Furniture Upholstery | Refinishing | Window Treatments

The Furniture Workshop at JH Conklin & Co - New Jersey  (800) 889-8858  (856) 339-9766

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Welcome to lots of information, examples and stories!

Click the category list on the right to narrow down, or use the little search feature below to get specific.  Not seeing what you want?  Ask us.  - Jim


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Oak File Cabinet Refinished Cherry Hill NJ

Posted on May 26, 2017 at 7:30 PM

Deep Furniture Makeover for A Cherry Hill Foyer

It was the furniture find of the year!  A vintage oak filing cabinet unit.  With variety.  File size drawers.  Index card drawers.  And flat specimen type drawers.  Eroded, dirty finish masked the patina on the tiger oak faces.

The piece would fit prefectly in their entrance foyer, next to the library.  If it didn't look so ...

It was hard to see past the split legs, damaged veneer on the top and various ages of crud.  A few of the drawers were frozen shut and several of the card label pulls missing.

Patiently, the repairs unfolded.  First the legs and base.  Then the jammed drawers.  Finally new flake oak veneers on the top.  We removed all the hardware.  Much of it had rusted through the plating and would be replaced.

We didn't want to chemically strip the old finish from the oak - knowing that the patina would be affected.  But the crud had to go - as did the crusty varnish remnants.  Cabinet scrapers, sandpaper, elbow grease and an alcohol rinse eliminated most of the ugly stuff.

Under the hardware we got a clue about what the old finish looked like had it been protected.  A water dye stain (two actually) blended the more exposed and bleached areas with the rest.  A few light wash coats of finish sealed everything down and gave a consistent surface for a thin brown glazing stain to further blend the surfaces together without hiding the wood.  A few coats of satin lacquer completed the new finish.

Replacing all the label pulls and file handles with satin antique brass hardware complemented the soft sheen of the new finish.  You can almost guess at the usage patterns the piece experienced.  The wear patterns and patina show the story.

The refinished piece made it to the foyer, greeting the guests to this Cherry Hill, NJ home with a unique charm!


Details Determine Upholstery Price

Posted on April 20, 2015 at 10:10 PM

Details that Determine Furniture Upholstery Prices

A popular article published on HomeAdvisor titled "Furniture Upholstery Costs | Average Price to Upholster" has a graph showing that homeowners have paid a low of $207 to have furniture reupholstered. An average of $311 to $800. And a high cost of $1235.


That is useful information - to someone, but nobody I know.


As an upholsterer I immediately think that the low price is too high. And the high price is too low - especially in New Jersey. Maybe they got their upholstery averages from Kansas or South Dakota. Truthfully though, upholstery prices vary by region - cost of living, taxes, wage trends and all that (sigh - New Jersey, right?). So that is part of this article - where you live is a detail affecting part of the cost of re-upholstering your furniture.


But the idea of the average price to reupholster furniture is about as useless as the average cost of a four-wheeled vehicle. The meaningful part is "what vehicle." A garden tractor or a Land Rover?


Some Basic Details of Upholstery Prices


Type of furniture

The cost to upholster furniture will depend on the kind of furniture - a chair seat or a couch. Generally bigger pieces of furniture cost more to upholster than smaller ones. Beyond that, exposed wood frames generally cost more than fully upholstered furniture.



The fabric you choose will impact the cost to upholster furniture. Fabric prices vary by durability, stain resistance, pattern, compostion and country of origin - to start.


Existing condition

The amount of damage or wear affects the cost to upholster furniture. The more work that needs to be done to restore it to reliable condition, the more it may cost.


Folks often view our Upholstery Price Guide, and then comment that their project cost was different from what was listed. Details matter. The cost guide shows prices of typical reupholstery of some typical pieces of furniture.

Typical reupholstery assumes that the piece is in good condition - not requiring work on the underlying foundation (springs and padding) and not displaying special upholstery techniques or finishing procedures. For us, 'typical' means removal of the existing outer fabric. Some budget 'reupholstery' jobs merely re-cover over the existing outer fabric. Take note.


