Living Room

The affordable way to a brand new sofa

These sofa hacks will pave the way to a brand new statement piece - for half the cost of buying one!
sofa hacks: the affordable way to a brand new sofaBrigid Arnott

If you love your sofa but it’s starting to show signs of wear and tear, give it an instant lift for a fraction of the price of a new one by replacing the fabric cover. Options range from off-the-shelf loose covers to custom-made covers retro-fitted by a specialist, to a fully upholstered fabric makeover. All options represent an affordable way to revive your sofa with a fresh new look.

A loose cover that you can wash again and again is particularly helpful if you expect that your sofa will continue to experience the same wear and tear in future with, for example, kids or animals in the house.

Big retailers such as IKEA and Freedom include sofas in their furniture ranges that come with a loose cover that can be removed for easy cleaning and/or replaced down the track for as little as $99.

Don’t be afraid to mix and match sofas if only one needs a new cover, as seen in this coastal living room.

(Credit: Photography: Simon Whitbread | Stylist: Rachel Peters)

What is the average life expectancy of a sofa?

The life expectancy of your sofa depends on two things: the build quality and the amount of wear and tear it receives, so a sofa in a seldom-used lounge room or study will last longer than the main family sofa that everyone piles onto daily.

When making the decision to purchase a sofa, be guided by the manufacturer’s guarantee, which will indicate how long they expect it to last with normal use. Mass-produced sofas that come off a production line in the hundreds are machine-made with less attention to detail and often use cheaper materials in the frame construction and fabric, so maybe only be guaranteed for 12 months.

What type of sofas last the longest?

A sofa made by hand in Australia will usually last longer and, as such comes with a guarantee of workmanship – often up to 10 years. If you have invested in a good quality sofa and take care of it, your sofa can potentially outlive the guarantee. It, therefore, makes sense to recover it down the track as the structure is more likely to last through a makeover. That said, a new slipcover is the classic IKEA sofa hack for a more affordable model that can extend its lifetime if the cushions are still in good shape.

Buy once, buy well. A custom-made sofa, like the Harbro ‘Doug’ modular sofa as seen in this heritage cottage renovation, can be specified and hand-made for your needs, then recovered by the manufacturer time and again as the build quality will stand the test of time.

How to renew a fabric sofa

If your sofa came with a loose cover, removing it to wash is a simple process. Not all covers are suitable for throwing into the washing machine, however, so check the washing instructions on covers before you buy them and follow instructions on the care label if you do wash them. Seat cushions may wash well at home, whereas the sofa cover itself may require an industrial-sized washing machine. Alternatively, a dry cleaner can refresh your sofa for as little as $150 for a 3-seater, which is a fraction of the cost of a new sofa and our all-time favourite sofa hack to give a ‘brand new’ feeling to your biggest furniture investment.

A new cover is within reach at a range of price points. “Loose covers are great when frames are in good condition and don’t require internal work to your item,” says Derek Martin, owner oft Inform Upholstery. It’s also the perfect solution for a short-term or seasonal pick-me-up to add a little extra warmth or colour to your living room. Your linen sofa may be perfect during the summer months, but there’s nothing like the appeal of velvet or wool during winter.

The next best thing to having your sofa fully reupholstered is to have a cover custom made to fit – a great resolution when your sofa is in sound condition in terms of build but has staining or fading that lessens its appeal. “Loose or removable covers are a great way to keep your fabrics looking new and fresh, we highly recommend them,” says Derek. “It’s not fixed permanently to your sofa so can have slight movement, but we can tailor it to make the item appear upholstered.” Replacement legs for IKEA sofas are also readily available in a range of styles to revamp the look.

Made-to-measure covers are removable for cleaning and can be easily changed to a new cover. In terms of timing, Derek says it can take from hours to one or two days from start to finish, depending on the style of your sofa.

How much does a sofa cover cost?

Do your research. The size of your sofa, whether you choose off-the-rack or custom covers and your choice of material can make a massive difference in pricing. Set a budget for your old couch renovation and work backwards from there.

If possible, chat to the manufacturer to gauge the amount of fabric required to recover it, or compare a similar sofa online for approximate measurements.

Using a three-seat sofa as a guide, expect to pay from $800-$850 for polyester, corduroy and lower-cost fabrics, and for wool, cotton and linen from $950-$1000 upwards, depending on the style and size of your sofa. Consider that an average three-seat sofa with separate seat cushions will use in excess of 20 metres of fabric, so a premium choice can quickly chew up your budget. Most manufacturers work to a template or pattern so many, like King Living will refit timeless styles in a new fabric at a range of price points.

How often should you clean your couch?

A weekly vacuum all over will remove dust and pesky feathers to extend the life of your fabric sofa and is also the best way to clean a leather couch. Remove the cushions and pull it away from the wall for a good clean along the backrest.

Spot clean spills and stains immediately after they happen and consider a protective coating when your purchase the sofa and following each wash.

An annual clean by a fabric specialist is recommended to maintain your sofa and stay ahead of the build-up of stains. Be aware of the position of your sofa in relation to direct sunlight to avoid fading.

Top tips for keeping your sofa looking beautiful

  • Professional cleaning is recommended unless otherwise stated on the fabric tag

  • Safeguard your sofa with a good fabric protector, such as Scotchgard to repel liquids and block stains. Apply two light coats, rather than one heavy coat, allowing to dry in between each coat.

  • Spot clean spills and accidents immediately with an upholstery shampoo

Try these

Bronte Italian linen slipcover sofa in White, from $2499, Lounge Lovers

Slouchy, yet sleek, the beautiful quality of Italian linen is the hero of this sofa. With a removable cover that’s also available in light grey and khaki, with it’s upright profile and generous loose cushions it’s the perfect shape for any style home, from coastal through country to contemporary styles. SHOP NOW

Salsie French seam replacement slip cover for 2.5 Seater + right chaise, $799, Freedom

The Salsie sofa range offers wonderful flexibility and casual comfort for small or large living areas with plenty of modular options, so a fresh cover is a great way to keep it looking good! SHOP NOW

SÖDERHAMN cover for 3-seat section IN Viarp beige/brown, $399, IKEA

For a sleek, contemporary look, this cotton/polyester blend sofa cover is machine washable and hard-wearing, yet soft to the touch. Choose from five fabric colours from natural to dark grey. SHOP NOW

Velvet sofa cover in Blue Lake, 3-seater, $111.90, The Sofa Cover Crafter

Looking for a super quick, super affordable makeover? These machine-washable, stretchy, flexible sofa covers are a one-size-fits-most solution that’s great for staging homes for sale, rentals or as a protective cover in a busy zone. SHOP NOW

Related stories