Before & After: A Victorian Settee Gets A Modern Refresh


You know how everybody pretty much universally looks to the 1980s as the decade where taste went to die? The decade where garishness, glitz and conspicuous consumption reigned above all? Well, the Victorian era was pretty much the 80s of the nineteenth century. A time that witnessed absurdly fast industrialization, a wildly expanded middle class, and the creation of contemporary consumer culture, the Victorian age was known for its over-the-top designs that combined lavish materials, lavish forms and lavish sizes. “Go big or go home” was most definitely the mantra du jour. This is not to say that Victorian designs are not beautiful in their own right. It’s just that, sometimes they need to be toned down a bit for their beauty to truly shine through. Take, for example, this lovely settee transformation that was taken on by Brooklyn-based interior designer, Luca Shapiro. Covered in a faded red velvet and a worn-out padding, this settee had certainly seen better days. Rather than let its condition worsen any more, Luca decided to give it a delightful sprucing-up, courtesy of a beautiful (and simple!) fabric. The end result is a notably subdued but nonetheless stunning piece, allowing its formal elements to shine through. It is at once modern and timeless. Check out all of the photos, plus Luca’s design notes after the jump! —Max



“I originally bought this settee for my first college apartment,” Luca says. “The upholstery was in good condition at the time, but after several years, it had become threadbare and sun bleached. The seat springs were loose and misaligned. Then it sat in storage for a few more years gathering dust. I felt terrible allowing such a beautiful piece to go unused, so I decided to give it a seams-to-springs makeover.”

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“I bought off-white fabric with black embroidered tufts for $18/yard. It is actually an indoor/outdoor fabric from Sunbrella, so it is easy to maintain. I love that the tufts are a bit irregular and freeform because they counterbalance the formality of the settee’s design. A local upholsterer recovered the settee and repaired the springs for $300. I think it’s incredible that after over 100 years, the springs simply needed to be retied!”

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  1. Gloria says:

    Super pretty. I love the combo. Great fabric choice.

  2. Vanessa says:

    That is a wonderful result, good work by the upholsterer!

  3. Caroline R says:

    I have a piece similar to this that has been on my project list for several years. Now I have a rough idea what it may cost to reupholster it- thank you for this post!

  4. Kathryn Lewis says:

    Love love love this new/old piece. The fabric is heavenly and transforms the tired love seat completely!

  5. Sophie says:

    This would look stunning in so many settings. What an unusual choice, but it really paid off. I want it!

  6. Lizabeth says:

    This is yummy beyond words…I will be looking around for a similar piece to try this with!

  7. Susan says:

    LOVE IT. I, too, have a tired settee in need of some love. Thank you for the inspiration, and the good tip to use indoor/outdoor fabric!

  8. emi love says:

    Gorgeous! I never considered this before. Great idea.

  9. Nina says:

    It looks great! Good price on the reupholstery.

  10. Kay says:

    I see so many of these Victorian and Eastlake Settees on craigslist–very reasonably priced, because no one can figure out how to incorporate them into modern design. This is terrific. Craigslist here I come

  11. Laura says:

    I love the creative fabric choice! I’m going to try something like this on an old chair I have that’s seen better days. Thanks for the wonderful idea!

  12. Debbie says:

    Brilliant. I am planning a trip to a local material market on Sunday as our 20 year old living room chair and ottoman need to be redone. I now know exactly what I am looking for….a simple black and white fabric….it will go with everything else in the room. Lovely work in updating this piece.

  13. Kiki says:

    What a glorious make-over – I love, love, love Victorian houses, kitchens and I owned – during my stay in England – a Victorian pile. I love slightly less the very heavy dark furniture from that time BUT this piece is a total stunner, even before the renovation!!!
    You did a most wonderful choice and I could kill (probably not) for a sofa like this – it would go SO WELL with my present (stone) house in France (1920).
    Love, love, love this – congratulations – and congrats to your upholsterer!

  14. Candy says:

    What a clever make-over. I am looking at Victorian pieces with fresh eyes. How did you come up with the fabric choice? I would never have thought of it, but it came out perfectly! Hooray!!!

  15. Molly says:

    Where can I buy this fabric? I love it.

  16. Ayu says:

    what a cute make-over. you’re so good

  17. Stephanie says:

    Would love to see a photo sans filter. I think the piece would really shine then. Looks sharp and clean now.

  18. Diane Cucchi says:

    Beautiful piece of furniture and a great fabric selection. May I ask who you used to reupholster the settee?

  19. Anna says:

    Can you please add a link to the fabric? I really love it.

  20. Luca says:

    Thank you all for your lovely comments. The fabric is discontinued, but I know it is still available at Zimman’s in Lynn, MA ( and Fabric Place Basement in Natick, MA (


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