10 Things to Consider When Ordering Custom Upholstery

10 Things to Consider When Ordering Custom Upholstery - roomfortuesday.comHello and happy Monday! How was everyone’s weekend? I had a fabulous time celebrating my birthday (thank you so much for the well wishes), and my mindset is fully focused on the holidays ahead now. Ha! Today I wanted to talk about the fun topic of custom upholstery. Having just ordered my custom daybed for my office, I referred Jordan to the local company I used. Obviously you know she moved into her home a couple months ago and is working to furnish it. Given the crazy lead times at big box stores for semi custom pieces, she decided to use the same company I hired for my daybed. She’ll be ordering a sofa for her living room and I’ve been sharing all of my upholstery knowledge with her. If you’re making a big upholstery purchase or are considering a custom sofa, sectional or chair, this post should be helpful! Click through for 10 things to consider when ordering custom upholstery. There’s more to know than you might expect! I hope this proves to be your handy guide. 

1: Sourcing

Honestly, the most difficult thing about ordering custom upholstery is finding a quality source. You can work with a designer who can help with the entire process, you can find a local company to bring your vision to life, or you can take the semi-custom route with a larger retailer. After ordering my daybed from One Kings Lane and having so many issues, I was thrilled to find a good local source I can use for future projects! I’d much rather support a business in my community anyway, and it’s easier to work together in person. If you’re able to find a local furniture maker or person who reupholsters, by all means- take that route! I promise the end result will be better and the process will be easier.

10 Things to Consider When Ordering Custom Upholstery - roomfortuesday.com

2: Dimensions

Nailing down the dimensions requires a bit of planning, but will result in a sofa or piece of furniture that fits the needs of your family. Emmett and I are average height so we don’t require extra deep seats. Take into consideration how you will use your furniture and who will be using it. My advice to Jordan was to sit on a bunch of sofas and see what feels best. She has been bopping around to different retailers testing sofas, even though she is taking the custom route. That’s really the best way to determine what you like since you’re building your furniture from scratch. Jordan and her husband are tall, so they’ll probably end up with a seat height that is a bit higher than what Emmett & I would select. Be sure to record the following measurements that feel best for you…

  • seat height
  • seat depth
  • arm height
  • back height

This also doesn’t have to reflect your size or height… it could just be your personal preference. Do you like to curl up on your sofa- feet tucked onto the seat? Do you enjoy when your feet can easily touch the floor? Consider these things when nailing down your dimensions. The scale of your room will also play a big factor in the size of your furniture!

10 Things to Consider When Ordering Custom Upholstery - roomfortuesday.com

3: Cushions

The next critical decision is the way the sofa or chair sits. I like a soft seat that you can sink into, but I also don’t love the maintenance that comes with a primarily down sofa- like the beloved Cloud by Restoration Hardware. It has down feathers seat cushions with 50 / 50 down-poly blend back cushions. While super soft and sinkable, that ratio can look sloppy if you’re not into the idea of fluffing your pillows before and after each use. It’s just a little too casual for my aesthetic, but I do love the way down cushions sit, so my preferred cushion is usually 90% feather / 10% down, and I typically prefer a wrapped foam core… just so the cushions hold their shape better and require less maintenance. I usually ask for a high-resiliency core wrapped in a jacket of my preferred feather & down ratio. It gives me that cloud-like, sink into the seat feel without constant fluffing. I also like a channeled back cushion core that helps down from settling over time… the back cushions just retain their shape better. Every sofa has a tag under the seat cushion that will read what the sofa is constructed of- it even shares the down & feather content, poly blend, type of foam, type of frame, etc. See what feels best to you and remember what that particular sofa or seat was comprised of. You can also begin to tell the different between different seats once you know what it’s made of!

