Quality Made Sofas

How do you determine whether  furniture is of good quality?

When shopping for new furniture most people check out the current ads to see where they should look. Almost every furniture ad says that the furniture it is advertising is a quality product. This is standard advertising but often misleading to the general public. The ads want you to believe that the stores are indeed selling quality products when in fact they may not be. They advertise different prices but still advertise quality for all. Maybe good advertising sells products but good quality keeps customers.

So how does one determine if a sofa is truly built with quality in mind?

The old adages that “you get what you pay for” and “if its too good to be true it generally is” is a good start. But let’s look deeper into what goes into making a quality sofa or chair.

The Frame:

all hardwood frame, glued and double dowelled at stress joints

Let us first start with the main structure of the piece – the frame. Frames should be made of properly dried hardwoods. They should be engineered with strong joints that will withstand years of use. Using wood dowels and lots of wood glue to hold the joints together is very important. The size of the rails, the large piece of wood on the front of the sofa, and supporting side pieces, together with proper spacing is critical for long term performance. Perhaps most important is the time and care taken assembling and gluing the frame pieces together. The frame builder must make sure the wood joints are flush and glue is oozing out of the wood to make sure the frame will withstand the abuse of consumers for years to come.

I have seen plywood , OSB(wood chips glued together) and pine used in inexpensive furniture. I have also seen plywood used in very expensive furniture. Plywood is not necessarily bad in certain situations, such as on curves, but care must be taken to properly engineer all stress joints. Plywood is composed of layers of wood that can be used in radius (curved) pieces without concern of the wood splitting with the grain. CNC machine (computer generated cutting) of plywood is very precise and with careful assembly can perform properly. Call me old fashioned but I want my frames to be made with hardwoods , want them glued, double doweled at stress joints and most importantly I want the wood assembled with care taken so that all wood joints are flush . The process is time consuming and not easy to accomplish in large production line environments. When shopping for a sofa you can often determine how well the frame is made by trying to wiggle the arms to see if they move. If they do the joints are probably not put together properly.

Dried Hardwoods:

Dowels used at stress points:

Spring System:

Now let’s talk about the spring system. The most important part about the spring system is that, whatever type is used, it must be properly spaced and the frames properly engineered to work together with the springs for years of service. No-sag springs (snake looking wire from front to back) and webbing are the least expensive and their productive life is usually limited to the life of the fabric. Coil springs are considered the most expensive and with maintenance will last for many years. You can find eight-way hand tied springs or machine-tied springs. Both will last you for years to come.

Eight-way Hand Tie:

No- Sag Springs (snake looking spring system):

Cushions:

Cushion stuffing can be foam, dacron , feathers and down, springs or a combination of any of these. There are many different qualities and firmnesses of foam that are typically used for standard sized cushions. Soft overstuffed cushions can be a mixture of springs (small coils wrapped in muslin) or foam in the middle with a combination of feathers , down or dacron on the outside (the envelope). This is then covered with a cushion covering. Whatever type of cushion stuffing you choose should be combined with a spring system that gives proper support. A general rule is that soft overstuffed cushions work best with a good firm spring system such as coil springs which will give a good ride while sinking into that wonderful sofa. For a firmer feel denser foam cushions on a good spring system will give better support. Often when shopping one finds really hard sofas that feel like you are sitting on a board. This usually indicates a no sag spring system or webbing with a combination of cheap foam cushions.

Dacron:

Muslin:

Feathers:

Foam:

Cutting the Fabric and Tailoring:

nailheads on an upholstered arm

The tailoring of a sofa is what determines how visually beautiful it is. It is the most time consuming part of building a quality sofa. Each fabric stretches differently. When cushion covers are cut allowance must be taken into account for anticipated stretch. Most factories cut all the fabrics alike not taking into account this stretch. Factories test fabrics before putting them in their furniture lines. Many large factories marry certain fabrics to certain frames because of the difficulty in matching/tailoring.

At Fabrics and Frames we make each piece individually and study all fabrics thoroughly making allowance for stretch, pattern matching etc. before cutting it. It can take us 8 hours or more to properly cut the fabric for a sofa. A mass produced factory generally gang cuts their fabrics (many fabrics are cut at the same time, one on top of the other) thus all are cut alike without regard to stretching or patterns. This is definitely more efficient but does not produce a beautiful sofa. For us cutting fabrics is akin to an artist doing a painting. Many decisions are made as to where the pattern is centered or continued. We always try to match the pattern in a fabric all over the piece. The pattern will match from the back to the seat. The seat will match from the seat to the apron, the apron will match to the skirt, etc. We not only match the pattern vertically but also horizontally when we can.

Pattern Match Chairs:(follows lines in the base from the seat cushion)

Discriminating shoppers can always tell when a sofa has been upholstered with care. The fabric has been pulled tight during the upholstery process so that there are no wrinkles or loose fabric on the arms, apron, in back or outside back. When shopping for a sofa feel the arms to make sure you don’t feel the wood. We use three layers between the wood and the final fabric – cotton, dacron, and a base fabric. Also feel the back. It should be pulled tight and not feel floppy when pushed in. Saggy backs are just not attractive. The back and seat cushions should fit the frame nicely. There should not be lots of space between the cushions nor should they be too tightly squished together. At Fabrics and Frames we know that great upholsterers produce beautiful furniture that you can be happy to have in your home.

If you are the type that likes things done right ask lot of questions when shopping for furniture. To make sure you are buying from a reputable store you can also check the Better Business Bureau for complaints and resolutions the store has dealt with. Fabrics and Frames is and has been a member of the BBB for over 30 years and we have not even had a single complaint to address. This is because our craftsmen care and our owners care that we do it right. We are human and nothing is perfect but our goal is to do the best job we can – and it shows in both the new furniture we build and the furniture we reupholster. That’s why 70% of our business is from previous customers and referrals. Our goal is to make our customers “customers for life” by giving them the best product they can buy for a price they can afford!

Jim The Sofa Man

For more information about designing or where to get custom looks like these please visit our website:

www.fabricsandframes.com

We are currently located at 5322 Alpha Rd, Dallas, Texas 75240. 972-385-4097.  Please contact us if you have any questions about this blog at andy@fabricsandframes.com, and or follow us on Facebook!http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fabrics-and-Frames-Furniture/156825517684205

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2 thoughts on “Quality Made Sofas

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