Plaid and floral sofas notwithstanding, there are some pretty decent couches out there in the consignment/resale furniture world. And the fact that these babies have passed muster with the owners of these establishments and are out there for sale says a lot about the staying power of good, upholstered furniture and what you should look for when buying new. My personal experience, as the owner of a resale furniture store for more than 15 years, has shown me the importance of good construction when it comes to upholstered furniture. What I see lasting comes down to just a few important factors. So read on for my tips and you’ll buy that new piece with confidence.
4 Key Factors:
- 8-way hand-tied refers to the way springs are constructed in an upholstered piece of furniture. Springs basically make up the suspension system or the foundation of the seat, the part that holds up the cushions. The better the spring construction the better the flexibility, support and comfort. 8-way hand tied pieces are literally tied in all directions, and this makes the seat better. It costs a little more, but this factor is important to the longevity of upholstered pieces.
- Hardwood Frames are another key to an upholstered piece holding up over time. The frame is the set of bones that hold up the piece. Just like with wood furniture, MDF (medium-density fiberboard) and particle board construction fall apart with use; they are basically glue and sawdust and there is just too much space for moisture penetration and shifting with use. Hardwood frames (especially kiln-dried and made of oak, beech, or ash) have tight grain that doesn’t allow for as much moisture penetration or shifting. Pine frames are technically wood and tend to be less expensive, but because the wood is soft it will warp and/or wobble over time.
- Corner blocking refers to the extra piece of wood that is placed on an angle between the legs and serves to reinforce the legs of upholstered pieces. Avoid upholstered pieces where the legs are merely glued on. They will break or fall out over time.
- Down, foam, springs or some combination thereof is always the question when choosing cushions of upholstered pieces. Down is usually the most expensive option (white goose down option, shown below) and thought to be the most luxurious, but as to durability foam is often the best choice. You want cushions to be firm and resilient and fit snugly within the frame. Down cushions will flatten easily and will need to be “fluffed” regularly. Feathers are also lost over time, so we see very few pure down cushions in the resale market. Another option are spring centers with foam, fiber or down on the outside (standard and spring down, shown below), but these tend to be less comfortable than either down or foam and tend to break down over time. If the foam is too firm for your liking, an outer shell of down with an inner core of foam is often the best compromise (duvet and ultra plus, shown below).
Style Staying Power:
Now that you’re an expert on the 4 key factors, I will leave you with one more thought about upholstered furniture: even the “cheap stuff” can cost a lot. And if you guard your money the way I do, you will want to consider one more thing: style staying power. When you buy an upholstered piece your goal should be to have it for a while, given the cash outlay you are making. The more you stick to classic styles and solid colors, the more likely this is to happen. Plaids and florals go in and out of fashion. Change your pillows to reflect these trends.