The sofa and chair. These are usually the most used and often the most abused pieces of furniture in the home. We sit and rest in our favorite easy chair or take a Sunday nap on the sofa. Our upholstery makes a fashion statement and reveals our taste and style.
This year marks my 15th year of design work at Chestnut Hall, and while the styles have come and gone, some things remain the same. Quality. Craftsmanship. Value. These are the words that are thrown around daily in my line of work. I have worked with people who replace their sofas every few years, and I have clients who buy a new sofa once in a blue moon. With the economy being what it is, everyone is looking for value in everything that they buy. This includes home furnishings. A lot of people ask me the following question, "Should I reupholster my furniture or buy new?" Well, I have played around and done my research, and I have realized that unless it is something that you absolutely adore, like your Grandmother's rocking chair, it's better to buy new. Reupholstering a sofa has gotten very expensive over the years, and if you have cushions that have been broken down and worn out, then you will find that the piece will never sit the same. So you ask, "What do I need to look for in new upholstery?"
Here is the guide to buying new sofas and chairs...
1. Buy American! You really can't go wrong with American made products and we should do what we can to support our domestic economy.
2. Buy hardwood, hand cut frames that are dowelled, screwed together, and reinforced with glue. The following picture is from a factory tour that I went on last year. As you can see, this company makes their frames from totally organic product.
3. Look for frames that use "8 way hand tied" spring systems. A lot of stores take a cheaper route and try to convince their customers that with new engineering, this is not necessary, but I know more people who have gone that route and have chairs and sofas that sag extremely badly. You want this 8 way hand tied system in your upholstery. The term "8 way hand tied" means that coil springs are placed around the deck of a sofa or chair and then a twine is tied to each spring in 8 different places. This reinforces durability and comfort. The following is a video of the process of "springing up" a sofa.
4. Next, cushions. Usually most companies offer a variety of cushions to give you the feel that suits you. Older people tend to want a firm cushion with lots of support, while the young 20-something wants a relaxed, plush feel. Get the cushions that suit you best, and always make sure that they are wrapped and not just a piece of foam covered by your upholstery fabric. This picture is of me in a pile of cushions. You can see that they are all wrapped.
5. Fabric...pick something that is suitable to your lifestyle. Silk is obviously not something you would put in the family room. Don't just think that when shopping for a sofa, the higher the grade means the higher the quality. Look for something that expresses your style and holds up well, too. I prefer a simple fabric on my sofa and give it pops of color with pillows. There is nothing wrong with a patterned fabric on a sofa, but take into consideration that you might just get tired of it after a while.
6. Maintenance...It amazes me that people think if they buy a sofa, especially a top of the line sofa, then it should hold up like a piece of iron. It is important to perform some maintenance weekly on your upholstery. I usually advise people to NOT buy an attached back sofa. The back cushions tend to sag and if someone spills something on a cushion, then you can't flip it! I tell people to rotate and flip your cushions on a weekly basis. This way you are not sitting in the same place all the time and the cushions will last longer. Also, remember that pets are some of the worst abusers of upholstery. Try to train your pets to stay off the furniture. Not only will it help your furniture last longer, it will also keep a warranty in tact. Most companies will void any warranty if there is any evidence of a pet spending time on your sofa.
I hope that this helps if you are in the market for new furniture. I do believe in "you get what you pay for," so my advice is to buy the absolute best that you can afford. Enjoy a relaxing time on your sofa or chair and remember to take care of them!!!
Until next time, Happy Decorating!