secondhand chair on sidewalk

Is That Garage-Sale Find Worth Your Time?

Make sure that piece is worth the hassle with these expert tips

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Great deals on secondhand furniture are plentiful at yard sales. But don't wedge that wingback into your car just yet. Make sure you're getting a piece worth restoring with these tips from Amanda Brown, author of the new guide Spruce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Upholstery and Design.

Assess The Bones:
High-quality pieces are often masked beneath a layer of ratty, torn fabric. Carved wood, down cushions, and coil springs are good signs that you've found a gem in the rough. Be leery of a wobbly frame (repairs can get costly), and steer clear of pieces that were stored outdoors—they could have mold or termite damage.
 

Great deals on secondhand furniture are plentiful at yard sales. But don't wedge that wingback into your car just yet. Make sure you're getting a piece worth restoring with these tips from Amanda Brown, author of the new guide Spruce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Upholstery and Design.

Assess The Bones:
High-quality pieces are often masked beneath a layer of ratty, torn fabric. Carved wood, down cushions, and coil springs are good signs that you've found a gem in the rough. Be leery of a wobbly frame (repairs can get costly), and steer clear of pieces that were stored outdoors—they could have mold or termite damage.
 

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Do The Math:

 

Do The Math:

Before you buy, measure the piece to make sure it will fit in the spot you have in mind. Call around to get a rough quote for reupholstering, too. Depending on where you live, you can spend $350 to $700 to restore a large chair and around $1,000 for a sofa—not including the cost of fabric.

Know What to Expect:
If you hire a pro, make sure the price includes the installation of new padding and the labor for retying coil springs. If you're tempted to tackle the project yourself, Brown recommends a pneumatic stapler and a hand upholstery tool kit ($169; DIYupholsterysupply.com). No sewing savvy? No worries. "There's actually very little sewing involved—you'll mostly just smooth and staple fabric," she says. Which makes the prospect of restoring that wingback a lot less daunting.

 
 

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