Buying Upholstery: Part One

Buying upholstery?  Measurable things like how it’s made and how much it costs get the most press. We’re fluent in color and style, yet still hesitate or stall. Sound familiar?


While new upholstery is an important decision, I’ve seen so many make it harder because they tangle their brains with things they think they should know, and miss the basics. This post is about how to have a good experience, make your own best decisions, then live happily and comfortably ever after with your new purchase.

First, think of buying upholstery as a 2 stage process: 

  • Your first few times out, see a lot in a short period of time. This is how you’ll be able to contrast and remember the differences.
  • It’s like speed dating. You’re not committing. You’re gathering info, looking for a quick overview. This helps you form your opinions, and articulate more clearly what’s important.
  • Trends change, fabrics get dropped, and prices change. Leave these things aside til you’ve seen enough to start making decisions.
  • Subsequent excursions to revisit and narrow the field are like all courtships: a highly individual process that’ll take its own course.

Be fully present when you shop

  • You won’t make good decisions if you’re tired, hungry, in uncomfortable clothes, or have another appointment in a half-hour. As with buying mattresses: be fed, rested, and comfortable.

In the store

  • Understand that when you walk in, you’ll be someone’s ‘turn’. It’s just how it works.  Don’t try to avoid them, or brush them off with a ‘just looking’.  Most furniture stores are large, and there is a lot to see, a lot to know.  You will have questions almost immediately. And truth told, they will find you anyway.
  • Instead, welcome this connection. This is how you will get the best info most quickly, and also be afforded alone time.
  • Be able to succinctly describe a few important points. You can change your mind as you gather more info, but let the person helping you know where you are at that moment.
  • First time ever buying upholstery…. or first time in a long time is a good beginning. What you’re looking for, what you like (or don’t like), your ideas on a budget, as well as any time, spatial, or lifestyle considerations are all very helpful.
  • Share who’ll be using this piece of furniture,  and how?   Will this be a favorite reading and TV-watching chair? A guest room sleeper? A community sprawl space? Will young children, pets, a TV or snacking be part of the mix?
  • And fine to use regular words. In fact, please do!  In this HGTV-centric world, so many get caught up in labels. Trust me: ‘Clean, elegant, reasonable, comfy, pretty, or indestructible’ gets you there quicker than ‘kind of farmhouse modern, kind of steam-punk

WOO-HOO, you’ve seen something you like!  What’s next? Read on, find out why buying upholstery is a lot like buying underwear!