So how many people are seriously confused about upholstered furniture and why there is such a large variation in price? Well there is a lot that goes into quality furniture and what determines the price. If you are not working with a good interior designer, who will take into consideration your lifestyle to select the correct, properly made upholstered furniture here are somethings to point you in the right direction. First lets talk about construction of a sofa and what you want to look for. The first thing to find out is what the frame of the sofa is made from. You want to look for a frame made from northern hardwoods/hardwood solids. What does this mean? Northern woods which include cherry, maple and birch because they are harder woods. You never want to hear that the frame of your sofa is made from pine. Why? Pine is a soft wood and will damage, warp and not hold up. If you hear a sales person say presswood – run. And make sure that you have confirmed that the entire frame is hardwood. There are some manufacturers that will use cardboard to form the arms of a sofa, loveseat or chairs. This is one of the areas where you will see price variances. It will be more expensive for a hardwood solid frame, but it will out live the lesser frames by years. In fact a hardwood solid frame should last 10 – 20 years or more with proper care.
Now that you have a hardwood frame make sure that it is kiln dried. Kiln drying means that in a temperature controlled atmosphere the wood was dried evenly throughout. This keeps the wood from cracking when it changes climates. For instance if the sofa was made in Florida with a humid climate then shipped to Denver Colorado with and arid climate there could be issues with the wood due to the climate change. But if the wood has been kiln dried there should not be any issues since all moisture has already been removed in a controlled environment. This means no cracking.
So we have a hardwood, kiln dried frame next is the spring system. This is where a little knowledge can help you when dealing with a sales person. There are sinuous springs also known as no sag springs, drop in coil systems, and hand tied springs usually 8 or 10 way. A sinuous spring system is one in which wire springs, in a zigzag shape, run front to back. This is a firmer sitting spring system and one that you will find in a lower end upholstery. This spring system will give the illusion of strength however because the springs are just attached to the front and back there is nothing for them to rest on, which leads to faster wear. Now some higher end upholstery companies will use this system in contemporary styles because there is not enough room to put a coil system in. In this case they will use stake wires so that they are reinforced right to left and front to back. Now for the better options drop in coils or hand tied springs. This is again where you will see a price increase and for good reason. This is not only a more comfortable piece of furniture but also will last much longer. Coils springs sit on top of the wood frames so that when you sit in the sofa or chair your weight is supported by the frame of the furniture not just by the screws used to attach the springs. Coil springs look just like how they sound, they are coils similar to mattress springs. These coil springs can come to two forms. Drop in systems, less expensive version, and hand tied. Drop in systems tied the coils together with 8 gauge wire. Each spring is tied to the springs to the right, left and diagonally, and if it is the center spring it is tied to all of the springs. This gives durability and comfort to the user. This is how you get the feeling of sitting in a sofa instead of on the sofa. Now for the top of the line option is the hand tied spring system. This is the most durable and comfortable creation for upholstered furniture. The process is the same as above except instead of wire tying the springs together it is done by hand after the springs have been installed with string or twine. If you have never sat in a hand tied sofa please go find one to sit in. You will feel the difference immediately, and never go back to a sinuous spring sofa again.
Now for the cushions, here is another area that there is a great deal of confusion. I have heard people try to tell the quality by the weight of the cushion, this is never going to get you the right answer. Cushions can be made from a couple different sources. The first is a foam based cushion. This is the most prevalent style of cushion. The second is a spring and down cushion and the third is a down cushion. Now there are many variations of each of these options but these are the main divisions. Foam cushions are found as an option by almost all furniture manufacturers. In these cushions you can get a standard foam with a dacrone wrapping or the new green option is a soy based foam cushion. There is nothing wrong with either of these options. The one thing to watch out for is loaded foam. This is when the manufacturers adds chemicals to the foam to make it heavier. What this does is make the cushion break down quicker make the sofa not last as long. The foam cushion is your firmest sitting cushion. For softer cushions there are the down options. The spring and down option is the middle of the road for firmness. It sits softer that a foam cushion and firmer than an all down option. This cushion has a spring core that is encased in foam then wrapped in down. This gives you the comfort of a down sit but without the maintenance. When you stand up the cushion with “spring” back into shape. This is my favorite option for a family with kids. The last option is the down cushion. This is usually your most expensive as the materials simply cost more. This can mean that the cushion is completely made from down and feathers like a down pillow, or it can have a small foam core. The small foam core allows the cushion to keep shape better than just down and feathers. The manufacturer can will also sometimes add fiber to the down mix to help the cushion keep it’s shape. This cushion requires maintenance however, with a little fluffing it will always go back to its original shape. Unlike a foam or spring cushion there is nothing to break down so 20 years from now with some fluffing the cushion will look like brand new.
Those are the main parts under the cover of an upholstered piece of furniture. If you are feeling a little overwhelmed by the information remember a few things: hardwood frames, hand tied springs and non loaded foam. Using this knowledge can help you to purchase a solidly made piece of furniture. And of course please buy American! And if you still are unsure or want to make sure that you are making the right decision for you and your lifestyle a good interior designer can help.