1. FRESH UPHOLSTERY
Myth: Reupholstering is only for fancy antique chairs. Truth: Valuable antiques and family heirlooms are always great candidates for re-upholstery jobs. But budget furniture is occasionally worth the while, especially if you adore how that knockoff Eames lounger looks in your living room.
“I’m pretty honest with people. I kept telling one of my clients her piece doesn’t have any value,” said David Osterberg, owner of Remnants Design, one of the metro’s most respected upholsterers. “But she liked how it fit in her home” so she invested in new upholstery anyway.
Another couple spent inordinate time shopping for a new sofa, but they couldn’t find anything. So they’re “dumping a lot of money” into reupholstery instead, said Osterberg, because they mostly like how their stained, distressed sofa looks in their living room.
“People seek out reupholstering on occasion because they think it’s cheaper than buying something new,” cautioned Osterberg, who specializes in midcentury-modern pieces. “That’s not always the case.” After all, that requisite bolt of thick Danish wool or crisp Italian linen doesn’t come cheap. Plus, reupholstery involves lots of labor-intensive stitching, stretching and folding; the man hours add up.
Contemporary furniture can be especially costly, explained Osterberg. “With a tufted Victorian piece, you can hide a lot of stuff in those folds.” But modern furniture pieces, with their minimalist profiles, provide little cover for error. Think Eero Saarinen’s womb chair and Arne Jacobsen’s egg chair. Pieces like these require additional patience and skill, said Osterberg.
Reupholstery doesn’t necessarily save on time, either. “I really don’t have the time to research all the fabrics,” said Osterberg. So his clients usually do the legwork of shopping for their own upholstery, whether online or at a local brick-and-mortar retailer like SR Harris.
What if your furniture doesn’t make the cut? “People hate to see their sofa thrown out,” said Osterberg. That’s why he helps clients break down their furniture and have it recycled junkyard-style. “A lot of the innards — the cotton, the horsehairs — there’s places I can recycle it.” Osterberg can even reuse the frame, but only if it’s made from hardwood. “You can mill it down and use it for other things,” said Osterberg, who has, on occasion, turned an old sofa frame into a new piece of furniture.
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2. HARDWOOD RESTORATIONS
Does your wooden furniture need a face-lift, maybe some sanding, a little re-staining and a fresh coat of glaze? Lucky Minnesotans. You’re in the right place.
Minnesota is a hotbed of woodworkers and furniture restorers. “We’re one of the only states with a refinishing school,” said Derrick Luhm, vice president of Luhm’s Refinishing in Minneapolis. Providing a dozen or so graduates every year, the wood finishing program at Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, Minn., accounts for the wealth of furniture technicians in the phone book.
Except Luhm isn’t a graduate. He learned on the job from his grandfather and father, his forebears in the family-owned business and the furniture industry in general.
Founded in 1953, Luhm’s is a storied shop with an old-school reputation for restoring grand pianos. “We’ve shipped pianos to Alaska, New York, Massachusetts, Arizona, California ...”. The Luhm family has restored pianos for Minnesota governors Rudy Perpich and Arne Carlson, a testament to their prominent place in the community. “We’re known for our pianos,” continued Luhm. “But we started branching out in the early ’90s.”
Now Luhm’s will restore practically anything, from valuable antiques to rickety heirlooms. “We’re doing a lot of upright pianos,” said Luhm. “Some people think they’re not worth anything, but other people really like them—they seem to fit better in the home.”