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Sofa Shopping- A peek under the hood

Posted by Ilene Richardson on September 16, 2010 0 Comments

We are excited to bring you a guest post from Furniture Master's Vice-President Jeremy Skow. FM is a leading resource for top interior designers who come to FM for their high-end custom manufactured furniture. FM has made furniture for A list clients including Oprah Winfrey, Calvin Klein and Uma Thurman. 

When you are looking at a completed sofa in a photo or showroom it can be difficult to tell if you are buying high-end or not.  If you can’t ‘look under the hood’ how can you be sure you are getting a good value for your dollar?

A friend once approached me and asked, “I don’t understand how you could charge around five thousand dollars for a sofa (without fabric or leather) when I can buy a sofa from XYZ company (name withheld intentionally) with the fabric or leather included for around fifteen hundred bucks.”  I invited my friend to the shop so he could see what the inside of XYZ’s sofa looked like.

The sofa frame was made from flakeboard with rails so thin it seemed as though a gentle breeze might cause the frame to collapse.  The thin layer of padding was held in place by cardboard.  The leather that had been on it was not, in fact, leather but was an imitation on vinyl whose finish was cracking and flaking off like a poorly done paint job. 

Next I showed him one of our sofas being upholstered with hand-tied coil springs, kiln-dried maple frames that could likely withstand Armageddon, synthetic horse hair filled arms and back.  There was no comparison.

There can be many reasons to buy a less expensive sofa.  However, if you are shopping for high-end then some of these two tips may help you when you can’t look under the hood to see passed the illusion one normally sees in a showroom or catalog.

HAND TIED COIL SPRINGS – A well made sofa will have a seat platform (area below seat cushions) filled with hand-tied coil springs.  Coil springs make the seat sit softer as they are a sort of shock absorber when we sit down but it takes numerous man-hours to install all those springs. 


                

HOW DO WE KNOW IF THE SOFA WE LIKE HAS THEM - Almost all sofas have a fabric called cambric that lines their underside and finishes it off.  Depending on the style of sofa you might be able to run your hands over this cambric and feel the spring webbing (webbing the springs attach to) on the other side.  It is not a 100% tell though because, while springs come in all different sizes, if the sofa has a large seat platform the springs may not be tall enough to extend from top to bottom and thus may be installed higher in the seat platform.  So if you reach underneath a sofa and can tell there doesn’t feel like anything more than a thin piece of fabric on the bottom, there is a chance the sofa is not sprung and thus less expensive.


CUSHION FILLINGS ­ – I typically fill seat cushions one of 3 ways:

1.     Foam core with down and feather blend filled jacket

2.     All down and feather blend(more common in back cushions than seat cushions)

3.     Foam core with a batting (Dacron) wrap

I fill 90% of my seat cushions with option 1.  The down and feather blend is very soft and the foam core gives the seat some resilience so it bounces back when you get up and doesn’t leave the seat cushion with a body print when you get up

Option 2 is as soft as you can go.  It is a little sloppy looking though without a foam core.

Option 3 is a little less comfortable but provides very sleek lines which many modern sofas call for.

 

HOW DO WE KNOW IF THE SOFA WE LIKE HAS ONE OF THESE FILLS – If you unzip the cushion cover a decent cushion filling will have a filling cover called a ticking on which there should be a tag that tells you what is inside.  If it is not a very modern sofa (with very sleek lines) then it should have down and feathers in the seat (with or without the foam core).  There are some cheap replacements to feather and down and typically they feel very lumpy when you squeeze the filling.  Note on down and feather blend: down is softer than feathers.  Blends are sold in different ratios where the first number noted is always the down content.  Therefore a filling that has an 80/20 down and feather blend is somewhat softer than a 50/50 blend.

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