Recognising Quality Upholstered Furniture

by Stacey Sheppard in Designer style at home

Unfortunately, not all upholstered furniture was created equal and for us mere mortals, discerning a good quality piece from a one that is less than perfect is not always an easy task.

But luckily there are some tell-tale signs to look out for to make sure your choice is a wise one.

‘A quality piece of furniture must be robust, detailed and beautiful from the ground up,’ says Jonathan Barber, in-house designer at The Sofa & Chair Company. When judging furniture, there are a number of considerations by which to evaluate it, such as finish, materials, surfaces and workmanship.


‘As the saying goes, the devil is in the detail and when it comes to upholstery this can be seen in the stitching, which should be clean and consistent.’

The Frame

The frame of an upholstered piece of furniture, which is essentially its bone structure, should set the standard for the construction of the rest of the item. Barber recommends opting for solid timber such as kiln-dried beech, which will resist distortion and twisting over time. When it comes to constructing the frame, he says: ‘Only the latest bonding and fixing techniques should be applied when locking the frame together. Our frames encompass both traditional and modern production values and techniques. Whilst much of our frames remain hidden below the upholstery, the legs and plinth remain visible. These components undergo the largest amount of strain. The robustness of strength and quality of finish are testament to the Sofa and Chair Company’s 15 year frame guarantee.’


However, the filling is equally as important as the frame and there are a number of options to choose from. ‘The most superior fillings would be the use of the highest quality feather & down,’ says Barber, ‘one of the ultimate luxuries in upholstered furniture.’ A slightly less luxurious option is foam and the selection of foam is extremely important for comfort, resilience and form. In general terms, softer foams are often used for furniture designed for lounging whilst firmer foams tend to be chosen for more formal seating.

‘There are many types of foam on the market differing in firmness, density and resilience,’ explains Barber. ‘Typically firmer foams last longer than softer foam, but obviously don’t offer the same level of comfort.’ But no matter how firm the foam, you should not be able to feel the frame beneath it. For example, when pressing your hand into the armrest of a sofa, Barber says there should be enough foam of adequate density to prevent the frame from ever being recognised.

He says: ‘At the Sofa and Chair Company, we offer three standard cushions fillings: feather and down – the mix can vary depending on comfort required; foam sandwiched between a top and bottom layer of feather and down – this allows the cushion to be reversible; and finally a fibre-filled cushion. The choices we offer depend on the usage, personal preference, price or whether our client may be allergic to feathers.’


Cushions are another way to tell a good quality piece of upholstery, but even the best cushions require careful and regular maintenance to get the best out of them. ‘To preserve the look and longevity of cushions, regular plumping and rotating is necessary to even wear,’ says Barber. ‘I would recommend completely removing the internal cushion from the upholstery fabric to thoroughly plump and re-align – this should be done at least every six months. This simple and regular maintenance will significantly improve the look and feel of your item of furniture.’

Seat cushions generally experience more wear than back cushions due to the amount of pressure being placed on them. ‘The composition of both seat and back cushions will vary in comfort and therefore loose alignment at different rates,’ says Barber. ‘For full satisfaction and peace of mind, I would aim to re-set the seat and back cushions at the same time.’

The re-upholstery of an item of furniture is purely down to the discretion of the consumer, explains Barber. ‘The fabric might see a lot of use, fade in the sun, or not suit the décor of the room. On the other hand a distressed look is popular especially in leather sofas.’


‘As the saying goes, the devil is in the detail and when it comes to upholstery this can be seen in the stitching, which should be clean and consistent,’ says Barber explaining the importance of not over stretching upholstery fabric into position when sewing, as this can often lead to the stitching thread becoming visible. ‘This extra and unnecessary tension puts large amounts of strains on the seams reducing the life of the piece of furniture,’ he says.

Follow these simple guidelines and your perfect upholstered piece should be a lot easier to track down.

The Sofa and Chair Company –

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