Before & After: $75 Craigslist Find Gets Chic New Update


I collect used furniture. It’s one of my greatest joys in life. The hunt, the find, the rejuvenation of discarded pieces, it is oh, so fulfilling. And addicting. As I’ve gotten older and fine-tuned my style, I have developed a very strong preference for aesthetic variety in my living spaces. Buying second-hand makes it easier to meet that desire. I also think my preference for used furniture has something to do with my long love of history. A want to learn about stories of furniture-owner-past rightfully manifests itself through the scouring of antique store basements and the poring over of Craigslist ads for the next great tale. As an added motivation for second-hand shopping, furnishing with used pieces adds a level of warmth to a home that new stuff just can’t replicate. In fact, I would say at least 90% of all the furniture in our home was purchased second hand.

In full disclosure, I am not against buying new pieces, but if I can find a deal, I’d rather buy a used table and dresser for the price of a new chair. And since there are so many good quality used pieces that, with a little TLC, can be amazing, there is fulfillment in the search and rescue that I just can’t get from new furniture. Plus, there is something freeing about buying a piece that has already been dinged or scratched, not having to worry about being the first one to do it. And I tell ya, the compliments I get on used pieces far outnumber the ones I get on the new stuff – and I am OK with that.

Now, I do have a few rules for what I will and will not purchase second-hand. First, I have to get a “feeling” about the piece. A sense that my home won’t be complete without it. And, trust me, when I get that feeling, it is unmistakable. Second, it has to be in *usable condition (or easily fixable). My refurbishing skills only go so far, so if I find a piece that needs to be completely rebuilt or reupholstered, that’s a hard pass from me. Third, the price has to be right. Although this part is important, to say I have never overpaid for a piece that met rules #1 and #2 would be a flat out lie. If I connect with a good quality piece, I will be flexible with price. Well, to a point. 

With that being said, I was recently in the market for a new sofa. I had some ideas in mind in regards to style and color but was open to anything as long as it was in good condition and priced right. Late one night, while perusing Craigslist, I found what I was looking for: a 7ft long blue, chenille sofa from the 1960s. And it was only $75. I immediately put in a request to view it and after about five minutes of looking it over, I was loading it in the back of my rented van.

When buying fabric pieces there are a few things to keep in mind, and unless you are a master upholsterer, which I am not, avoid anything that smells pungent, or has large stains or tears in the fabric. Also, check to see if the covers are removable, and if there are zippers, what condition are they in? Are the legs stable? Are the cushions in solid condition? Are springs poking out? Not every piece is worth the cheap price. Reupholstering an entire sofa or even replacing the foam in the cushions can add up quickly. Make a list of “musts,” and definitely check it twice.

The piece I purchased is one of those sofas built with an incredibly sound construction, and boy is it heavy. I feel supported, yet cozy when I sit on it and the massive cushions weigh a ton because they are filled with high-quality foam. No squeaking, no sagging, and no rocking. This was, indeed, a good find. But, as you can see from the “before,” it needed some tweaking.

After we got it home I let it air out in the yard. An important note: don’t leave any piece in the rain or in direct sunlight. After a few hours, I gave the piece a good cleaning via my vacuum. Then, I began the updating. 

The first thing I wanted to do was remove the skirt. So, I closely examined how it was attached and verified that all the fabric beneath was in good condition (which I checked at the viewing, but it is always a good idea to look again before you tear anything off). The upholstery looked great so I loosened a few staples and pulled it off – it took about five minutes. 

The upholstery is in great condition (no rips or tears) but the color had faded quite a bit and was splattered with some water stains. One of the reasons I was excited about this piece is because it is upholstered in chenille fabric. Why? Well, for several reasons. Is it soft? Yes. Is it classically chic? Of course. But most importantly, chenille fabric has an incredible ability to take color. Dying fabric is an amazingly affordable way to update faded furniture. And, it’s incredibly easy:

First, I mixed a spray bottle of hot water with 1/4 cup of blue Rit fabric dye. I then soaked a sample of the fabric (this was a good use for the skirt I just removed). I didn’t want to change the color, just brighten it up, so I diluted the dye with plenty of water and tested a few swatches until I found the color I wanted. I then made up a new bottle with the appropriate portions and went to work.