Deeper Details Affecting Furniture Upholstery Prices


Foundation Rebuild

Where the springs and supporting foundation have worn out and sagged, rebuilding them provides a smooth, sturdy base for the padding and outer fabric. Lumps, hollow spots and a 'caved-in' feeling are indicators.  Rebuilding and re-webbing the foundation upholstery is usually an additional cost.


Frame Repair

Wobbly legs, loose arms and visible cracks are symptoms of a damaged frame. Sometimes, the fix is as simple as tightening a screw or replacing a cracked dowel. In severe situations the frame may need to be taken apart and repaired - which means the foundation must be dismantled as well.

Padding Replacement


Compressed or worn padding makes for an uneven and uncomfortable piece of upholstered furniture. Elbows thunk into the wood of arms and fabric pulls unevenly across seats and backs. A typical re-upholstery job includes applying light layers of batting to ensure loft and plush. Heavy wear, requiring the padding to be completely replaced - versus merely supplemented - adds to the upholstery cost.


Tufts and Channels

Furniture with tufts and channels tends to cost more. The fabric application and layout is more involved - sometimes requiring rather involved cutting and sewing. Tufts and channels also use additional fabric.


Decorative Edge Treatments

Fringe, braid and decorative nails are a few finishing treatments for upholstered furniture. They are generally applied after the large scale upholstery work is completed and are usually considered upgrades or options to the basic edge treatments.


Flat or Fossilized Cushions

Feathers or dust puffing out of a cushion is not normal. And cushions that crunch when you squeeze them are not comfortable. Where needed, replacement cushion and pillow forms are generally additional. They can be of various types - from simple foam to a foam core wrapped with down quilting to pure down.



Upholstery work is done in a shop and the furniture needs to be transported to and from your home. Usually this will be included in the cost to upholster your furniture, but check - it can make a difference.


Generally, other upholsterers I've met are eager to show value at the prices they charge. Most will not upcharge for a minor circumstance they encounter regularly. Rates vary somewhat based upon the level of service they support. A topic for a future article.

Thanks for reading, I hope this was helpful.

Related articles:

Is Re-upholstering My Furniture Worth It?




Tips About Fabric Types for Window Treatments

Posted on April 13, 2015 at 7:40 PM

Tips About Fabric Types for Window Treatments

We've been assembling a little library of guidelines and suggestions about fabric for window treatments. Some have come from answering questions for folks throughout the New Jersey area. This is the first collection of those fabric tips.


Because of the variable weave of laces and open weaves, these fabrics may not hold an exact shape. Most will stretch at uneven lengths because of those variations, creating uneven hems. Re-hemming after the treatments have hung for a while is a possibility. Puddling of these fabrics on the floor is a life saver.


Dyelots on sheer fabrics are tricky. Colors will deepen and intensify when the fabric is shirred or pleated. In a color-critical situation, we strongly suggest requesting a cutting to test. We will reserve the appropriate yardage. The cutting will be large enough to hand gather together in order to determine the true color.


Many fabrics with the color name "Natural" are unbleached, so you can expect to see brown specks and colored threads in the weave. They are naturally random and inconsistent. This is the nature of the goods, not flaws in the fabric.


Variations in dyelots, flaws, slubs, and shading within the same piece, as well as between different pieces are considered part of the natural beauty of silk. This may not be acceptable to everyone. We suggest interlining window treatments made with silk.


Both woven and printed plaids have a tendency to run biased (not squared) and may appear bowed. Custom treatments with straight edges (ie: shades, drapes) may not be possible. In more casual settings, the fabric distortion can become part of the theme.


Some fabrics have been laundered, washed, or tumbled to soften the hand and give the woven pattern loft. Please be aware that goods treated in this way may have greater tha n normal variation in dyelots, width, repeat size and pattern match. Washed and laundered goods may have bowing and biasing in the width and/or length of the goods.


Due to the uneven surface caused by the random crush on these fabrics, products made of crinkled or crushed fabric will not finish with a crisp look. The crinkles may also relax slightly due to weight and time, creating uneven hems. Puddling of drapery with these fabrics is recommended.


Some fabrics and trims cannot be fabricated by machine or may require additional procedures that we are not aware of until we begin fabrication of your treatment. These exceptions may include beaded, sequined or raffia goods and other applied trims. We will advise you of any added charges or anticipated problems before we proceed.


