Susanna Salk Revives Her Love seats With Ikat

The cheerful pair of love seats that faced each other in front of our living room fireplace were starting to fade. The zest of their brown and green stripes — once so chic and cozy — had aged under the constant company of dog paws and human loungers. The whole space sagged as a result.

pair of love seats

I did my research: replacing them was costly and I couldn’t quite duplicate their unique shape and size. Reupholstering them was the best answer: while still costly there was a familial element attached to their makeover that felt comforting: we knew they already looked proportionally perfect in our living room.

First, the fun part: falling in love and taking a slight risk on a new fabric. Ballard Designs is my go-to fabric destination because it offers a selection that’s not overwhelming but just enough options to make you feel like you did your homework. (And the price point is delightfully affordable. No more dangerous liaisons with $100 a yard fabrics pour moi!)

Also they send swatches out immediately so you can touch and feel your investment in context. I must confess however, that I didn’t even get the free sample: I clicked and enlarged the swatch on my laptop screen, held it up in the general area of the sofas and imagined the lively juxtaposition and transformation and decided to make the leap.

The chartreuse Ikat pattern I was flirting with felt just enough right and scary: I wanted bold, but bold embedded in a classic pattern that was exotic to enliven my little living room without taking over.

chartreuse Ikat pattern

If my mantra was to decorate fearlessly, here was the very opportunity to make the leap. I didn’t worry about it exactly “going” with the Chinese red vintage bar set up behind it: together they’d be like two lively dinner companions.

The nuts and bolts part soon followed: I had emailed a picture of one of the sofa and its dimensions to my upholsterer and she guestimated the amount of yardage I needed to order. A week later a large roll of fabric arrived from Ballard Designs at my doorstep and of course I didn’t show it to my husband. He knew about the project but would have thought me insane for going with a pattern other than a quiet chintz.

The sofas were soon picked up and taken away: it was as though they were being sent to get facelifts at some secret spa in Switzerland.

Midway through their two weeks hiatus I drove by the upholsterer and visited them. I had always wanted to see what the actual process looked like and the trip did not disappoint. One of the sofas was actually being worked on when I entered, its stuffing exposed and coiled black hoses hooked in. A cheerful craftsman man with an Italian accent broke into a big smile when he heard it was my sofa. “Is a good fabric! Is exciting!” he exclaimed and confirmed with me exactly how he was going to line up the the repeat across the widest part of the sofa.

A week later the finished duo was slipped back into place before my husband got home. Everything was the same and yet so different.

The reaction? The upholsterer couldn’t have said it better: “Is exciting.”

reupholstered pieces



Susanna Salk

Susanna Salk helped launch Elle Decor magazine as Interior Design Manager and later became a Contributing Editor there before ultimately going on to become Special Projects Editor at House and Garden magazine until its closing. She has also appeared regularly on NBC’s “Today Show” to discuss design style for the home. Salk is the author of “A Privileged Life, Celebrating WASP Style,” (Assouline) as well as “Weekend Retreats” and the bestselling “Room for Children: Stylish Spaces for Sleep and Play,” and “Be Your Own Decorator: Taking Cues and Confidence from Today’s Leading Designers” (Rizzoli). Her 2013 Rizzoli book “C.Z. Guest: American Style Icon,” was the first pictorial book celebrating the iconic style of C.Z. Guest, the American author, columnist, fashion designer, muse and socialite. Her latest book, “Decorate Fearlessly! Using Whimsy, Confidence and a Dash of Surprise to Create Personal Spaces,” (Rizzoli) explores the power rooms can have when decorated with confidence instead of rules. She is currently working on her eighth book, “It’s the Little Things: The Power of Detail in Design” (Rizzoli 2015) Salk is a Contributing Editor to and hosts the monthly Stylish Shopping/At Home With video series on the Quintessence blog. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two boys.


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    February 5, 2013

    Love it! Can I ask where you found the garden seat/side table to the left of the nearest love seat?

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      February 6, 2013


      Susanna says that she picked that up at West Elm many moons ago. Good luck!