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Help with Quote on antique armchairs

Started by 65Buick, November 14, 2016, 07:19:59 pm

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Hey folks,

I've been attempting to 'flip' furniture with little success. I've got someone asking me to reupholster a couple easy chairs.
I can probably figure out how to quote my materials, but I don't know how to quote my labor.

I work from my home garage and I live in coastal CA.

Check this link for a photo:

Thank you!


Location has a lot to do with pricing. We are in the Tampa bay region and it might be different in Ca. But I just ran one like this through my shop, it had more tufting so that would raise my figure would be $5.00 per button more. But I charged $675 for the labor. Mind you we do it all to refurbish a piece, frame rework, touch up etc.
  Hope this helps.
Minichillo's Upholstery


Yes, that does help some. I imagine when I propose $600 labor, the customer will tell me that there are new ones available for that price. Which, in a way, is true. Not really sure in what direction to go with the business.


I tried what you're doing for a while but more often than not folks have to have an attachment  to the furniture before they're willing to pay what an upholster has to charge or it has to be a very valuable piece.  Not to mention the odds of you picking the right fabric for it.  Flipping does give you some access  to potential  clients though.  Good luck.


June 18, 2017, 04:56:29 am #4 Last Edit: June 18, 2017, 05:00:17 am by gene
There are so many great old hardwood frames out there. (Carcasses as they say across the pond.) I'd love to have 30 or 40 such frames hanging in my shop at one time, with a steady flow of ones being sold and new ones coming in.

I too have found that there is no market for second hand, reupholstered furniture. And no market because the market expects such a low price for second hand furniture.

A piece of furniture that someone is emotionally attached to, or something that is very unique, are the situations I've found that work. But such opportunities are few and far between.

65: I take a picture of the furniture I reupholster and save them on my computer. I use Paint to type the number of hours I spent and how much I charged for labor on the picture. I then can see if I charged too much or not enough and adjust accordingly for the next similar type of furniture I do. I can also go through the pictures when I am putting together future quotes.

I know people who buy furniture cheap or get it for free and flip it, but I do not know anyone who puts any labor into the furniture before selling it, other than to wipe any finished wood and vacuum the fabric.

Best of luck,




June 18, 2017, 08:33:52 pm #5 Last Edit: June 18, 2017, 08:39:50 pm by kodydog
When you say "flipping furniture" do you mean buying furniture, putting as little work as possible into it and reselling it for a profit? Or is your plan to buy furniture recover, repair and refinish it and then resell it? The first method would be much easier but it's hard to find used furniture in good enough shape to resell. The second method adds so much labor to the piece it puts it out of most peoples price range.

Either way there is going to be a learning curve. That's where reupholstery comes in. As you recover more and more pieces you will start noticing certain styles that customers are bringing to you. Not only that but you will learn which styles are time hogs and which styles require gobs of fabric. When looking for furniture you will learn to stay away from pieces that cannot be done quickly, pieces that need too much frame or spring work or pieces that will use too much fabric. Wing chairs come to mind. Tufted chairs or channel back chairs are hard to make a profit on.

It will take some time to learn what's hot and what is not. One thing for certain is modern furniture; anything made the last 20 years or so would not be worth the effort. And consumer tastes for collectible furniture are cyclical and varies in different parts of the country. For instance Eastlake was hot about 20 years ago and I recovered many of these pieces. But lately not so much. When I first opened my business in 1988 everyone was looking for Biedermeier. I haven't had one cross my bench in over 15 years. But the good news is there is plenty of information on the Internet for what is hot.

What is hot? It seems like Victorian and Chippendale have always been sought after. These are two styles that have stood the test of time. Stylish with clean lines and for the most part no radical curves or angles. Trending right now is anything Mid-century but especially Scandinavian Design furniture. Do a search on pintrest to see all the different styles. What's nice about Scan Design is it's easy to upholster. A lot of it is just cushions. Below are some pieces we have recovered for customers in the last 6 months and we are now doing mid-centry Scan Design dinning room chairs for another customer.

One other thing to consider is how much are you going to spend on these pieces. I rarely spend over $50 on a piece I'm going to resell. Often I get pieces for free. But even then you have to be careful. A garage full of free unsalable furniture is useless. How much are you going to spend on fabric? We have been able to collected a nice assortment of fabrics at bargain prices but not just any old fabric, nice stylish fabric. They are mostly neutral colors. Bright colors are nice to look at but are hard to sell.

If all I was to do is resell furniture I would be a very poor man. It's not an easy business and takes a lot of time scouring thrift stores, yard sales and estate sales. And the hardest part is getting out the word that you have furniture for sale. But to me it always seemed like a good match for my upholstery business. Most of our furniture sales come from customers who found us through our upholstery business.
There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.