorative Surroundings

In this age of environmentalism, the reuse of older furniture is one of the greenest things one can do and, while some may balk at the cost, the quality of many older pieces can’t be beat for a comparative price. I bought this little cane settee in a secondhand shop. The armrests and seat were terribly stained and faded and could not be cleaned. In the scheme of reupholstery jobs, this is one of the easiest going and was an easy DIY project for me. But it certainly wouldn’t have been terribly expensive to bring it to an upholsterer for the work.

Courtesy of Linda Merrill Decorative Surroundings

An upholstered headboard is a luxurious option for the bedroom. Headboards of nearly any shape and size can be built and covered in the fabric or leather of one’s choice. A beautiful custom headboard made from quality lumber and materials can be reupholstered more than once, which makes it a great investment that can be re-customized again and again.

Courtesy Linda Merrill Decorative Surroundings; photo by Michael J. Lee

Even new furniture purchased in a retail store can often be upholstered in your own material. Many stores have a selection of fabrics to choose from and some will let you bring in your own fabric. This was the case in this living room project above; I loved the comfort and style of the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Aiden chair and was thrilled with the marriage of the chair with a durable, washable velvet from Robert Allen.

Courtesy Linda Merrill Decorative Surroundings and Anthropologie

A good upholsterer can think outside the box as well. I was specifying the Anthropologie wrought-iron campaign bed for a little girl’s bedroom project that I recently completed. I always believe in purchasing for the future and not just the moment and felt that the campaign bed would last her through her teen years and potentially into adulthood. However, this minimalistic bed, with its open ends, didn’t seem practical, comfortable or possibly even safe for a small child. I brought to my upholsterer a design for custom upholstered inserts to be added to the ends of the bed. I wanted them to look like they were meant to be there and not just like “baby bumpers,†to be something she could lean up against without coming loose and yet still be easily removable. I think this was great solution that could not have happened without the help of an upholsterer.

So, before you throw out Granny’s ancient wing chair or pass up a beautiful piece that’s not quite right, consider what custom upholstery work might do for you. You’ll likely be thrilled with the results!

–Linda Merrill
Linda Merrill is a New England-based interior decorator whose blog, ::Surroundings::, has been named to numerous top design blog lists. She is also founder and moderator of The Skirted Roundtable, a popular podcast series that focuses on interior design and interviews with legends of the design world.

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