Old furniture doesn’t need to be tossed out and replaced with expensive pieces. Breathe new life into your sofas and tables with this sound restyling and reupholstering advice

By now, everyone has heard the latest buzz word: Repurpose. It’s all about going green, being conscious about our environment, to quit dumping into landfills and to find a way to use what we already have. Look at Reuse Hawaii: People are going in droves to find old pieces of wood to turn into works of art, furniture and “new” flooring.

Well, guess what? You can do the same. When I was asked to stage the model apartment at 680 Ala Moana for Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate, I looked for weeks for the perfect sofa — but to no avail. Eventually, however, I found a sofa that was perfect in terms of size and lines, but although the cushions and structure were solid, the upholstery was outdated.


So I decided to reupholster it. I found an amazing modern fabric at PHF, very neutral in tone with a cream base and camel-colored print. This allowed me to customize my sofa for the exact effect I wanted.

Reupholstering an entire sofa can run you anywhere from $550 to $800 — not including the fabric. Depending on the size of the sofa, the whole thing, including base, cushions and back, will take anywhere from 9 to 14 yards of fabric. However, if you already have a great piece of furniture, it may be more affordable and stylish to go this route than to buy a completely new sofa that isn’t exactly what you want.

It’s much easier to reupholster dining and accent chairs with seat cushions that can be easily popped out. You just need to find upholstery fabric and a staple gun. If you’re not handy with a staple gun or are worried about breaking a nail, go to an upholsterer.

Let’s talk now about another creative, inexpensive solution. For the 680 Ala Moana project, I also needed to find the perfect dining table. In my new consignment warehouse, reStyle Hawaii, we had a really cool side table that was essentially a tree trunk. It was the perfect base for my apartment-size dining table, except for one thing — it was too low!

In order to raise the height so that I could put a glass top on it to create a dining table, I had large acrylic dowels cut to 3-inch lengths as columns to elevate the height of the table and create a stand for my glass top. The side table and glass top were at reStyle, and the dowels were purchased and cut at Min Plastics & Supply for $70.


Design dilemma solved! A one-of-a-kind dining table was created with the addition of a retro-modern detail that brought the natural-wood base to life. And the dowels created just enough a space between the tree stump and glass top to showcase the beauty of the dark, natural wood.

Repurposing doesn’t always mean fixing something. It can mean taking an existing piece and enhancing it to create a whole new piece that’s uniquely yours.

I like to call it restyling. That’s the name for our warehouse shop around the corner from 680 Ala Moana in Kakaako. It had its own makeover recently and is now open to the public as an affordable, style-conscious consignment store called reStyle Hawaii. There, you can also receive assistance in restyling and reupholstering your furniture and cushions, as well as updating your wall finishes.

So look at your furniture with an eco-conscious eye. Maybe that older piece doesn’t need to be thrown out after all. Maybe it just needs to be restyled!


Cathy Lee is president and designer of Cathy Lee Style and Cathy’s Marketplace, a furniture and accessories showroom with design services at 1110 University Ave. She recently opened reStyle Hawaii, an affordable, style-conscious consignment warehouse with upholstering and repurposing services at 420 Keawe St. in Kakaako. Lee’s interior design work has been featured in local and national publications, on HGTV and in her DIY design workshops that teach homeowners the basics of style. To find out more, go to www.cathyleestyle.com.

Photos: Justin Dotson