Upholstered Furniture Facts #1: Take A Seat

Before Intervention

It’s a soft life when it’s hard to imagine a home without a sofa… or any other upholstered pieces to keep it company in your living room/den/lounge.


However, sofas aren’t a modern concept or convenience. The Turkish Divan (commonly used in middle eastern countries starting around the 18th century) was a long low bench, placed against a wall and covered with rugs and pillows. It may have been the inspiration for the origins of the sofa, as we know it today, although the idea of integrating cushions with the framework as part of the design didn’t come until later.

The first modern all-upholstered chair was made in France, around the middle of the 19th century, and was called a “comfortable”.

Until fairly recently, the one reliable route to the quality upholstered furniture of your dreams, was to have it custom-made. It was the only way to be assured of good construction, with the added benefits of a made-to-measure piece of furniture, in your choice of fabric.

Times have changed. Retail furniture stores are ready and competing to answerthe needs of a more sophisticated buying public.

There are certain “good upholstery” basics you want to look for regardless of your budget, whether it’s ready-made and off the showroom floor, or custom-made. ”.


For starters, you want to “try on” a prospective piece of furniture as you would try on clothing before buying. Is the arm height comfortable for you? What about seat height and depth? Seat cushions should be 24” to 26” deep. Deeper than that is fine for tall people, but others will need an extra pillow at their back to be comfortable.

Inquire as to what fills the cushions. Unless your purchase is a custom made piece, the usual filling is a foam cushion with a poly-dacron wrap. Not usual, but also seen, are individual muslin covered springs wrapped in foam, then wrapped with poly-dacron. Both constructions make for firm but comfortable seating. The latter type, with springs, is a cushion with a very long life. Another type is a foam cushion with a goose down and poly wrap or even just goose down. It’s softer, very comfortable and needs no fluffing. The most lux way to go is all feather/down filling, (80% white goose down and 20% white goose feathers). Though exceptionally comfy, it must be fluffed up all of the time.

Don’t make assumptions about the actual framework construction of a prospective piece of furniture. If it “talks” to you when you sit on it, something is amiss.

Also, notice the little things, like whether the seams are straight and finished well. Make careful inquiries of the salesperson and consider the reputation of the store where you are considering purchase.

If it’s cheap, it’s probably because it’s poorly made with cheap materials.

Here’s what you want: top of the line kiln dried hardwood, (maple, for example), both glued and screwed at the joints, and eight-way hand tied coiled springs to minimize warping. Some companies use what’s known as a “sinuous coil” (sort of a coil stretched and flattened long ways) and that’s also satisfactory but obvious not designed for longevity as the hand tied coils would be. The main idea is stability.

Heavy and solid is good.

Related Posts

(Upholstered Furniture Facts Three Part Series)

Upholstered Furniture Facts #2: You Have Options

Upholstered Furniture Facts #3: The Right Fabric

Photos – From the Decoding Décor Photo Archive

Questions?  Cindy@DecodingDecor.com
The original version of this article was published on Hamptons.com. It’s presented here as a foundation for further topic discussion and updates.


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