If you prefer to begin with THE STORY OF FURNITURE, click on:
20 years ago, shopping for loveseats, I investigated everything a consumer should investigate. The frame, suspension system, fillings, etc. were good quality but the upholstery fabric I had chosen was no longer available—and I was given the option to supply my own fabric.
The furniture manufacturer approved my choice of Pierre Deux’s tightly woven red and white plaid linen. I purchased the required yardage and sent it directly to their factory. Despite my anticipation of two beautiful loveseats………
………they were DISASTER !
The president of the factory refused my phone calls.
A librarian researched the name of the CEO/owner of the furniture company
—and I wrote him a letter.
The indisputable power of my letter were the 21 photographs—accompanied by specific, detailed descriptions of unacceptable work! e.g.:
1. No attempt to line up and match the small repeat plaid anywhere!
2. Cheap plastic welting causing irregular edges.
3. Insufficient fillings in back cushions caused sagging excesses of fabric.
4. Facing over a zipper was incorrectly stitched and teeth were exposed.
5. A staple was exposed in the back of a loveseat.
6. Instead of ‘feathers and down in a cambric casing’ cushions; cheap
poly material was shoved into upholstery cushions.
7. Raw edge fabric was STAPLED onto the frame under the skirt.
8. Fabric on one side of a love seat was tighter than the other side.
9. Skirts were of different lengths and the plaid ran downhill.
10. Parts of the frame were covered with linen without PADDING!
The CEO/owner called —apologized—and told me the
loveseats would be remade to my approval.
20 years later, I still enjoy my good quality plaid loveseats!
My advice? Never, never, never, give up!
OKAY! READY TO SHOP?
Choices are endless when selecting sofas and chairs.
Choose a style and size to fit you— and your room.
The lack of labeling information means you must verify
information about the frame, joinery, suspension system,
fillings, padding and cushions.
COMPONENT PARTS & RAW MATERIALS:
frame………hard wood of one species.
joinery……..mortise and tenon preferred. Double doweling is also good.
webbing…..tightly woven quality jute as a base to hold springs.
springs…… coils of steel wire, 8-way hand-tied.
fillings……..animal hair or man-made fillings cover frame and springs and
creates the shape of the sofa or chair.
padding……final layer to assure a filled, smooth surface for upholstery fabric.
edge roll……sturdy coil of fiber, eliminating gap between cushions and base.
cushion fillings…..varieties from down to man-made for seating comfort.
upholstery fabric….consumer’s choice of color, pattern and texture.
welting………fabric covered cotton cord sewn between seams to retain shape.
dust cover….cambric tacked to chair/sofa bottom keeps dust out of springs.
Chair and sofa frames must be kiln-dried hardwood of the same species and frame components should be joined with mortise and tenon or double doweling. Where legs are joined to seat frames, corner blocks must be glued and screwed to the seat rails for reinforcement. About these, there is no compromise. Don’t be afraid to sit on the arms of the chair or sofa you plan to buy and verify the strength and solidity of the frame.
Taught, woven webbing topped with closely placed 8-way hand-tied steel springs is best. When the design of a chair/sofa is very ‘slim’ and there is no space for 8-way hand-tied steel springs: sinuous steel springs are probably used. These must be in very close parallel rows and connected by small steel helical springs to help the sinuous springs act together in counteracting weight and combating ‘sag’.
Even though you like the style of a chair or sofa, be sure it’s comfortable for you. Test for the ‘bounce’ you prefer—just as selecting a mattress. Check all labels and discuss the warranty regarding springs. A sofa not guaranteed for at least 10 years casts doubt about its quality.
Fillings & Padding:
For comfort and durability, fillings must be firm, resilient and covered with quality padding for a soft hand. If you feel the wood frame through the padding, fillings are not adequate and frames can eventually rub or poke through. Ask the specific names of the fillings and padding materials used in the chair or sofa. If the store can’t tell you, don’t hesitate to contact the manufacturer.
Application of Upholstery Fabric:
Upholstery fabric may or may not be lined —but if the fabric it is not tightly woven, it should be lined. Upholstery fabric must be securely pulled, stitched and tacked to the frame.
If fabric is sewn together with welting, the welting cord must be cotton—not plastic. Plastic welting is rigid and causes fabric to fray at the corners. Insist upon good sized removable arm covers and make sure they can be laundered or dry cleaned. They add years of wear to a chair or sofa.
Open cushion zippers.
Exposed foam or shreds of foam are a ‘red flag’.
FILLINGS SHOULD BE IN THEIR OWN MUSLIN CASING!
Too hard? Too soft? Sink down and can’t get up? If cushion fillings are not pleasing, inquire if there’s an option to make them more soft or more firm. If not, leave and shop in a different store.
Be a Goldilocks!
Finding ‘one size’ to accommodate both a 5’2” and 6’2” person is daunting.
Sit in all of them until YOU find one that is just right!
Sit back. Is the pitch right for YOU?
Does the depth allow the front of the cushion touch the back of YOUR knees?
Do YOUR feet reach the floor? Good.
Do YOUR knees reach toward your chin? Bad.
Be sure a chair or sofa is scaled for the room: Height, Width, Depth & Mass.
Be adamant. Be persistent.
Don’t buy anything until you have legitimate confirmation from the manufacturer or retailer about ‘everything’ under the outer fabric.
If complete information is not available from your retail store,
• check the manufacturers’ website
• phone them
• shop at a different store.
Pat Breen: EYEWITNESS TO QUALITY
My next post: JUDGING VINTAGE UPHOLSTERY