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How to choose the right fabric to reupholster an antique chair

Choosing the right upholstery fabric is crucial when you want to reupholster an antique chair. You need to think about form and function, luxury and practicality, and comfort and durability. Get it wrong, and you could affect the value and take a beautiful vintage armchair from fab to drab. Get it right, and you’ll create a bespoke heirloom that you’ll love forever. You may consider taking a DIY approach as a fun project, however with antique furniture it’s often best to use a professional reupholstery service to ensure that the quality of the frame is left intact. 

Whether you want to reupholster an antique French chair, arm chair, or accent chair, there are a few factors to consider. As mentioned, comfort may be key, but the aesthetics and the piece itself must be factored in. Read on for more advice on choosing suitable fabric for your furniture restoration.

Consider the piece

Before you look at fabric samples, take a few minutes to think about the chair itself and how you intend to use it. For example, if your chair has an ornate or elaborate style, then a bold pattern might not work correctly stretched over its curves. Also, the use of a dining chair differs to that of an antique sofa for example, and so the original purpose should be considered. 

You should also consider your lifestyle. For example, if you’re a busy family with pets, performance characteristics may be a higher priority than aesthetics. As such, a modern, hard-wearing synthetic fabric might be more practical than something luxe.

Think about the wood 

The chances are you’re considering reupholstery because your antique chair is exceptionally well-made, and you want to conserve precious resources like the wood used for the frame. However, the shape and colour of a wooden frame can be a helpful guide when choosing fabrics. 

Antique furniture tends to be constructed from darker woods like oak and mahogany, often polished to a deep patina. Choosing a rich, dark pattern or colour will compliment the stain. Alternatively, you could try a pastel fabric or floral print that contrasts nicely against the solid wood. 

Find something that complements the room 

When choosing fabric to reupholster an antique chair, it’s essential to think first about where and how you’ll use it. For example, you may have a specific room in mind, so consider the existing furniture and paintwork when deciding on your colour and pattern choices.

If you have a couch upholstered in a solid colour, try choosing a complementary pattern. Otherwise, you may prefer a more neutral tone that blends with the existing colour palette in the room for a harmonious and polished look. You’ll also need to live with your choice for quite a while, so be absolutely sure about that showstopping print.

Will your chair be used in a room with lots of natural light, like a conservatory? Sunlight can cause fabric to fade. It’s important to consider getting lighter fabrics (which tend to fade less noticeably) or place your furniture strategically so it’s not in direct sunlight.  

Natural or synthetic? 

The style of the piece itself will influence the choice of fabric depending on whether you prefer a classic or contemporary vibe. For example, a traditional wingback armchair looks stunning and sophisticated upholstered in rich burgundy or brown leather. If practicality isn’t an issue, try a luxury fabric like pale linen or striking velvet that adds a touch of style to your antique.

Maybe you prefer to play with giving your vintage furniture a more contemporary edge. If so, take a look at the enormous variety of modern synthetic fabrics built to withstand everything life throws at them and still look fresh. 

How comfortable do you want it to be?

Finally, make sure you focus on quality, durability and comfort when choosing fabric to reupholster an antique chair. Natural fibres can be comfortable and breathable, while high-performance modern fabrics perform well when it comes to stain resistance and wear and tear. But ultimately, whatever your choice, you need an expert upholsterer for the perfect finish. 

Be sure to take a photograph of the piece in its original form and position within your house, you can then compare with the new chair by looking at a before and after; this will be helpful in ensuring you’re happy with the restoration.

At South West Upholstery, we’ve been turning old furniture into new treasures for the best part of two decades. We’d be happy to advise you on suitable fabric to reupholster your antique chair and complete the job to the highest standards, so get in touch today.

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