Upholstery Shop Question: Should You Buy Your Own Materials?

If you find yourself in the position where you’re looking to upholster or reupholster a piece of furniture but have no clue what your options are, we’ve got you covered! Purchasing your own materials can be a bit intimidating if you’re new to the world of upholstery or design. You have to factor in the size of the furniture piece, yardage, material specifications, and more before going to the upholstery shop!

We’re no strangers to the DIY or COM communities. Many people are familiar with the term DIY, but not as many know the roots of COM, which stands for Customer’s Own Material. This is an acronym frequently used within the furniture industry to signify if a project is using a graded-in fabric or a COM.

A graded-in material is a textile that has already been applied and tested on a particular piece of furniture. 

If the fabric holds up to testing, the manufacturer will add it to a list of graded-in materials. When shopping for furniture, you are usually given a few fabric options to choose from. These are the graded-in materials. Believe it or not, you are not limited to only those specific materials. 

Bring your selected fabric to your local upholstery shop, and they’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have about your project. 

Furniture Upholstery Options

Let’s say you walk into a furniture store and decide to purchase a new sofa but aren’t in love with the select material options. We first recommend you ask the salesperson if you can see any fabric alternates. Sometimes you can upgrade your textile options for a small fee. If you find that isn’t an option, have no fear, you can always incorporate a COM into the project!

If you’d like, you can always ask the furniture manufacturer if you can work with them to have a COM added to the furniture piece. Having this as an option would make the process easier for you, but if it isn’t feasible, no worries, there’s a way to have your dream sofa and your favorite textile. 

Here are the steps to take when purchasing a furniture item and would like to have a COM textile upholstered onto the piece.

  1. Select a piece of furniture to purchase.
  2. Before purchasing your furniture item, clarify the yardage requirements for reupholstery. 
  3. Find an upholsterer comfortable assisting you with this project and confirm if you can have items shipped directly to them. (This helps in the long run, especially when it comes to transporting a large piece of furniture.)
  4. Purchase the appropriate amount of fabric (a little extra doesn’t hurt) and have it sent to your upholsterer. 
  5. Purchase your furniture and, if you can, have it delivered to the upholstery shop. 
  6. Discuss options with your upholsterer so you’re both on the same page about what the finished product will look like. 

We know how intimidating this process can be, but we want to make it easy for fellow design lovers to make material selections that go along with their desired look. There can be a lot of coordination involved in making this project come together, but it’s always worth it in the end!

Perks Of DIY

You don’t have to reupholster the furniture yourself to be considered a DIY professional. 

Sometimes, DIY exists within the selection of materials and taking the project into your own hands to achieve your desired result. There are quite a few advantages to tackling the task on your own! Here are a few of our favorite reasons to DIY (by hand or not) your next upholstery project:

  • If you’re someone who enjoys creative control, selecting a COM will not only give you that, but you’ll end up with a unique piece of furniture.
  • Create unique furniture and textile combinations you don’t frequently see used together (like a modern piece of furniture with a traditional textile.)
  • You have the opportunity to upholster your furniture piece in a unique way with nailheads, pleats, tufting, and more!
  • Become more familiar with the design process of a custom furniture piece.
  • Have the opportunity to support a local upholstery shop.

Advantages of Shopping Antique

We shared the reupholstery process for anyone selecting a new piece of furniture to update, but what about those of us who have an existing item we’d like to refresh? Or maybe you’re someone who enjoys the thrill of the hunt for vintage furniture. 

No problem, you can begin the reupholstery process with furniture or textiles first. Either way, you’re going to end up with a revamped piece of furniture to love! 

Let’s say you start the upholstery process by selecting a material you’d love to use in your upcoming furniture project. Here are the steps we recommend you take to complete your upholstery project:

  • If you can, hold off on purchasing any material yardage before finding a piece of furniture to buy. We know you’re excited but having an appropriate amount of material is essential. Nothing’s worse than having your dream material and furniture but not enough to cover the entire piece.
  • Do some research on local upholsterers. Feel free to call them up and ask any questions you might have before hunting down your perfect piece of furniture. 
  • Begin hunting for your dream upholstery piece! While shopping, consider the item’s size, style, and how much material you’d estimate it would need. 
  • After finding the perfect piece of furniture, it’s time to get in contact with your chosen upholsterer. If you can coordinate to have the furniture item delivered directly to them, that would make things even easier!
  • Discuss with your upholsterer how much yardage they believe you’ll need for the piece.
  • Purchase the recommended yardage for your project and have it delivered to the upholsterer.