10 Things to Consider When Ordering Custom Upholstery - roomfortuesday.com

4: Fabric

Selecting fabric is the fun part of the process- or at least my favorite part. Another advantage to working with a local company is browsing their fabric books in person. The fabrics at the top of my list are usually natural materials, like cotton, linen, wool- or a performance fabric like Crypton. For my daybed I just had made, I opted for Crypton because I know our dogs will be hanging out with me in my office and if I’m being honest- the daybed will probably turn into their glorified dog bed. Hah! The truth hurts. Anyway, I wanted something that was stain resistant and that would withstand the pups, so I opted for a performance fabric. Consider the color, the durability, and definitely read this Designer Trick post on choosing fabric, where I really go into depth on things to look for and know when it comes to fabric selection.

10 Things to Consider When Ordering Custom Upholstery - roomfortuesday.com

5: Leg Style

When designing custom furniture, that means you get to choose EVERY little detail- including the leg or foot style. You can choose the overall style and then go into great depth, adding as much detail as you please. I’d recommend doing some quick searches or buying a book on furniture styles to help you see what the options are- because believe me when I say, there are a lot. From cabriole legs to straight reeded legs and tapers to twists or clawfeet, the possibilities are truly endless. You can also consider having casters installed at the bottom of the legs! I always love a classic english caster, and they make moving furniture a breeze.

10 Things to Consider When Ordering Custom Upholstery - roomfortuesday.com

6: Arm Style

Similar to leg style, you’ll also need to nail down the arm style… which personally, I think is an easier decision because there are a few less options. The classic or most common arm styles include the following:

  • sloped arm
  • english (or rolled) arm
  • curved arm
  • square (or track) arm
  • swoop arm
  • paneled arm
  • sock arm
  • pleated arm
  • shelter arm
  • key arm
  • track or dual track arm
  • ledge arm
  • ruched arm

10 Things to Consider When Ordering Custom Upholstery - roomfortuesday.com

7: Fabric Details

There are also an array of fabric details you can choose from, that really can add a nice finishing, tailored touch! This is another one of my personal favorite parts of the process- be sure to consider adding any of the following to your cushions or upholstered frame:

  • a piped edge
  • a knifed edge
  • a flange edge
  • an appliqué or trim border detail (you know I’m partial to greek key)
  • a slipcover (for functionality and aesthetics)
  • nailheads

10 Things to Consider When Ordering Custom Upholstery - roomfortuesday.com

8: Wood Details

Just like the fabric details, you’re also able to choose your wood preferences. If your sofa has wood legs, wood details on the arms, or a plinth base, you can also customize a stain color, specify the wood species you’d like, and confirm what the inner frame will be made of. My preference is always kiln-dried hardwood!

10 Things to Consider When Ordering Custom Upholstery - roomfortuesday.com

9: Additional Cushions

Something you may not think to have made are additional cushions. Since you’re having a piece of furniture custom made, you’ll be able to have extras constructed to match exactly. There is nothing I love more than a monochromatic moment or cohesive seating look! Be sure to consider additional bolsters, or custom sized pillows in the same fabric for a super tailored and designerly look. It will be much less expensive and easier than trying to buy cushions after the fact. It’s always a great way to incorporate that same fabric into another area in the same room… toss a pillow onto a lounge chair that matches the sofa you just had made. Having that cohesive element is really a nice thread of consistency.

10 Things to Consider When Ordering Custom Upholstery - roomfortuesday.com

10: Pricing

The last point I want to discuss is the hot topic of cost. Custom furniture can be really expensive (I think the word “custom” automatically gives people sticker shock) or it can actually be pretty reasonable… seriously! It totally depends on what exactly you want. Fabric selection always highly influences the cost. The same style sofa in two different fabrics can be thousands of dollars apart. My best advice? Tell your furniture maker what your budget is, be upfront, and ask them to show you fabrics and finishes within your price range. I went in to buy my daybed, rattled off exactly what I wanted (without sharing my budget), landed on a Crypton fabric right away (a more expensive fabric), and was pleasantly surprised that my cost was slightly LESS than what I was going to pay for a super similar daybed from One Kings Lane. Jordan (who is very smart) went into the same shop, shared her budget, her vision, and asked if they could make it work- and of course they said yes. Being honest and straightforward helps manage expectations on both ends- it also saves both parties time. My point? Follow Jordan’s lead in this scenario, rather than my own. It somehow worked out for me, but I should have known to share my budget up front… then again, I was also pretty desperate and was willing to pay a hefty amount. Hah!

