before & after basicsbefore and after

attention: calling all upholstery experts!

by Kate Pruitt

We are looking to add a new section to our Before & After Basics series that covers — you guessed it — upholstery! Barb from Knack Studios has already given us an amazing collection of tutorials, and she’s got plenty more to come, but we realized that many Before & Afters involve textiles as well. So we’re hoping to expand the column to include techniques and tips for a wide range of upholstery projects.

With that in mind, we’re looking for an upholstery expert to join the team and write monthly tutorials on the various techniques for upholstering many different kinds of furniture. If you’re interested in applying, please send us an email with some images of your upholstery work (including any tutorials you’ve written online) and a bit of information about yourself.

You can apply by filling out this form right here. We’ll be accepting applications through Friday, March 25th. xo, Grace and Kate

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  • YAY! and to think I almost brought my wingback chair to an upholstery shop… can’t wait to see some tut’s! and thanks for the link to Knack – will have to check it out! :)

  • I cannot begin to express how excited I am that y’all are doing this! My roommates and I have a collection of beautiful furniture that we’ve been given, but they all need a lot of updating. I’m glad this is being incorporated into the site!

  • Oh great! I recently bought a chair with high hopes of reupholstering it but have been nervous to start it! I’ll look forward to the Design Sponge how tos!

  • Does anyone know where I can find a good directory of local reupholstery experts? I’m looking to have some chairs redone in NYC, but looking for someone with an artistic eye. thanks!

  • Yay! I have “worn holes” in the footstool upholstery post by reading it so many times. Would love an ongoing series.

  • Very excited about this! I have several pieces I want to reupholster but have been too afraid to do it. I need help!

  • nearly got a wingchair standing at the street around the corner as it was bulky-waste-time. half an hour late it was gone. but i’ve got another chair in a terrible blueish color so i’m looking fprward to those challenges!

  • I’m so excited to hear this!! I’m sure that you will find someone that will be a perfect addition to the Design*Sponge team!! Can’t wait to learn!

  • I’ve been trying to find a class ard Cincinnati for several years. Is reading books abt upholstery and just experimenting the next best thing?? Or??? Thanks. Looking forward to the feature!

  • Oh my, oh my…Spruce in Austin would be just perfect for this. I’m sure she’s already read this post, but I’ll forward it to her nonethless. I loooooove Design*Sponge and Spruce Austin!

  • To Suzy Q. I’m doing an Out of Towners Only Three Day Upholstery Bootcamp in June. I’m in Indy, not far from Cincy.
    This is a great addition to Design*Sponge.

  • I am one excited beginning upholsterer over here!! Such a great idea, looks I’ll be buying my staple gun and air compressor sooner than later.

  • Hands down Shelly at modhomeec.com. Now only is she fabulous at her craft which she teaches but she is generous, kind and very funny! The tutorials on her website are perfect and she also does modern furniture of course. I really cannot say enough. You would be lucky to GET HER.

    • deep6

      the resume is only a 4 question form- it shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes to fill out. and we need people who can work quickly ;)


  • OH, and I forgot to say…modhomeec Shelly explains things very well and with great pictures which you can also see on her website. Obviously, this is key to a good column. Thanks!

  • Thank you! I’ve been looking for a class in the Chicago suburbs for about 2 years now. No luck, so I bought a couple books, but that’s all I have!

  • Oh my gosh, I am so excited about this!!! I LOVE upholstery and can’t wait to tackle things on my own. I have worked with the Spruce gals a few times and they are TOP NOTCH. Couldn’t think of a better fit for the job!

  • If you are looking for an upholstery expert, Shelly at ModHomeEc is the person for you. She has years of upholstery experience, her own website/upholstery blog, a fantastic studio where she teaches classes and a sense of humor that keeps you coming back for more. I started taking classes from Shelly in 2010 and I have learned so much about upholstery! She is very creative, has a great eye for design and is a wonderful teacher. I love her online tutorials – great photography and step by step instruction. She would be a great addition to Design* Sponge!
    I hope you get her!

  • When Barb started her tutorials, I repainted an entire armoire, then a kid’s table and chair, and am in the process of redoing a dresser I found. And I want to do another armoire.

    I guess I’ll be looking out to salvage chairs and sofas from now on… I’m totally addicted to sprucing up furnitures !

  • An innovative, creative, funny, and complete expert at any and all upholstery projects is Shelly Leer of http://www.modhomeec.com/

    Her sense of style and trend forecasting is always spot on- not to mention her incomparable skill at turning drab to fab with her upholstery. Shelly is a true craftswoman…

  • This is a shout out to all about Amanda Brown the owner of Sprucea the team she leads….if you have not checked them out you MUST..Amanda leads a team of friendly,creative,very knowledgeable people, who made my experience very pleasent and my favorite sofa and chair took on a new life and the workmanship was exceptional..Thank you Amanda and the team at SPRUCE..I will be back….Beth

  • Spruce in Austin Tx. would be great, their before and afters will blow your mind…Amanda the owner of Spruce takes items that you would never think could be brought back..and turns them into beautiful modern pieces…go to their website you will love it!!!..Evie

  • Amanda and the folks at Spruce should be in the running for anything having to do with upholstery. Having taking their hands on class I can say that you would be not be disappointed if you choose them. They are full of great hands on practical knowledge with a fresh perspective!

