Q: I’m an avid flea-market bargain hunter, but I can barely afford to refurbish my finds. (I paid $265 to redo a $30 chair last week!) Where can I learn to do it myself?
A: You don’t have to be an architect or a designer to call on Matthew Haly, owner of The Furniture Joint (182 Avenue B; 212-598-4260; furniturejoint.com), one of the few high-quality custom-design shops that still serve walk-ins. Haly teaches one upholstery course a month, which consists of four night classes (you’ll recoup the $300 after a couple of self-repairs). It’s “very labor-intensive, so if you’re the type of person ‘who likes taking classes,’ which a lot of people in New York are, this is not for you,” Haly deadpans. “You have to focus.” Haly pairs up four pupils per class, ranging from FIT students to couples looking for romantic alternatives to the movies. You’ll learn how to use a staple gun; sew piping and zippers; rebuild chairs with foam and zigzag springs; and, of course, upholster. Not only will your refurbishing costs go down, but even the scruffiest flea-market project will suddenly look salvageable.