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Friday, May 25, 2007

What makes Upholstery Good?

One of the biggest furniture investments most people make in their home is upholstery. Unfortunately, it is probably one of the least understood as well. I cannot count the number of times people have told me "I am just going to get the cheapest sofa I can buy, because the kids are just going to jump all over it". This, is a bad strategy. A well constructed sofa, while not being the most inexpensive will stand up to all sorts of abuse, and will last you almost a life time. So what makes up a good piece of upholstery? Here are a few things to look for:
  • First of all, the frame. Look for one made of kiln-dried hardwood, such as oak or alder. The process of kiln-drying will make the wood more stable, less likely to swell or warp, and strong enough to be drilled, pegged and blocked. Using a hardwood is fairly self explanatory, it's going to be stronger than a soft wood like pine. As a side note, the blocking used is often made of laminated wood, rather than solid hardwood, as it is stronger for its purpose.
  • One rule of thumb, lift one end of your sofa up. If it is well made, it will be heavy, a light sofa, is not one that will last you a long while.
  • The next element is the springs. There are basically 3 types. The first being sinuous, which is a spring that looks like a continuous "s", that goes from back to front on your sofa, not a good idea. The second is a standard spring, which can be supported a number of ways in the frame, but gives the seat a very firm, sit to the sofa, as the springs only go up and down. Lastly is the famous eight-way hand tied spring. It is connected to the frame front to back, side to side and diagonally, giving it it's name. The advantage of this is that the spring moves in all directions, giving the seat the most flexibility and the most comfortable sit. Unfortunately this process can only be done by hand, and consequently will drive up the cost of your piece of furniture. Most sofas and chairs from large manufacturers, do not feature eight-way springs. It will be called out as a feature if they do.
  • The next element is the cushions. Most cushions are made of a Dacron foam core, that is then wrapped in either down, more foam or a hypo-allergenic down substitute. On a seat cushion, do not be tempted to do 100% down, the cushions will go flat as the down breaks down and it will look like a mess. The foam core gives structure to the cushion and allows it to hold it's shape. Remember that a down cushion will always need fluffing, only an all foam cushion will hold that perfect shape, but the sit is not as luxurious.

I hope that this gives you some basic ideas of what to look for with your next upholstery purchase. Remember, you can always post your questions here, if you still have concerns.

Happy Sitting!


bonnie: said...

I'm going out on a limb here asking you a question! Forgive my ignorance! I have fallen in love with a rattan chair from Pier One. I also have four children. Is rattan as fragile as it looks?

Tracy said...

This post has been included in the inaugural edition of the Carnival of Housewives. Thanks for your post submission.