Our workroom craftspeople may change fabrication features during production to achieve the best look for the fabric and product. For example: In some cases, adhesive may be used instead of stitching to create a better finished product.


Dye lots can vary from shipment to shipment. For this reason, we cannot guarantee an exact match to our sample books. If a color match is critical, we request a cutting for you to see from that piece for approval. We send lots of samples - so the procedure is very routine.


No fabric is completely dimensionally stable. Atmospheric and environmental conditions may cause shrinking or stretching. Although the fabric houses use very good dyes, fabrics are not guaranteed against color fading due to excessive exposure to sunlight or other atmospheric conditions. Lining selection can go a long way toward ensuring long-lasting window treatments.

Thanks!  Stay tuned for Part 2!

Related Information

Handpicked Fabrics


Why Does an Upholsterer Charge a Cutting Fee?

Posted on April 5, 2015 at 6:35 PM

Why Does an Upholsterer Charge a Cutting Fee When I Buy My Own Fabric?

This question is fresh off the inbox.  It came in the form of a rant.  I get the rant, and I embody the antithesis of that rant.  But, our policy is "You ask, we answer" so I had to answer.  This a longer and more transparent version of my short answer which was, "To offset the revenue they lose when you bring in your own fabric."  Boom.  Welcome to reality.  I hated sending that answer, bursting "Joe's" bubble, but it is generally true.

What Is a Cutting Fee?

A cutting fee is usually some price per yard of fabric required to complete a project.  Some upholstery shops charge that fee when a client provides their own fabric (known as 'C.O.M.' or Customer's Own Material).

Joe's apoplexy serves as an illuminating case study.  He had received a reupholstery estimate of $750 labor + 20 yards of fabric with the fabric cost based upon his selection.  He sourced his own fabric and flipped out when the estimate for reupholstery moved to $1050.  Which came to $750 + $15 per yard of fabric x 20 yards ($300) = $1050.  He had shopped heavily for the lowest labor rate, and got the rug pulled out from under.

Had Joe known that upholstery shops differ in their pricing approach he may have had an easier time.

Upholstery Shop Pricing Models

1. Labor Only

These shops do not want to mess with fabric.  They aren't dealers for any fabric resources and don't offer any preferences.  They are most often 'to-the-trade' only shops catering to interior designers and contractors who generally provide their own fabrics anyway.  Their labor rates tend to be  higher, because it is the only source of revenue offsetting their fixed and variable costs.  Many of these shops would not deal with 'Joe', because he is not a regular (read: repeat) account.

2. Labor Plus Retail Priced Fabric

These shops want to sell fabric. The shop Joe went nuts about was one of these.  They tend to have lower labor rates because thay anticipate making additional revenue from the fabric sale.  Most fabric houses offer a 50% discount to their dealers.  So, the fabric revenue can be significant when the fabric is priced at retail.  These shops charge cutting fees.  They would fold if they didn't, because their low labor rates do not cover their long term fixed costs.

3. Blended Labor Plus Discounted Retail Fabric

These shops want to reupholster furniture.  Mostly for homeowners.  Their labor rates tend to be between the other types of shops - higher than the fabric sellers and lower than the labor only shops.  These shops hope to sell fabric, which they share a portion of their dealer discount with the client to keep the total upholstery cost within reason, but don't tend to charge a cutting fee if the client provides their own fabric.  Why?  Because they are not discounting their labor to induce a full retail price fabric sale.  Their labor rates cover their fixed and variable rates of labor.  And their fabric rates cover their fixed and variable costs of offering and assisting with fabric.

What Does This Mean to Joe?

Not much.  Unless he bought his fabric at a VERY low price - which is possible.  (Buying Discount Upholstery Fabric)

Our labor rate - as a blended labor pricing shop - would have been $1080 for the same project.  And would have included pick-up and delivery at no additional charge.  He set his sights artificially low based on his assumption that labor-was-labor without any additional considerations.  When he changed the scenario by coming back with "I found my own fabric", he got twisted when the price changed and then went hunting for a 'C.O.M.' rate of $750 for his project.  We couldn't accomodate him.

