When you’re in the market for new furniture, the world can be a very confusing place. It is very difficult for the average person, who doesn’t build furniture for a living, to judge the difference between something that looks nice and something that is nice. As with pretty much everything in life, the cheapest price will usually get you the lowest quality. The trick is to find the best quality for a price that suits your budget.

Frame comparison

Frame comparison


When looking for new furniture, consider the most crucial component of a sofa or chair - the frame.  Inquire about the type of wood used in the frame construction.  All quality frames consists of kiln-dried hardwood, usually alder.  The use of dowels, corner blocks and screws (instead of glue and staples) used in the construction process will add many years to the life span of the frame.

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Next you should focus your inquiry on the springs. You will typically come across two types of springs; zigzag springs and hand-tied coil springs. The former type of spring comes in various different qualities and gauges. A good way to get an idea of how comfortable the springs are in a sofa is to lift up the seat cushion and feel them with your hand while pressing down. They should feel sufficiently resilient while not being too soft. You should also notice adequate padding over the springs as opposed to finding the springs only covered with fabric. The zigzag pattern, in which the springs are formed, should not be too wide and far apart. The tighter the pattern, the more performance you will get out of the spring.  Good quality zigzag springs will give you years and years of comfortable seating while helping to keep down the cost of the furniture.

The Cadillac of springs is of course the hand-tied coil spring. Coil springs will respond to pressure individually more so than zigzag springs. The spring action of a coil spring is also longer than that of a zigzag spring. These features make for more comfortable seating. However, the more laborious way these springs are installed also adds to the price tag.

You need to decide weather you’re buying a sofa you’ll keep for many years to come, or something more temporary. If you’re going for the long haul, it is not a big investment to add coil springs to your purchase. A couple hundred-dollar difference in the price tag may seem like a chunk of money now, but it is doubtful you’ll remember it in two years. The added comfort will definitely be worth it.

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Cushions - Fill and Padding


The third item on your checklist is the cushions. Most common options are either synthetic (foam rubber, polyester) or down and feather cushions. Synthetic cushions can be very comfortable when good quality materials are used. Ask your salesman if he has different options for you in foam density and resiliency. Try out the back cushion to make sure it is comfortable and not packed too tightly with polyester.

Down and feather cushioning will give you a luxuriously soft and cushy feel.  While back cushions are usually solid down and feathers, seat cushions are most often made into an envelope of down and feathers, which contains an inner core.  This core gives a seat more body and resiliency and is often made of foam rubber. Better furniture may also have a spring unit inside the down and feathers, instead of foam rubber.

Padding in furniture is usually the first casualty in the battle to cut costs. Quality furniture will have padding on all outside panels (back, arms) while inexpensive pieces will only have the upholstery fabric covering the frame. Pressing down on the top of a sofa arm will reveal either soft padding or a piece of wood. It’s your call.

One good way to judge furniture in two seconds is this; grab the piece by one end and try picking it up. The heavier the piece is, the more likely it is to be of good quality and have a good frame, more padding, springs and all the good stuff in it. (Be careful, use your good judgment before attempting this test.)



At Burlap Upholstery Studio, we specialize in hand tailoring a combination of all of these features to fit your personal needs and budget. Our goal is to provide you with a quality piece of furniture that you’ll be happy with, for a very fair price.