Sometimes, a piece of furniture takes on a life of its own.
That living room sofa has endured your rambunctious kids bouncing on its cushions, provided a comfortable settee for important visitors and served as an impromptu bed when you came home from an exhausting outing and needed a nap.
Its springs, legs, arms and backrest have absorbed a lifetime of household history to the point where it’s a family member in its own right.
Yet, there are problems.
Its’ ostentatious floral patterned fabric—that was all the rage when your parents first bought the sofa in the 1950s—has become a faded, tacky mess. Its edges are torn and shredded from a series of clawed cat attacks and those cushions look like time has just deflated them.
You have the option of giving it a brief and tearful farewell as you lug it to the curb. On the other hand, you can breathe new life into your old family friend by treating it to a top-notch upholstery job.
Keith Lewis is to older furniture what a cosmetic surgeon is to older people. The owner of Lewis Upholstery in Guelph has spent over four decades providing the facelift and nip-and-tuck to give the old, but still solid, specimen a fresh and invigorated look.
Yet, after all those years, Keith has come to believe that it is practicality, not nostalgia that mostly motivates clients to have their furnishings reupholstered and rebuilt. “I would say about 20 percent of our customers are motivated by nostalgia. Most have had furniture for 20 or 30 years because it’s well made and they want to keep it.”
There is a misconception that reupholstering a piece of furniture is the same thing as recovering it. In fact, recovering a furnishing is to meticulously resurface it with a new fabric. Reupholstering involves restoring it inside and out.
Debate can ensue with regard to reupholstering a piece, or buying a new one.
For some, it is a matter of dollars and cents. It is simply not practical, in their opinion, to restore a furnishing if the cost of doing so exceeds the cost of buying new. It is a matter of weighing the value.
Keith does not see it that way. He understands that cost is a major consideration, but also believes overall quality has a significant place in the equation. He maintains that construction materials found within many new furnishings lack the standards and quality control found in older pieces.
“You don’t know what’s going into a lot of furniture that’s being made, today,” says Keith. “You open it up and you can see three or four different colours of foam. You can also smell the different chemicals.”
That chemical smell, often mysterious in origin, could be a cause for concern in a society that is becoming more and more cautious about the presence of potential allergens being emitted into the air.
Lewis Upholstery is committed to using natural fibres as often as possible. They will strive to apply cotton, for example, instead of polyester or nylon. “We make sure we use the good stuff,” Keith maintains, “because people still care about quality.”
Another aspect of the business is that a specific piece of furniture is not only restored, it can also be restyled to suit the client’s wishes and/or become more contemporary in its look.
The public is invited to Lewis Upholstery’s smoke-free, wheelchair accessible Guelph premises and consult with the professionals. Seniors’ discounts are also available.
Keith and his colleagues can perform such tasks as removing skirts from the bottom of a furnishing’s covering, or adjust the frame to make the piece appear less rounded. The result is an older furnishing becoming more sleek and modern looking, without compromising its original quality workmanship and structural integrity.
There’s a prevailing wisdom about the importance of taking out the old and bringing in the new. With the option of reupholstering, however, one can keep the best of the old and still bring in the new.
Written by: Dan Pelton