But it wasn't Joe's fault entirely.  Why reupholstery pricing is such a black-box secret is a mystery to me. 

Thanks for reading.

- Jim

Do Not Hire This New Jersey Upholsterer

Posted on April 5, 2015 at 5:30 PM

I Do Not Want to Hire this New Jersey Upholsterer

The Same Furniture Upholsterer - All Over New Jersey

Browsing around through the upholsterers serving the New Jersey area, I started noticing the same guy popping up at various upholstery shops through the state. Maybe you have seen him.



He must put a lot of mileage on his car, because it seems that he works in the northern part of New Jersey as well as further south in the southern part of the state as well.



I inquired among the members of an upholstery association I joined if they have ever encountered this person. The group is national in scope, and according to a few members, this upholstery guy has surfaced in Ohio, Indiana and Virginia. So much for New Jersey corridor commuting! But I'm only showing the NJ evidence.



The weird part? He seems to take his work with him. The same red sofa keeps showing up, too!  Or maybe he only works on red sofas.



And he must also work in the marketing department of the upholstery shops he haunts - offering free upholstery estimates as a universal lure.  Well, twice at least.  Maybe that's why he is always working on the same piece of furniture - he's too busy doing estimates to get it done!



So, if you happen to run across this well traveled upholsterer - in NJ or elsewhere - DON'T let me know. I don't want to hire him. He flits around too much. And has only one set of clothes.



(Hey! The red sofa looks close to completion.) But if you can't find this universal New Jersey furniture upholstery person - or until you do - maybe you can settle with the other furniture upholstery shops in the state.




Furniture Upholstery and Refinishing | Logan Twp NJ

Posted on March 14, 2015 at 6:35 PM

Furniture Upholstery and Refinishing in Logan Twp New Jersey

The large scale work on the makeover of this family's eating area was complete: flooring, trim, paint and window treatments.  The time had come to select complementary furnishings.

They started with the table.  They had a robust trestle table that had been with them for 15 years.  The finish on the table was a lighter maple color that clashed with the fresh color scheme.  And showed years of wear.  However, the scale and design of the table suited the new layout.  Refinishing was in order - in a medium walnut tone.

A Quest for Seating

The ladder-back chairs that had been used with the table looked "too spindly" in the room.  After roving through many alternates, the more substantial presence of a parson style chair fit the theme. 

After a month of searching for the right chairs they called us about collaborating to create 'their' chairs.  The issue was with the fabrics - and the cost.  They could find the style of chair they wanted - but not in the fabrics to suit.  If they custom ordered the chairs with suitable fabrics, the price was gigantic.  So they found lost cost, generic parsons chairs of good construction and conspired with us to upholster them in appropriate fabric.

Choosing the fabric was a fun process - balancing the colors of the floor, walls, table and some adjoining granite.  They previewed MANY samples!  Different fabric for the host and hostess chairs added a custom look, overcoming a sense of 'sameness' from so much similar fabric in the room.

They picked well!  The room has a coordinated, comfortable air.  Here is a picture of the husband on the phone with his wife saying "Honey, you're going to love it!"

We don't often upholster furniture straight out of the shipping box, but for this New Jersey family - it was the perfect solution.

Roman Shades | Gloucester County NJ

Posted on November 21, 2014 at 7:45 PM

Roman Shades - Gloucester County NJ

Daytime is usually a terrible time to take pictures of window treatments.  The light streaming through the windows overpowers the colors of the draperies.

In this instance, the sunlight shows EXACTLY the effect this Gloucester County resident intended - filtered illumination of a fabric pattern as a design element.  We are thrilled that she is delighted with her window treatments.

The vine patten of the window treatment seems to grow out of the granite top of the bay window.  More difficult to see in these front fold Roman shades is that the fabric colors are in complementary browns, soft greens and ivory.  We used an ivory lining in the shades to keep a warm tone to the filtered light.  The fabric colors show when the sun moves away from the window, providing a continuous palette through the space.

The room has strong rectangular elements.  The front-fold aspect of the shades emphasizes them.  The more random theme of the vine botanical pattern softens the angular elements.

