Off-Trend Furniture Designs Speak a Modern Language through Re-Styling

If you have an old piece of furniture whose design no longer speaks a modern language, you don’t have to get rid of it. Besides changing out a dated fabric for a new and fresh textile, many outdated style elements can be altered to update your piece while it is being upholstered.

a plain chair gets transformed through re-styling
This plain-Jane Mid-20th Century chair gets a late 2000s bling factor by being completely updated with button tufting in a high-gloss leather.

To turn your vintage sofas and quality antique pieces into even more traditionally well-crafted or designer-inspired furniture, consider special order down or microloft envelopes to lend a cushiony and luxurious sitting experience. Expanding a cushion crown with down is not always possible, but for those whose shape accommodates a higher loft, down or polyester-based envelopes fit around the existing flat foam to create a high-end, plumped-up look and feel that references classic British upholstery.

velvet arm chairs restored by Rose City Upholstery
Adding feather-down envelopes to the flat cushions of these quarter-century old arm chairs makes them deep, lavish, and contemporary.

Likewise, cushions on sofas and chairs can end up mashed and dumpy because they don’t have any inherent structure. Super casual trends of thirty or forty years ago are good choices to have their resolve stiffened–while being encouraged to appear as if they have more integrity than they were born with–by adding tailoring such as buttons or welt, besides a new foam core. These features will also help keep the fabric on cushions in place, so that it stays neat.

worn cushions
Formless cushions are perfect candidates for additional tailoring so they acquire structure. Here we see the good-natured culprit who has habitually squashed the back cushions down, attempting to get a better barking-view.

Skirted furniture was considered very stylish when our grandmothers were starting their first redecorating project, and often 4”-6” skirts were added to furniture as a 60s era “update” covering up lovely tapered or carved legs.  These days, we want those gams to see the light of day!  Look under the skirt to see if you’ve got something attractive being hidden away.  If removing the skirts isn’t an option, going with a taller skirt (9”or taller) or a waterfall style skirt can give a more polished and opulent look to your sofa or chair.

tapered feet under a chair skirt
This large profile chair isn’t helped by its heavy skirt, and has perfectly good tapered, Mid Century feet underneath.

A fleeting trend in the 1970s and 80s was fabric-covered feet on furniture. In very short order they ended up looking scuffed, dusty, and threadbare—having the effect of a respectably dressed person with desperately unfortunate shoes. Often the rest of the sofa looks fine, but the fabric-covered feet make the entirety look cheap and sad. Upgrading to new wooden feet or legs is an easy switch that transforms the look.

fabric feet on a velvet sofa
Fabric covered feet can end up looking like Ugg boots for your sofa, but these legs are welted in rootbeer colored velvet, which neatens up their seamless effect. On slick floors, fabric feet trap scads of dust bunnies, and need regular dusting.

Button tufting is a terrifically popular trend right now, and because it’s based on tried and true antique styling, it likely will continue to look stately and elegant on furniture even after the craze subsides. A plain and blank-looking bench can be made to look more substantial and textural by having it tufted when recovering it. Headboards and even interior doors can also benefit from this treatment. Diamond tufts can give a more formal look, while square or “biscuit” tufts are a mid-century modern staple as on Barcelona chairs or Florence Knoll sofas.

Gray flannel tufted Knoll sofa
Bisquit tufting and a tailored welt cord as on this Knoll sofa may enhance the original effect of  plain cushions.

Finally, adding brass or chrome nailheads to furniture gives it a sophisticated gravitas, and can make a basic piece appear expensive. Nailheads are a classic, candlelight catching feature on antiques yet are on trend right now.  They act as jewelry on furniture, adding a subtle yet shiny beauty that is appealing in many settings.

Art Deco chair with nailhead finish
Nailheads on this restored Art Deco channel back chair not only faithfully reproduce its original glamour, but also gives it a contemporary high-end sparkle.

Consider a re-style for your next upholstery project: It can transform an out-of-date looking piece into one that will appear fresh, contemporary, and utterly now.