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Upholstered Furniture 101

What to know and how to get the most value for the price

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Photo 1 of 4A great piece of furniture can add color and texture, provide a focal point, and reflect your sense of style.

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Written by Nancy A. Herrick
Photographed by C.R. Laine Furniture

The perfect piece of upholstered furniture can do so much to enhance a room. But the range of options are vast in terms of price and style.

Even a first-time buyer can notice some of the hallmarks of quality: straight seams, tight stitches, centered and matched patterns, snug-fitting cushions, tightly sewn fringe and buttons. But there’s more to an upholstered piece than meets the eye. If you’re in the market for a new sofa or chair, here are some of the finer points to keep in mind to get the best value for your money.

Top quality frames are made from hardwoods such as oak, maple or alder that have been kiln-dried so that they won’t crack or warp as they age or when the humidity changes. Wood is better than metal because it holds screws better, which improves solidity.

The joints of the best furniture are doubledoweled and glued. Corner blocks that are both glued and screwed into place provide increased stability. Frames held together with staples should be avoided. When you sit down, the frame should not wiggle or shift, and there should be no creaking or wobbling. When you reach between the cushions and the frame, you should feel plenty of padding instead of wood.

The number of springs and how they’re reinforced— both in the seat and the back of the piece—help determine a piece’s quality and cost. Eight-way hand-tied springs (in which each spring is connected to its neighbor) enhances comfort, support and durability and is considered the highest quality. Sinuous S-shaped springs running front to back and affixed to the frame also are good.

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