In the adjoining family room, a front fold Roman shade also covers a double window in the same exposure.  The pussy-willow fabric pattern is different, but still yields a sinuous balance to the rectangular elements of the room and windows.  The color scheme shifts a little, focusing on browns and silver.  Again, the ivory lining yields a warm wash to the screened sunlight.  Wth the shades fully extended, the window looks like an illuminated mural in the wall.

In the living room, a different style of Roman shade continues the counter-balance between linear and sinuous.  This slouch Roman shade is in a horizontal stripe, with a horizontal stria!  Strong elements in a room with a rectangular emphasis.  But, the soft pleats with the center lift introduces a curved and random balance.  The stria pattern in the fabric also shows as a random element.

The fabric selection in this project was a lengthy collaboration.  The client gave us paint samples so we could match colors.  We sent her many samples so she could test them in the varying lighting of her rooms.  We all love the result.

The furniture workshop of JH Conklin & Co. upholsters and refinishes furniture for people throughout the Philadelphia Metro area, South New Jersey, Delaware and the southern shore areas. The workshop also provides custom window treatment and fabric resources.

Upholstery in Wildwood NJ

Posted on October 4, 2014 at 4:50 PM

Freshly refinished floors receive some freshly re-upholstered furniture!

Some fresh and crisp fabric picks keep a lighter feel to some fairly large furniture in this Wildwood, NJ home.  The fabric for both the chair and the sofa are from Charlotte Fabrics.  Both are treated with the NanoTex and DuraBlock protective fabric treatments we've been raving about.

The coordinating brush fringe on the pillows came from Kasmir and Carole Fabrics.

Furniture always looks better in homes than it does on the upholstery bench, but this really looks better!

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Sectional Sofa Reupholstered - Jersey Shore

Posted on June 21, 2014 at 7:20 PM

This is a great sectional sofa!  Great for lots of family and great for the large room.  'Great' as in vast and all-encompassing, too!

Also great are the fabric selections for the reupholstery.  Additional considerations were given to the fabric given the recreational use of the sectional.

Using two fabrics with the lighter one on the deck and outside provides a bit of 'lift' for a massive piece of furniture.  It also breathes 'custom'.  The lower fabric is a heavy duty recycled leather by Charlotte Fabrics with a water washable polyurethane finish.

We really like how it carries the subtle colors from the natural stone floor tiles up into the furniture.  That's the 'lift' part.  The inside and cushion fabric is Maricopa Fresca by Barrow Fabrics.  What a pick!  It blends the features of a stripe pattern (vertical travel) with a mini pattern (small regularity) and a random pattern (sinuous movement) all into one mosaic patterm that again echoes the tile motif from the floor.

The durability of the leather base fabric was extended onto this fabric as well.  A spill repellent, stain release treatment and a liquid proof backing was applied to it.  These fabric treatments provide the maximum fabric and cushion protection while keeping the touchable comfort of a woven fabric.  A wise choice given the amount of exposed fabric on this piece.  May the family gatherings continue!

Reupholstered and delivered to Ventnor in Atlantic County, NJ.

Author: James Conklin

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Kasmir and Charlotte Fabrics

Posted on June 9, 2014 at 5:10 PM

Charlotte Fabrics and Kasmir Fabrics join the fabric lines available through the Furniture Workshop.  These two fabric houses help round out our fabric resources for upholstery, drapes and curtains, or cut yardage for your project.  Visit our fabric page to browse the collections.

Charlotte Fabrics

Among the Charlotte Fabrics selection you will find brocades, chenille fabrics, Cryptons, denims, linen looks, outdoor fabrics, recycled leather, vinyl, velvets, microfibres, and several other styles. (whew)  Oh, some lovely sheers as well.  The Charlotte collections are affordably priced.

Kasmir Fabrics

Kasmir fabrics cover traditional,transitional and contemporary styles. Prints, wovens, sheers, silks, embroideries, velvets, solids and textures. Many of the fabrics are multipurpose - suitable for drapery, bedding, upholstery and many projects around the home. Kasmir has some exciting large scale patterns that hint at traditional roots yet show well in contemporary settings.

