Today’s design climate is all about personalization and creating unique spaces. While there are many trends that create spaces that reflect your personal style, custom upholstery can be one of the most impactful. From pillows to large extravagant sofas there is a whole world of possibilities. Making the choice to pursue custom upholstery, however, is only the first step. Buying customized furniture and decor can seem like a daunting task, but understanding the process can make it a lot easier. Read on for an overview of two options for incorporating custom looks into your home.
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Custom Upholstery Purchasing Options

One of the first steps is understanding your purchasing options. There are two main options to choose from. You can select a merchant that provides a combination of pre-finished furniture options and pre-selected materials. A more limited customization option. You can mix and match these options to create your own design. For the sake of this article, we are going to call this the Mix and Match Option.

Or, you can choose a custom manufacturer that will provide a wider variety of designs and finishes. TLS by Design, Kisabeth Furniture, and Ballard Designs are a few places to start. We are going to call this the Custom Design Option.
 
With the Mix and Match Option, you simply choose the item you want, select from a list of available fabrics, and specify how you would like them applied. The whole process can often take place online or in a store with minimal help needed. Have fun and make it your own. Need some ideas? Check out my posts on velvet or plaid
Interior designer, at the workplace in the office with samples of fabrics and accessories for curtains and upholstery.
The Custom Design Option is much more involved and you will most likely need to involve a professional. An interior designer or purchasing agent will be able to help you through the process. You can select from a number of pre-designed furniture choices, or, in some cases, create your own from the ground up. All of the finishes, wood, metals, and upholsteries can be customized to an extent. This option, while more expensive, gives you the most creative freedom.
 

Choosing the Right Upholstery

The next step is choosing the upholstery that you are going to use.The Mix and Match Option simplifies this step a lot. The manufacturers have pre-selected fabrics that can are usable on furniture selection. They provide a wide variety of appropriate leather and textile choices. Order a few free swatches of a couple different options that interest you and view them in your space. Remember, lighting and surroundings make a huge difference in how something will look, so you want to view your choices in your space. Hold the samples up to other items in the room and get a feel for what feels good to you. There is no right answer in design, if you love it, that’s what matters.
Upholstery fabric samples in different colours on a blue sofa in a furniture store.
 
The Custom Design Option is much more complicated when it comes to this step. There are two classifications of fabric choices, Graded-In or Customers Own Material (COM). Graded-In is similar to the Mix and Match Option, it is a list of pre-approved fabrics with each grade having a specific cost associated. COM is the application of any fabric that you choose, the sky’s the limit. There is a catch though, all fabric will need to be tested and approved for use on your furniture or decor choice. Every textile and leather on the market has unique features and characteristics. Meaning that while a fabric might be good for use on a flat headboard, it might not be good on a tufted sofa. This is where you are going to need that design professional who can lead you in the right direction and make your vision a reality.
 

Understanding the Costs Involved

The word custom often correlated with the word expensive, and that can be quite accurate. Costs of custom furniture can begin to add up quickly. First, you have the base price of the piece of furniture. Think of this as the unfinished product, the frames, cushions, and raw materials. Next, you have the costs of your finishes, in this case, your upholstery. Mix and Match and Graded-In selections will have a more narrow range of prices and a flat fee for use.
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COM, on the other hand, is calculated based on the quantity needed and the price by the yard of the selected fabric. Fabric (and leather) can range from $10-250+ per yard or cubic foot. You will also most likely be charged for the shipping from the fabric or leather manufacturer to the furniture manufacturer as well.
 
The last costs are shipping and tax. Pretty standard and almost always applicable to purchases such as these. Both the Custom Design and Mix and Match Options will also offer inside or “white glove” delivery. A small extra fee is charged and your items get delivered, unpackaged and placed in your home by the shipping company. It’s often a great investment, especially you order a larger piece of furniture. Insurance on shipping and delivery is also usually offered and can be well worth it.
 

Lead Time & Returns

No matter if you choose from a pre-selected list of mix and match options, or design the entire piece from the ground up, your purchase will be made to order. Lead time is the amount of time from when you place your order until it delivers to you. The biggest thing that people forget about customized buys is that you aren’t going to get them in the mail tomorrow. You haven’t bought something that is stocked in a warehouse somewhere, ready to go. Your item begins its manufacturing journey when you buy it, and that takes time. Typical lead times range from 8-10 weeks. For more complicated designs, or items that come from overseas that can increase to 16+ weeks. Remember, plan ahead and be patient. Good things take time.
Hands of craftsman carve with a gouge in the hands on the workbench in carpentry
Returns are another thing that differs with custom purchases. Manufacturers will guarantee that their product arrives in one piece, blemish free. They will cover the costs of repairs or make small refunds for damage. They will not, however, guarantee that you will like your custom piece. Unfortunately, if that is the case, returns are not accepted. Custom pieces, made to order, are yours once you buy them, good or bad. I don’t mean to scare you, only educate you so that you are comfortable and well informed.
Industrial style brick wall, blue armchair, sofa and pattern rug
 
Now that you better understand your options and how the process works I hope you consider a custom buy. They can be long-lasting, heirloom purchases. Let me know if you have any more questions or would like help finding resources!
Smiles, Shannon

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9 comments on “Custom Upholstery: Tricks of the Trade”

  1. We need to have our chairs refurbished, but have been considering just getting new ones. These are great tips. I think the toughest thing to do is decide on the fabric. I would definitely pre-order swatches before commiting.

  2. Furniture is so difficult to find and match, these are some great tips to help the redecorating process and make things go a lot smoother and not as stressful!! I will definitely use these soon!
    xo- Kam

  3. These tips are so helpful and I will be sure to use them when I redecorate next! Redecorating can be an absolute nightmare, and these tips will help things go a lot smoother with less stress for sure!
    xo -Kam

  4. Absolutely love custom! I used to work in an interior design store where customers could choose their fabric and it was such an enjoyable process for an heirloom piece!

    Lauren

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