Best of the Best: Worth its’ weight

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Cathy Best

Cathy Best

By Cathy Best

Glancing around the living room of our Wisconsin home, my husband inquired, as if he didn’t know, “How many sofas do we have?” I responded, “Can you have too many?” Apparently not, the room needed all three units, we hauled 962 miles, to fill the 18-foot x 23-foot space. That left us with a two-sofa surplus in Madison. Count, um, five sofas.

We do this, we save Grandma’s, Aunt Mary and Veda’s, and Bean and Papa’s furniture in case the children might need it, in case anybody needs it. Our home is a storage unit for, “what ifs.” What if Thomas needs a table? What if we move to Wisconsin? What if furniture is no longer manufactured in the U.S.? We won’t be left hanging on hooks; no, we will have seating for 50, whether we need it or not.

In this case, we were actually glad to have five sofas and enough odds and ends to furnish a second home. Truth is, we furnished a son’s home with stored items and could, if we were so charmed, outfit beach and mountain homes.

How do you determine what’s worth saving? Casegood items such as tables, dining chairs, end tables, coffee tables, beds, and such, are no-brainers. It’s easy to see if they warrant saving from kindling and scrap metal piles. Upholstered pieces are another matter.

Ask yourself these questions to determine the value of saving upholstered pieces: Is the frame heavy and solid? If you can pick up one end with one hand, put it on the curb. Better quality pieces are commonly heavier.

Does it have coil springs? These are generally a plus, even if the coils need work.

Is the style to your liking? If not, can a good upholsterer tweak it?

Does it have sentimental value? This is always a toughie.

Is it a fine antique?

If you’ve answered yes to the above questions, ask yourself these:

Do I love it enough to save it?

Does it matter if it cost as much to reupholster as it would to buy a new one of lesser quality?

For the same price, would I rather have a quality-reupholstered piece than a flimsy new one?

A fellow Madisonian enlisted me to help her decide if a sofa and two chairs were worth reupholstering. The 40-year-old pieces were still sporting the original covering; she wanted to replace leather with leather. The cost came in around $6,000. We backed up and looked at composition leather and the price dropped a couple thousand. A fabric choice reduced the price further. Here’s the deal: the three pieces could not be replaced with new ones for under $12,000, they are so solid it takes a forklift to move them, the original leather covering held up for 40 years with children, grandchildren, dogs, and cats, and the classic furniture style remains in the company’s catalog today. Why would you not reupholster?

Rule of thumb: Before posting a classic, quality, upholstered item on Craigslist, donating it, or kicking it to the curb, do a little sleuthing to ensure it can be replaced, with equal or better quality, at the same price it would cost to reupholster.

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