How Do I Tell Quality in Upholstered Furniture?

A Practical Guide on Choosing Quality Furniture

We understand the problem:

  1. You can’t see inside a sofa to see how it is put together.
  2. The industry jargon doesn’t mean a darn thing to you.
  3. Will it be as comfortable in a year as it is today?
  4. Will the fabric last as long as the frame?
  5. Will the cushions flatten?
  6. And on and on…

We’ve looked for consumer information on quality construction. And there are a lot of opinions. Unfortunately, most of these “knowledgeable” people have posted worthless advice:

“look for kiln-dried hardwood frames”     “Make sure the corners are blocked”     “buy only 8-way hand-tied spring frames”     “Custom-made sofas feature padding of horsehair and burlap, which retain their shape, topped with layers of goose down.”

What out-dated nonsense! Any list of even the best techniques can lead you astray. In the final analysis, shoddy execution can ruin the best design. Besides, do you really want horsehair and burlap??? Your best move is still:

DO BUSINESS WITH SOMEONE YOU TRUST WHO OFFERS GREAT WARRANTIES

However, good construction does matter – so here are six steps you can take:

1. TAKE A LOAD OFF

  • Sit on it. Each and every cushion. For a while. 5 minutes or so. Curl up if that’s your thing. Here comes the technical part: is it comfortable?
  • Wiggle the back rail and arms. There shouldn’t be much wiggle-room.
  • Give the frame a little twist by lifting at one front corner while someone holds down the opposing arm. If it twists very much – be concerned.
  • Stores may have a cut-away section or an illustration of their construction techniques showing corner blocks, glue, screws and nailing details. Legs are screwed into the frame are fine. Legs that are part of the frame may be stronger but are harder to repair.
  • As we said above, either kiln-dried hardwood or furniture-grade plywood can denote high-quality materials. But they can’t make up for poor workmanship.

2. GIVE IT A SQUEEZE

  • Run your hand along all of the “edges” of the piece: rails, corners, and arms. There should be a layer of padding to keep you from feeling sharp edges.

3. CUSHIONS – WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD

  • Unzip a seat cushion and peek inside. Go ahead, you know you wanna. You should see foam covered with polyester batting, enclosed in a muslin or nonwoven pillowcase.
  • Removable back cushions that contain loose filler should have a casing that is stitched into multiple compartments to minimize fill settling.

4. SPRING FORWARD, FALL BACK

(I always get that mixed up, like feed a cold, starve a fever. ??)

  • Press down hard on the deck (the area under the seat cushion) to sense if seat springs are evenly spaced and equally resistant to pressure.
  • Silence is golden — you shouldn’t hear any squeaks.
  • “Eight-way hand-tied springs” are no longer synonymous with comfort or high quality. Other types of springs–coil, cone, S-shaped, and grid–can be just fine; they mainly influence how comfortable the sofa feels to you. We’re in subjective land here. The only thing that matters is your opinion.

5. TAILORED PERFECTION

  • The best tailoring costs more in three ways:

1) It takes longer to execute.

2) It takes more highly skilled, expensive workers.

3) It uses significantly more fabric to attain that flow-matched look.

It’s your choice, but you need to know what that extra degree of excellence is costing you.

  • Stripes and plaids should appear straight while other patterns should flow from one part of the sofa to the next.
  • Welted seams should be straight, skirt pleats evenly spaced, zippers hidden or color matched to the upholstery.

6.  A Trustworthy Store. 1 through 5 are all great points.  But we believe that the best way to insure high quality is to do business with a local, high quality retail furniture store.

If you’ll choose us, we intend to be that store for you.

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