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Upholstery and Drapery Fabric Resource:

In South New Jersey (NJ):
Gloucester County, Camden County, Salem County, Burlington County, Atlantic County, Cumberland County
And the Philadelphia Metro area and Delaware.

By James Conklin

Reupholster a Vintage Sofa in Delaware

Posted on February 8, 2014 at 7:50 PM

This sofa contains great features - most notably a reed bundle arm stump transitioning off into a continuous rope-twist surround.  It also suffered the ravages of time and wear.  The foundation materials holding the springs in the deck and back had dry rotted and collapsed in places.  The center leg was lost and the outer fabric was worn through.

Vintage Sofa Before

Sprucing up the wood frame was first.  After cleaning the old finish and coloring in the deeply worn spots, a glaze layer freshened the color and some satin lacquer revived the finish.  The seat foundation was completely removed and rebuilt with new webbing and spring ties.  The center back needed the same treatment.  Here is the sofa with the deck restored and partially upholstered with the new foundation for the back in place awaiting the padding layer.

Vintage Sofa Mid-Upholstery

New cushions were in order for the sofa.  A foam core down wrapped cushion form would maintain the shape without overly compressing while providing a plush feel.  A great deal of discussion fed the decision about the bullion (fringe) that was part of the original upholstery.  Bullion was considered.  A skirt was considered.  Nothing was considered.  Nothing won.  But the lower rail had a rabbet where the bullion attached to the frame which would show poorly.  A doubled row of gimp and nails along the lower frame would be the finish treatment.  It worked nicely.

Fully Reupholstered Vintage Sofa

Leaving fringe or a skirt off the sofa lifted it up out of the floor compared with the original treatment.  Head-to-head nails can yield a 'heavy' look, but the dull finish on the nails kept the nail lines rather sedate.  The fabric is a checkered chenille and has a slight horizontal stria that emphasizes the length of the sofa.  Great reupholstery project!  Picked up in Delaware and delivered to Maryland.


Author: James Conklin

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Reupholstered Arm Chair in Mullica Hill NJ

Posted on February 6, 2014 at 9:30 PM

How to provide an accent piece in a minimalist setting without stepping too far out of the neutral/natural color theme?  Reupholster a vintage open arm chair in Elephant Ears fabric by Robert Allen with a neutral pallete of linen and grey!  The large botanical pattern jumps right out from the rectilinear architectural elements in the room.  The color ties back to the grey-ice walls.

The wooden parts of the chair were a colder brown than the door and chestnut trim, so we toned them a little warmer and laid down a light coat of satin lacquer to keep the color theme consistant.  The fabric was a bold move, but seems at home in this revived farmhouse.  Reupholstered and delivered to Mullica Hill, NJ.

Author James Conklin

How Much Does it Cost to Reupholster A Sofa

Posted on January 10, 2014 at 6:50 PM

A two cushion loose back sofa upholstered in just the right red fabric.  The frame, foundation and cushions were in good shape.  The upholstery labor was $1080 and 16 yards of Greenhouse fabric came in at $452, so the project totalled $1532.  Deleivered to Sewell Nj in Gloucester County.

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Thanks for reading!

By James Conklin

Upholstery | Petal Back Arm Chairs | Lewes DE

Posted on January 8, 2014 at 9:50 PM

Very unique pair of petal back arm chairs in a shore home.  The frames were stripped, tightened and then refinished.  Two colors of chenille fabric for the upholstery over a new foundation.  Contrast piping throughout and a decorative button medallion to push the petal theme even further.  Below is a photo of the frames just after the new finish was applied.  Neat how the back was made.

Delivered to Lewes, Delaware.

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By: James Conklin

Upholstery | Fireside Chair | Pennsville NJ

Posted on January 7, 2014 at 6:45 PM

Paddle arm fireside chair with highly carved vertical elements.  The wood cleaned up nicely to suit the brown tones in the chenille fabric by United Fabrics.  The soft blue is echoed in the squadron of dragonflies on the contrasting pillow.  Neat coordination between fabric colors and wood tone.  Gracing a sun porch in Pennsville, NJ.

By James Conklin