  • I’m checking ModHomeEc on my ballot. Upholstery is like some sort of mystery science to the uninitiated. Shelly’s greatest give is giving her students confidence and making even the part that aren’t so much fun a blast. Her online tutorials are well organized, easy to follow and – best of all – really hard to screw up, even if you’re a first timer. SHEL-ly, SHEL-ly, SHEL-ly!

  • You should get Shelly Leer for your upholstery expert. She’s a great teacher and writes terrific columns for the Indianapolis Star and her own website http://modhomeec.com/. She’s an expert teacher as well!

  • I have directions for simple upholstering on my blog, BonnieLangenfeldsFabricArtBlog.blogspot.com
    I’m not an expert, but a figure it out practically kind of girl. I hope my blog is helpful and fun to readers while waiting for the expert’s advice!

  • oh my goodness, looking through these comments I see others had the same idea, I would LOVE to see Spruce on design sponge! Maybe it will help me to finally finish old set-aside projects!

  • Yay! I would be very excited to see a merger between two of my favorites- Design Sponge and modhomeec.com. Shelly is a fantastic teacher!

  • Spruce is AMAZING! Amanda Brown would be perfect for design sponge! She and her team are so creative and make the most beautiful pieces. Amanda is sweet, fun, and knowledgeable, and she would be PERFECT for this! The best choice, hands down!

  • I started with a beginning upholstery class about one year ago, then quickly moved on to an intermediate class. I am now working on a large project I could have never imagined doing on my own, thanks to Shelly at modhomeec.com. Great knowledge, great teacher, great writer. Shelly makes learning something new so fun, you need her!

  • I will have to agree with some of the comments above. Spruce is a GREAT company, and Amanda has a tremendous amount of knowledge for upholstery! Not to mention how much creativity and fun she puts into her products. There couldn’t be a more perfect person for this position.

  • Dee,
    I am an upholsterer in Birmingham, AL. Drop me a line at christin_at_recoverdesignstudio_dot_com. Cheers

  • I also nominate Spruce, love their work and how they bring a current flair to old pieces.

    I also have a couple of questions I would love to have answered.

    Q1: Recommend a good and not terribly expensive pneumatic stapler.

    Q2: When upholstering a large piece, for example a headboard, what if your fabric is not wide enough. Home dec fabric is typically 54″ wide and if your headboard is 60″ tall and king size what do you do? Do you sew two lengths of fabric together? And if you do where do you place the seam so that it isn’t noticeable?

    Here is an example of the kind of headboard I’m talking about: http://www.highfashionhome.com/madison-bed.html

    Can’t wait to read the tutorials.

  • I’ve taken classes from and read all kinds of DIY articles from Shelly at ModHomeEc. She is easy to work with and knows how to teach people with different learning styles. Her articles are easy to read and follow.
    I’d highly recommend her!

  • Hi orangesugar!

    I would recommend the BeA staple gun. It costs around $130, is light weight and has minimal long-term maintenance. You can find other professional upholstery guns for $90-$100, but I have found that the extra $30 will at least double the life of the gun.

    Here are a few options for your headboard:

    1. If your fabric can be railroaded, you can hide a horizontal seam behind the mattress.
    Here’s a link explaining railroaded fabric: http://www.interiormall.com/cat/howto/railroaded.htm

    2. If you are using a fabric with a pattern that is not railroaded, pattern matching will almost completely disguise your vertical seams. In standard practice, you would have a piece of fabric (the full width of the bolt) in the middle of the headboard and seam onto both the right and left sides to get the appropriate width. You can also place the seam down the middle if you prefer fewer seams.

    Here’s a link to a headboard that shows how well pattern matching disguises seams.


    Hope this helps, and thanks for the shout out!

  • My vote is also for the Sprucettes all the way!! Amanda Brown would be an AMAZING addition to the Design Sponge blog and she’s the perfect pick for your upholstery addition. She is so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about what she does, it’s contagious! The Sprucettes know just how to transform your everyday furniture into extraordinary works of art. Their website tells all.

    I love Design Sponge and I LOVE Spruce!!

  • it’s been said several times and I couldn’t agree more. The gals at Spruce in Austin, TX are so creative and fun! They would be so great at a blog tutorial that is both entertaining and educational. What a fun idea! My vote is for the Sprucettes in ATX!

  • As a novice in the confusing and chaotic world of furniture recycling, I include myself among the many who have found illumination at the feet of upholstery goddess, Shelly Leer. Without her wise and patient tutelage, I would not have had the courage to transform a garage sale outcast into this beautiful and valued member of our furniture family. God bless you Shelly!

  • I just discovered your site a day or so ago though pintrest, and I am trapped. Also in awe of all the great idea’s and helps. Can’t wait for this one to come to life. I have a very nice three cushioned, three pillow back sofa I want to re-do. It’s showing signs of wear and needs a new look in general. I was going to try it on my own but, would have wasted alot . Just a crafting, doing yourself, southern gal that appreciates all the finds here and waiting on more . Thank you so much for all your shares .

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