10 Things to Consider When Ordering Custom Upholstery - roomfortuesday.comWas that an insane amount of information? I hope I didn’t overwhelm you! My goal was to help you consider every last detail if you’re planning to invest in custom furniture someday. It can get expensive, and it’s important to ideate and communicate EXACTLY what you’d like for the best outcome. Definitely pin this post for later, that way if the time comes- you’ll be armed with knowledge and ready to make the fun design decisions. I hope it was helpful! Hit me with any questions in the comment section below and have a wonderful week, friends.

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  1. Good morning! Holy cat, that’s a lot of detail! Choosing fabric alone has been tough enough to prevent me from reupholstering a pair of chairs. I would need years to design a sofa.🤣 Do custom shops generally have some sort of design software that allows you to see different choices together? So I could say a shelter arm with a bench seat, a reeded oak plinth and loose back cushions, and BAM it’s on the screen? Otherwise I fear I’d design a Frankensofa! I do love the idea of selecting every last detail though. I really appreciate the information about down cushions! Like yourself, I love the feel of a squishy sofa, but not the uber-slouchy appearance. You’ve also got me wishing I could go sofa-hopping to test out seat cushions and arm height! Although I doubt I’ll ever invest in custom furniture, I pinned this as a reference. I enjoy learning about these topics and being an all-around better-informed consumer. Thank you for compiling it into a single post! I’m glad you enjoyed a lovely birthday weekend; you guys looked adorable in your costumes! Have a super start to November!! See you on Wednesday!💜

    1. I kind of went crazy for this post and couldn’t stop typing. Haha! Lots of these furniture makers are pretty old school and just have books and swatches. I haven’t been to any that were that tech savvy with renderings or fancy software. It’s more a sketching and tape measure situation (in my experience). Maybe you’re onto an awesome idea though! I’m laughing at the idea of a Frakensofa! Ha! We had the best weekend, thank you. It was fun to dress up, eat lots of cake, be with friends, and entertain the kids. Now- onto Thanksgiving and the holidays. Woohoo!! I hope your November is off to a fabulous start :) xo

  2. Hi Sarah! Do you think there’s any advantage to going to a furniture maker if I only need reupholstery? I have a small armchair that I LOVE but it definitely needs new fabric, likely all new foam, AND it’s an odd shape, but I guess I just don’t know where the line between reupholstery and furniture making is. Are there jobs that would be too complex for someone who mainly does reupholstery, or too simple for someone who builds furniture? Any thoughts on this topic would be so appreciated!

    P.S. I LOVED your Halloween costumes, and the “floating” letters! So fun!

    1. I think so, Stacy! Most shops do equal amounts of both- building from scratch, restoring, and reupholstery. They’re usually experts across the board and know their furniture from top to bottom. Custom furniture shops should be more than capable of creating or reupholstering anything you’d like, while a reupholster might not have the building skills… more of a “fix it” versus “make it”. It really depends on the person’s skillset! Thanks so much for the Halloween compliment- we had the best time :) xo

  3. I LOVED this article, especially since I am in the market for some new furniture. Question, if you re-upholstered a sofa with a large rolled arm, can you change the arm to a thinner style arm? I don’t want to buy a new sofa as this one is so solidly build.

    1. I’m glad to hear it, Linda! Great question… you could change the arm style to a thinner style. Typically when taking the custom route, nothing is off the table. They could easily use less foam, padding, or even rebuild or shave down the wood- depending on the frame. It really depends on the style you’re after and what you’re working with, but they’ll figure out a way to do it! Those solid, heirloom quality pieces of furniture are always worth hanging onto!

