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Save those seats: Upholstery can make old things new again
Cheryl Valleroy looks over a piece she has stripped to re-upholster. The owner of Cheryl's Custom Upholstery in Benton, she has been in the upholstery business for 25 years. (BRENT STEWART / THE SOUTHERN)

The chairs in Cheryl Valleroy's workshop may look like they've narrowly survived a fire, having been stripped down to their bare wood and wires, but the truth is, they're getting ready to experience a rebirth.

Valleroy, the owner of Cheryl's Custom Upholstery in Benton, has been in the upholstery business for 25 years. With her interest in sewing and her experience working in a shoe factory and a trim shop, it was only natural she would use her skills to branch out.

A common misconception of re-upholstering confuses it with re-covering.

"Taking it down to the framework, making repairs to the frame, touching up the wood work, re-building it completely from scratch, that's re-upholstery," Valleroy said.

Expense is one of main reasons people choose to not re-upholster their old furniture and buy new. If you're a student, for example, and aren't intending to become attached to your current set, it doesn't make sense to invest money in it

"The majority of what people are buying today, off the floor, they're buying a three-year lifespan for six or seven hundred dollars," Valleroy said. "If they'd add a little to that, or even double it, they could get a sofa that would last 25 years.

Valleroy will start out by stripping a piece completely to the frame, clean up the visible woodwork and begin to touch it up, as well as checking and replacing any damaged parts. She will then add whatever padding or cushion necessary.

Most of the time the original design is kept; however, it may be necessary to go in a different direction depending on condition and the desire of the owner.

One of Valleroy's frequent clients is Dr. Ted VanAcker. "Upholstery Journal" recently profiled a set of leather antique chairs Valleroy restored. She currently has an antique doctor's examination table to be used in the dermatologist's office.

The creativity involved in recreating these pieces is one of the things Valleroy enjoys most. For someone who wants to try it themselves, she doesn't recommend a full upholstery job without prior experience.

Start with something simple you may not be attached to. Take pictures with every step, so you remember how it came off because you'll remember how it goes back on. Dining room chairs might be a good, easy item to try first.

If you just want a change in scenery, but aren't really attached to any of your current pieces or have to see them last a long time, it may just be a good idea to buy new. If it's something you want to keep forever, the expense may not matter.

"The idea of worth is just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder," Valleroy said.

Easy headboard upholstery techniques

Upholstering a headboard is a good way to give a room a new decorative look or spruce up a headboard that has seen better days.

To upholster an existing headboard you will need cotton batting, a medium or heavy duty staple gun, hot glue and glue gun, and fabric of your choice. If you have no headboard to cover, purchase a sheet of plywood and cut it to the desired size.

Begin by covering the entire front surface of the headboard or plywood with cotton batting. Use the glue gun to adhere the batting to the headboard. The batting should overlap the sides of the headboard and wrap around just to the back edge. Apply at least two layers of batting, more if you like a thicker padding on the headboard. For a very thick padding, apply a sheet of foam (in any desired thickness) and cover the foam sheet with batting (at least one layer).

Flatten the fabric over the headboard. Pull out all wrinkles. If you are using a striped or patterned fabric, be sure the lines are falling in the appropriate directions. On the back side of the headboard, staple the fabric in the top center of the headboard. Pull the fabric tightly at the back center bottom of the headboard and staple there. Repeat the method for each side.

Staple from the center staple towards the corners, keeping the fabric straight and evenly pulled. Stop a four or five inches from the corners. When only corners remain, fold and staple the corners of the headboard. This can be done by folding squarely and stapling, or you can first fold over the center of the corner, then fold and staple the rest of the corner (this method is preferred for rounded corners). Trim away material as needed while folding.

Cut a length of fabric large enough to cover the back of the headboard. Fold the edges under one-half to one inch. Cover the staples on the back of the headboard with the fabric, but do not wrap at all over the edge of the headboard. Staple or tack along the edges of the fabric. Staples work to secure the fabric if the back of the headboard will be mounted or against a wall where it will go unseen.

If the back side of the upholstered headboard will be visible, use decorative upholstery tacks instead of staples to secure the backside fabric and add a decorative trim. For this, you will want to place upholstery tacks close together (either side by side or half to one inch apart).

The headboard can be mounted directly to the wall with a strong mount system on the back. This method achieves the look of an attached headboard without having to attack the head board to the bed.

If attaching to a bed frame, you will want to sand and paint pieces of wood to match the bed, and then screw them to the back of the headboard and into the mounts on the bed frame. Cross pieces of wood across the back may also be needed.

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