How I Reupholstered My Ethan Allen Camelback Sofa | Cultivate Your Ingenuity

So I needed a sofa. And instead of doing what every American does—buy a new sofa—I thrifted one and reupholstered it to make it my own. I had recently moved from the artsy streets of NoDa (still my favorite neighborhood in Charlotte) to the other side of town. In doing so, I drastically increased my square footage by gazillion (exaggeration here) compared to my old quaint and cozy studio in NoDa.

In doing so, my Tiffany-Box colored velvet armchair and settee was just not enough to host guests in the event of game night or small holiday dinners.

In search of a sofa, I turned to Craigslist and found a lady in South Carolina selling an Ethan Allen camelback sofa for the low.  One Thursday night (I believe), my father, uncle and I rolled up to the lady’s home to collect the sofa and haul it back to my place in Charlotte, NC. Once it was situated in my home, I knew I had to reupholster it fast since the fabric threw off the Feng Shui and didn’t quite match anything else. There was simply no harmony. Here’s how it looked:

Ethan Allen Camelback

I immediately decided that I would try my hand at reupholstering furniture for the first time. And this was a difficult piece to reimagine because of all of the curves involved. See the camelback cushion (front) and the armrests that curve up and out.

Fabric Choice: It took me about a whole week to decide on fabric. I found a Napoleonic Bee Velvet pattern that I liked. I also thought about designing a denim sofa. I always wanted one of those, and a denim camelback sofa would be fancy! So I then found a Berkshire Chambray to suit this idea.


However, I needed to tie in all of the colors in my home, teal and red (barstools), so I found a Costa Mesa fabric that did so.  But I changed my mind again.

Ultimately, I found an Emperor-Teal fabric that tied everything together without appearing too busy. The Napoleonic Bee Velvet was quite pricey for my first reupholstering project; I would have hated to mess over $400 worth of fabric. The Chambray was out of stock when I finally arrived at the store to collect. But like the three little bears, the Emperor-Teal was jusssss rigggght! I went to two different stores to collect the whole 13 yards necessary to reupholster, and I used most of this fabric. It was enough for me to have made a few mistakes here and there.

Getting My Tribe Together: “Cindi Makes it Better.” My bestie Cindi has reupholstered a lot of furniture to customize her home. I knew that she’d help me do the same. I asked for her assistance in the early stages. I also glimpsed at a few pages of Spruce, a reupholstery book. Then we got to work once I finally picked the fabric. Well, not actually, because group work was a bit delayed due to the snowstorm Charlotte experienced. However, I spent that weekend taking the fabric off the sofa and prepping it for covering.

Time & Technique: That following Monday, I was able to get some real work done. I was anxious to get the front cushion, back rest and camelback seating cushion completed. Soon as I left my full time job, I got to work. I had sewn down two pieces of the fabric to create this piece. In doing so, I had to find where the pattern begun/ended and match it as closely as I could. This ensured the cushion appeared as one continuous piece. This was necessary as the pattern ran vertically and wasn’t wide enough to cover this area. I’m great with project time management, so I mapped out my work for the rest of the week.

One week before this time, I had promoted an Ugly Sweater Party/House Party and decided the day of the party would be the deadline for me to have a new sofa or to have reupholstered a sofa. So much pressure. I know. Each day, Monday up until Saturday, for 6 days, Cindi and I completed sections of my sofa. She came over a few times, but we mostly facetimed our way through this! This is the order in which we completed it!

Monday: Backrest Cushion (front-facing)

Tuesday: Chocolate Pillow Designed and Preparation for Arms & Sides

Wednesday: Inner armrest with both sides

Thursday: Cushion Pattern made. Made Cream & Orange Pillow.

Friday: Cushion Reupholstered, Skirt or Lining Reupholstered with Nailheads, and Pattern Made for Trim in Armrest

Saturday: Back Reupholstered (Hours before the party). We still have to put trim on but … LIFE!

And Voila … Here she is! I completed the decor with a branch of pussy willow that hovers over the left side of the couch. In that corner sits more plants: an orchid, wandering jew, a bonsai and another fern-like plant. I also added an ornamental cabbage and a bouquet of holly berry, “hairy balls”, pussy willows, eucalyptus, and pine to the atmosphere.

Empress Camelback Sofa

Empress Camelback Sofa

And oh … I spray painted my bar cart gold! But that’s for another blog. Here she is!

See … the Ornamental Cabbage Makes It Lovely!

See … the Ornamental Cabbage Makes It Lovely!

If you’re interested in reupholstering, grab a reupholstering book or message my bestie (@lelethediva). She’s on Instagram. You won’t regret it!