  4. Stephanie says:

    Wow, I’m not looking to get custom furniture anytime soon, but this post was a wealth of info! Definitely pinning it for later. Thanks Sarah!
    Anywho, mostly I just wanted to pipe in and say that your doggos are the best models. It can never be said enough times :)

    1. I’m so happy to hear that, Stephanie! The doggos say thank you ;) They always gets lots of cookies for their photography participation. They know the drill by now. Haha!!

  5. Good morning! This is a wealth of information packed into one post. I had no idea there were so many options when it comes to custom furniture. I love that there are so many choices, but that can feel overwhelming if you’ve no idea what it is you’re choosing. I would definitely be nervous to select options that don’t pair well together. When going the custom route, will the furniture maker be able to steer a customer away from options that won’t look appropriate together? Like Peggi, I’d be worried that I designed a sofa that’s totally off. Haha! Your choices when it comes to furniture always blow my mind in the very best way, but I doubt I’d have the same confidence in making those choices. You make it look easy Sarah! Lol. I hope you had a lovely weekend. I loved the costumes- and the floating letters and candles were perfect! Have a wonderful week friend. Xo

    1. Hi Lauren! I hope you had a fabulous birthday! We had fun with our Harry Potter trick or treat- there were some fun and creative costumes. Awesome questions- it really depends on the company you’re working with, if they have a designer on staff, or if they’re willing to make suggestions. Lots of places prefer to work with the trade for that reason, but some are more open to helping with design. If you don’t want to decide every single thing… semi custom is an awesome route to take. Often times they also have design books you can flip through and choose popular selections.I hope that helps! Cheers to a wonderful November :) xo

  6. Great info here Sarah! I have in the past ordered custom furniture and it can be quite tricky, especially with all the fabric options available. Also, great advice on Pricing as I somehow have a strange knack for selecting the most expensive item without establishing budget first and that can be a bummer sometimes 🙄
    This is a wonderful post and excellent advice as ordering custom upholstery is an investment and once you choose and finalize your order there is no going back so certainty is key.
    Hope your day is going wonderfully!

    1. Thanks, Colleen! I’m with you on picking out the most expensive options. I always think- how do I land on these every single time? Then I realize it’s not quite within budget and nothing else compares. Ha! It’s a double edged sword. I hope your November is off to an amazing start! :)

  7. Thank you for putting together such an informative post. I bookmarked this for future projects!
    Have you ever ordered from Clad Home? I ordered my sofa from CH and was able to choose the dimensions, fabric (you can send in your fabric too), legs, extra cushions and matching ottoman using their website. Costs for each option were shown. A week after placing the order I received a detailed sketch for approval before production. They also offer other custom options available by request. Not sure if they will do the beautiful fabric detail options you mentioned, but I’m sure you could ask. My sofa won’t be delivered until December and I hope everything goes well.
    Another reason I chose CH was that the furniture is made in the USA. If anyone has a local company to work with, that would be the best option. If you live in the middle of nowhere like I do, this online option might be worth a look.
    I love your store, Tuesday Made, and the beautiful items I ordered.

    1. I love hearing that, Kristyn! Thank you! I have never personally ordered from Clad Home, but I’ve heard nothing but great things about them. I love their customization options. You’ll have to let us know how it goes once your sofa is delivered next month- that’s exciting! I’m with you on products made in the USA- and even better if you’re able to support your local community. I’m thrilled to hear you’ve liked your Tuesday Made decor! That makes me so happy to hear! We really appreciate you supporting our small business and little shop :) Thank you!

  8. Could you share the name of the local shop you used for your custom furniture? I’m in SLC quite frequently and would love to stop in and see what my options could be!

    1. Happy to! They’re called Sofa Biz. They were actually referred to me by a blog reader.