How to Buy UpholsteryBeauty and comfort are the criteria for selecting a sofa, loveseat or chair. Fabric plays a starring role in the beauty of upholstered furniture, but it's the "undercover" story that makes the comfort difference. In most upholstered furniture, you'll find three basic parts beneath the eye-catching cover. They are the frame, the supporting foundation and the cushioning or padding.
Poised for Comfort
The frame and supporting foundation are critical to comfort because they are underpinnings for the other components.
Traditionally, the best frames were made of kiln-dried hardwood, which resists warping. Today, quality frames may also be made of steel, plastic, laminated boards or a combination of materials.
Support can be provided by webbing, sling straps, slats, or springs of various types. The design, size and amount of support or softness desired by the designer will determine which type the designer uses.
Springs can be single coil, double cone coil, or zigzag (sinuous S-type) and can be connected with twine, wire ties or clips.
Eight-way hand-tied coil springing has been considered a mark of quality for decades. In this method, each coil spring is placed in the seat by hand and a skilled craftsman ties the coil into place with twine and interlocks it with the other coils using an intricate set of knots. Each coil is set so it responds to body weight with the proper degree of resiliency.
Eight-way, hand-tied remains the standard of excellence for those who can afford the very best.
Coil springs add depth and comfort but require adequate space. There are many comfortable, sleek, slim styles using the S-type spring. It's another example of how modern technology makes it possible to have good-looking, comfortable, serviceable upholstered furniture at imminently affordable prices.
From Top to Bottom
Cushioning forms the next layer in the comfort story. Cushioning materials include cotton or polyester, polyurethane foam, and, of course, down. Foam and polyester fiberfill wrap are much-used padding materials. These man-made materials are durable, resilient, mothproof, and mildew and fungus resistant.
There are various grades of foam which lend themselves to various style applications. HC (High Comfort) foam and HR (High Resiliency) foam are excellent choices. Foam can be used as a solid unit, wrapped with a softer polyester material or chopped and blown into new shapes for arms and backs that would otherwise be difficult to pad.
The Cover Story
Express your taste in the colors, patterns and textures you choose for your upholstery fabrics. The choice is virtually unlimited. But lifestyle and budget should come into play.
Basically, there are two types of fabrics; naturals and synthetics. Nature's own are cotton, linen, silk and wool. Among synthetics are acetate, acrylic, nylon, rayon and polypropylene. Often fabrics are a bend of natural and synthetic fibers combined to provide the best qualities of each, unmatched beauty and lasting durability.
Generally, fabrics with tighter weaves and durable fibers such as polypropylene or nylon stand up better to the hard use of an active household. More glamorous fabrics such as satins, damasks and brocades are dramatic and exciting, but should be reserved for seating where serviceability isn't a primary concern.Nature has given us leather, one of today's most popular upholstery materials. It now comes in a rainbow of colors and a range of textures, designs and styles from timeless traditional to avant garde contemporary. New methods of tanning and manufacturing also have brought leather into an affordable range for many pocketbooks.
The Ultimate Test
Be seated. That's the only way to tell if the sofa or chair you're considering is the one for you. Be sure the height and angle of the back and depth of the seat are suited to your size. If others are to use the seating often, they should try it, too. This is especially important when selecting a recliner or "easy" chair. It must be a perfect fit for the person who uses it most.
That's another way of saying that the feel of comfort is an individual matter. As you shop, you must sit and bounce and test the degree of softness and resiliency. Choose the feel that pleases you and matches your needs. Most important, if the seat isn't comfortable, don't buy it. Your local retailer will help you find something with exactly the look you want, that's comfortable for you, and compatible with your budget.
Checklist for Buying Upholstered Furniture
Seats are comfortable
Backs are free of bumps and hard spots
Frame is sturdy, doesn't creak or wobble
Frame sits squarely on the floor
Frames and corners are well padded
Corners are braced and glued
Seams and welts are straight
Patterns and stripes match at seams
Patterns are centered
Cushions fit snugly
Cushions are resilient
Buttons are sewn on securely
Heavy-duty pieces are covered in tightly woven, durable fabric
Mechanisms on recliners and sleeper sofas work smoothly
Any moving parts clear fabric to prevent tearing
Metal parts are smooth with no sharp edges
Dual purpose seating is well balanced in each position
It has a gold UFAC hangtag which means it is constructed to be more resistant to cigarette ignition
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