To spray furniture, take it outside if at all possible, otherwise protect any surrounding areas you don’t want to be dyed (including your hands). Soak the fabric evenly and thoroughly. Be sure to let it dry completely – the dye will not come off on your clothes once it dries. An important note, however, is that water will reactivate the dye, so, just be sure not to put anything wet on your newly dyed fabric. 

The final step in my sofa update was to replace the legs. I had an old ottoman with the exact legs I wanted, so I swapped them with the sofa. I added a few pillows, arranged it in my living room, and am thoroughly enjoying this awesome “new” piece. 

*Edit* This piece was recently featured on Apartment Therapy




*As a rule of thumb, I never buy old glassware or kitchen gadgets for anything other than putting on display. A lot of vintage glass, cookware, or utensils were made with lead. No good.


13 thoughts on “Before & After: $75 Craigslist Find Gets Chic New Update

    • Thanks for your question. I used Rit all-purpose dye in blue. When it comes to final color, from my understanding some fabrics chemically react to the dye in different ways, which could explain the turquoise hue. The original color of the fabric and lighting of the room can affect the final result as well. Cheers!


  1. this is great! I’m with you – I buy it used and old and re invent whenever possible (which is most of the time). You mentioned that the dye reactivates with water. Makes sense. How long til it sets properly and won’t decide to migrate if it gets wet?



    • Felice, thanks for your question! Dye transfer was one of my main concerns, too. I probably waited a week before I sat on the sofa…but that was probably overkill. I would give it at least 48 hours before you sit on any dyed furniture – give or take 12 hours depending on humidity. I have been using the sofa for a few months now with no problems. However, if you want some extra security, you can try setting the dye with a vinegar bath (brush vinegar on with a paint brush), the vinegar smell will evaporate once it dries. You could also use a hair dryer to help set the dye further, and/or use a scotch guard product to “seal” the fabric. I also highly recommend doing a patch test on an inconspicuous area to check for colorfastness. Most importantly, it is imperative to spray the dye on with thin, even layers (letting the fabric dry between coats) to prevent over-dying, which can lead to color transfer. And when it comes to cleaning, avoid spraying the fabric with liquid cleansers. I hope this helps 😊


  2. OK… You worked with the same color only darker. Any thoughts on a printed fabric with light background, foreground floral feature? Does Ritz cover well enough to “erase” the florals if spray-dyed in the light background color?


    • Excellent question, thank you for asking. I would say no. Using fabric dye will not be able to layer thick enough to cover up a pattern, no matter how dark of a color you choose. Might I suggest you look into painting the fabric? I have seen a lot of tutorials on Pinterest of people who use chalk paint on fabric (without stiffness or peeling), and since the paint is naturally more opaque than dye – which runs on the more translucent side – you may have better luck covering the pattern.


  3. Dear Amy
    There is another major difference between the two sofas in the images and one which I look forward to hearing more about.
    Removing a skirt off a sofa is easy enough, that’s true, but almost always the fabric that you would be left with underneath is no longer removeable and certainly wouldn’t be more chenille but more likely just cotton or calico as it would be wasted to have a skirt and body made up of lovely quality fabric when the underneath would never normally be seen because if said skirt. It would also be part of the sofa construction and therefore not removeable and machine dye-able – it then requires reupholstering. So how did you get around this problem?
    Secondly the arms of the sofa in the second image are also fixed and upholstered. They are loose on the first sofa. How did you achieve this great bit of upholstery and why is that aspect of the job not mentioned in your peice?
    Lastly there is no way that you could get that amount of work done by professionals for $80 – so I assume you did it all yourself?
    so why not mention such time consuming and complex upholstery work? You should be proud of it, it’s clearly very good quality craftsmanship and I’m sure like me other readers would welcome your advice on how to achieve the same look.
    kind regards


    • Kal, thank you for your comment. As I stated in the article, in DID NOT do any upholstery work on the sofa. The arms look different because I took off the removable arm rest covers. Thanks for reading! Cheers, Amy


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