Upholstered furniture can be like a big question mark when it comes to determining how well its made. Sure, it looks great on the outside because it may have an appealing fabric and it seems to look OK, but what about on the inside?
At Steiner’s Amish Furniture, we want to educate you help our clients be aware of what constitutes a quality piece of upholstered furniture. Whether its comparing one of our new sofas or chairs or you are trying to make a decision on whether its work reupholstering an older piece, let us walk you through the process to identifying quality.
This is the “bones” or skeleton of the piece and what you want to know here is if the frame is made from kiln-dried hardwood lumber. Much of today’s value furniture is made with plywood framing, and this simply will not hold up. Hardwood frames will typically be made out of maple, oak, poplar, or birch. Ask the salesperson if the frame is hardwood, what species of wood was used, and if it has been kiln-dried to help reduce expansion and contraction due to moisture and temperature changes. Better yet, ask them if there is a cutaway sample available so you can see the construction for yourself.
Furthermore, ask about the joinery used to connect the framework. You want to know that the frame is screwed and glued and includes corner blocking; if the frame is stapled or pin-nailed it should probably be avoided. Sit in the furniture and exert some pressure on the back and arms by bracing your feet against the floor and pushing back with your back. Hear an excessive amount of cracking or feel too much give? Also, lift one end of the piece and try to flex it a little. A well-built frame should not flex or creak excessively during this test.
Finally, check the exposed wood details such as the feet. Where possible, it’s best if they are integrated into the frame of the piece and glued and screwed. If it’s a smaller detail, like a bun or spool foot, for example, make sure it is held in with a lag screw of the appropriate size, or several smaller screws and that it is made from hardwood. The ability to remove and reattach the feet may be handy when trying to get through a narrow door someday.
Springs and Support System
Think of these as the “muscles and tendons” of the furniture–just how strong are they? Check that the spring and support system is sufficient by performing these tests. Let yourself drop somewhat heavily into the sofa. Do you hear any excessive noise? When you stay seated and bounce on the cushion do the springs return you to an elevated position each time or do they bottom out? When you place your hand under the cushion and press down are the springs adequately padded so that you cannot feel the metal?
We recommend eight-way hand-tied coil springs for the main deck as they offer the best weight distribution over the entire frame. Pieces that feature sinuous (also know as zig-zag) coil units for the main deck are more than likely not going to last as long. Sinuous coils are acceptable and common for the backs of most chairs, sofas and loveseats, however. Ask the salesperson about the type of spring system used or ask to read the manufacturer’s literature.
Finally, check to make sure that the cushions are of high-density foam and that they are wrapped with a separate fabric layer to avoid direct contact between the foam and the main fabric which will accelerate the deterioration of the foam.
Leather, Ultra-leather and Fabric
Many clients ask us about leather vs. fabric and our answer is that leather is wonderful but will be more expensive for full-grain or top grain leathers, which we would recommend. Less expensive leather furniture features leather that is known as “split,” “recast,” or “vinyl added” that will break down more quickly. A quality leather on a loveseat, sofa or chair can possibly provide a lifetime of wear.
One of the newest alternatives to leather is our line of Ultra-leather that is a breathable, high-comfort fabric engineered for durability and beauty Our partner Ultrafabrics custom-engineered their ultra leather using the most innovative technologies available and focused on developing forward-thinking functionalities that raise the bar on comfort, convenience, and sustainability. The result is a sophisticated and high-performance fabric that stands the test of time. They also manufacture an option called Ultraleather ‘Volar Bio’. Made from 29 per cent plant-based materials, such as wood pulp and corn by-products, it is designed to look and feel like leather. The array of colors is huge, and you can see the material samples and colors available on our showroom floor.
If fabric is more to your liking, just make sure that you are choosing a fabric that fits your lifestyle. Most better upholstery fabrics will be wear-rated for durability. We carry hundreds of Heartland fabric samples for you to choose from. Ask the salesperson to show you the wear-rating for the fabric. This is based on the blend of fabrics used, i.e. cotton, rayon, polyester, linen, etc.
Also, pay attention to the cleaning requirements for the fabric – whether a solvent or water should be used. For example, while cotton is great for that favorite worn pair of jeans, it may not be the best choice for a hard-used sofa due to its tendency to wrinkle and hold stains.
A final word about the fit and finish of your upholstery covering: pay special attention to the tailoring that is represented on the pieces you are considering ordering. Is care taken to make sure that pattern matching is done throughout the piece (i.e. arm panels match, the pattern continues over the backside of the piece and vertically spanning cushions, decks, backs, etc.). Is there any excessive puckering at corners, seams and welts that is not otherwise part of the design or fabric? Do the cushions feature zippers that allow you to remove the cores for easier cleaning and fluffing?
If you would like to know more, please feel free to call, email, or visit our store. At our store, we have hundreds of samples that allows us to custom design your dream upholstered furniture to your specification. All are proudly made here in the USA.