What do you do if you have a sofa but don’t like the colour of the fabric any more? Why, re-cover it, of course! Okay, okay, that’s a rather flippant way of looking at upholstery, but why not give it a go yourself? Especially if the alternative is just to get rid of the sofa and buy a brand new one. By attempting to revamp my sofa, I’ll not only save money, it’ll be keeping a bulky item out of landfill too. Let’s get aboard the upcycling train and try to make the most of what we’ve got, right?
While some sofas might be difficult to tackle in terms of upholstery (although not impossible, I’ve read a book on it!) I feel like my sofas represent a particularly simple re-covering project. Although, it does involved a lot of sewing rather than stapling, and I’m sure I’m better with a staple gun than with a needle! Just check out the kitchen chairs I revamped with oil cloth fabric and a few staples. Even so, I’m going to give it a go – and you can follow along with my project.
When we first bought our original Ercol studio couches from a private seller on Gumtree, I already wanted to change the colour of the bases. The covers weren’t the original upholstery, having been updated in the 90s, and red just isn’t really my colour. The couches didn’t come with any cushions, so we bought a few new cushion covers from IKEA and I tucked a £4 throw from Wilko over the bases to give the sofas a mini-makeover in a dark, forest green.
We lived with the sofas like that for 6 months. I had fully intended to try to make my own covers but choosing the colour held me back for a while and, when Christmas hit, I was rather glad to have festive red bases underneath those throws! For once, I was able to adopt a classic green and red theme in my living room – it was thoroughly Christmassy! And after Christmas, I’d kind-of gotten used to the red bases and simply switched out the throw for something a little brighter that coordinated with the mustard yellow cushions.
So, by this point, I had lived with the sofas being covered in green, red, and yellow for prolonged periods of time, which confirmed to me that none of these colours were right for our mid-century living room. Gradually I was whittling down my colour choices for the sofa bases so, really, “making-do” with those throws and cushions really helped me to make a decision. It would have to be blue.
A blue hue would contrast nicely against the warm wood of the daybed frame. And, likewise, it would look lovely in front of our wall-to-wall teak ladderax unit. Although orange is one of my favourite colours and was also a contender, I realised (after draping the throw from our guest room over the sofa) that, when combined with all the teak wood tones in the room, it would just be too much orangey-ness in one space.
Blue would do nicely. Now, it was just of matter of what blue to choose. I really do need to see a colour in a room before I can commit to it, so there was no point me visiting a haberdashery and buying 12 metres of fabric that looked kind-of right. Nope, I needed samples – and lots of them.
I headed online to the Yorkshire Fabric Shop, who I know stock plenty of furnishing fabrics. I used the Fabric Finder to hunt out all their blue fabrics in the upholstery range, including fire retardant fabrics. I then added samples of all my favourites to my basket – the first 6 are free, with free delivery and I actually ordered another 3 at a cost of just £3.
The samples arrived really quickly and they were a really good size. In the past, I’ve had samples from fabric companies that were no bigger than a postage stamp – how am I supposed to decide if I like a fabric when it’s that small? Thankfully, these were all generously-sized samples and I was able to really imagine how the fabric would look against the wood of the daybed frames.
Once I had decided on my top four fabrics, based on colour and finish, I then left them on the sofa and waited. What for? For my cat to sit on them. One of the annoyances I had with the existing sofa covers is that they really attract cat fur and it needs to be lint-rollered off before anyone comes to visit. So, if I could find a fabric that was lower-maintenance in terms of trapping pet hair, that would be an added bonus.
Two fabrics made the final – a cool denim blue that matches our original Dansette record player, and a bright sunny-day blue. Again, I put them on the sofa and waited. This time, I was waiting for night to come. I liked both the fabrics in bright daylight, and I wanted to see what effect artificial lighting would have on them. It turns out that the denim blue looked far too dark as evening arrived and, if I were to cover both sofas with the same blue, it would probably feel too oppressive.
By the powers of deduction, we have a winner! It’s Ibiza 60 soft chenille furnishing fabric, which is a vibrant, summery sky blue colour that lifts the vibe in the living room, whatever the weather is doing outside. The Yorkshire Fabric Shop was able to add a flame retardant coating to the fabric, which is important when doing upholstery. I’m exceptionally happy with my choice and am really excited to get started on my re-covering project asap.
Seeing as the sofas didn’t come with any back cushions, I also got some large cushion pad inserts and enough fabric to make some matching back cushions. I feel like these will be the easiest part of the project, which makes me want to do them first, but I’m going to dive in head-first with the sofa bases and hope for the best – wish me luck!
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