We’re big believers in supporting your creative vision. It can be easy to feel disadvantaged when beginning a project with an antique or heirloom piece of furniture. We appreciate the care our readers put into redesigning unique or sentimental furniture items and expect to support you in your textile specification journey. 

Upholstery Shop Sourcing

There can be a variety of skilled craftsmen in your area, and we want to be sure you’re hiring the right person for your project. These are a few things to consider when shopping for a furniture upholsterer. 

  • First things first, lead times. If the upholsterer is backed up for 18 months, that’s a good thing to know upfront. 
  • How do they price? This can make a big difference in what type of furniture item you select and the details you choose to incorporate into your upholstery project.
  • What optional upgrades do they offer? Various types of stitching, stuffing, etc.?
  • Can they pick it up or deliver it? Furniture is heavy! If this is a feature you’d appreciate having, then ask for it.
  • Are they willing to hold onto furniture while waiting for textiles to arrive?
  • What is the typical turnaround time on a project of this size?
  • Ask if they feel confident in upholstering your textile and furniture combination. 

Going into a conversation with a craftsman when you’re not confident in this type of project can be intimidating. We understand how important it is to armor our clients with strong recommendations, and we hope this list helps you navigate your local market to find the right person for your upholstery needs. 

Q & A

Question: How do you know if a furniture manufacturer allows you to use a COM?

Answer: When reviewing the specifications for a piece of furniture, there will be notes on any product alternatives available. This can be wood color, material type, decorative accents, you name it. If you cannot find any notes about COM in the fabric specifications, you can always reach out to the manufacturer to ask if the answer is no. Follow our step-by-step instructions above on upholstering a piece of furniture with your COM. 

Question: Is it more affordable to purchase your own materials to upholster furniture? 

Answer: If you’re working with a furniture manufacturer and are looking to reupholster a new piece of furniture, chances are you will be paying a bit more for the COM. In the case that you have to have a separate upholstery shop apply the COM, then that will also be an additional cost. If you take the antique route and select a material to be applied, this can be more affordable than purchasing a new piece of furniture. If you’re concerned about the budget, price out the two options to see which one works best for you and your project. 

Question: Where do you buy fabric for reupholstery? 

Answer: There are several places to source upholstery materials from! As for fabric, leather, and faux leather, we have an abundance of options on our website. If you’re looking to find the perfect material for your next project, take a look here. Be sure to utilize the filters when 

​​Question: If I want to reupholster my furniture on my own, how do I determine how much material to purchase? 

Answer: This can be tricky as there is no secret formula because each piece of furniture has a different shape and angle. Your best bet is to use the existing upholstery on the furniture item as a guide. If you can remove the existing upholstery without damaging the individual pieces of fabric, you can keep these as a guide for yardage. Keep each individual piece and measure them based on yard calculations. As always, it doesn’t hurt to have a bit extra on hand. Keep the fabric pieces for when your new material arrives and updating the upholstery will be even easier! Use the existing pieces as a stencil to trace and cut out the new fabric. 

Question: How do I find a local upholsterer? 

Answer: We’re big believers in word-of-mouth so ask around to see if anyone you know has good recommendations. Take notes from our list above on what to look for when meeting with upholsterers. This will help streamline the process and help you complete your dream upholstery project with ease! 

The Final Verdict

We know how tempting it is to walk into a furniture store and select an item to show up at your door just a few weeks later. This process can be simple but rarely gives way to creative control. 

Our DIY community likes to take things into their own hands and design unique to them and their tastes. If this sounds like you, we recommend you buy your own materials when reupholstering a piece of furniture and head into your local upholstery shop to take your project to the next level.