Should You Reupholster Your Antique Furniture?

Absolutely, says a design dealer known for his stunning transformations of old furniture with new fabric.
Mid-century sofa reupholstered in an olive-green wool by Maharam.
Ray Azoulay, of Obsolete gallery in Culver City, California, chose an olive-green wool by Maharam for this 1960s American sectional sofa.

Reupholstering old furniture is a trick of the trade right out of Decorating 101 for a good reason: In the right hands, a fabric update can be utterly transformative. “It’s almost like in the movie Avatar, when they plug in,” says Ray Azoulay, owner of Obsolete, a purveyor of famously chic antique and vintage furniture and contemporary art in Culver City, California. “These pieces just come to life.”

Since Azoulay founded Obsolete, in 2001, reupholstering antique and vintage frames — chairs, sofas, daybeds, ottomans — has evolved from a practical solution to “an initiative,” he says. “I’m not the one to discover the idea of reupholstering these things. But I don’t think it’s ever been done to this level by antique dealers.”

Azoulay scours European and British sources for old furniture — from 18th-century French sofas to 1970s Vladimir Kagan pieces —which he then pairs with textiles from high-end artisanal producers like Pierre Frey and Rosemary Hallgarten. It’s not surprising to learn that he came to antiques via the fashion industry, where he developed his deep understanding of different fabrics working in menswear.

We asked Azoulay to shed light on his passion for reupholstering, his preference for rich colors and patterns and his take on current textile trends.

An ottoman by Bespoke Footstool Company in England newly upholstered in green velvet with snake pattern by House of Hackney
An ottoman by the Bespoke Footstool Company, in England, newly upholstered in House of Hackney’s green velvet with a snake pattern
Azoulay sees embroideries on the rise, like the Pierre Frey fabric used to reupholster this Howard Style Open Arm Library Chair in Embroidered Fabric by Pierre Frey, ca.1890 Howard-style library chair from England.
According to Azoulay, embroideries are on the rise, like the Pierre Frey fabric used to reupholster this ca. 1890 Howard-style open-arm library chair from England.

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