What makes a piece of furniture “good”? Sure beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and a quick look at its outward appearance may turn up a few stains or scratches. But there’s more to furniture quality it than that.
What about price? While it’s true that better quality furniture often costs more, price isn’t always an indicator, either.
When determining the quality of a piece of furniture, it’s what’s inside that often matters. Who knows what lies beneath the captivating fabric? Next time you go shopping for a new piece of furniture for your home, make sure you invest in pieces that will last. Most of us have experienced buying a cheap piece of clothing that looks good at the store, but after the first wear, it gets holes or the buttons fall off. The same thing applies to furniture. Don’t skimp on quality, even if it does cost a little more in the short term. We may think we will keep a particular piece of furniture for a short time, but the reality is that most people keep furniture for a long time. That makes quality of the utmost importance.
Besides, when you figure in the amount of use a piece of furniture will get over time, the extra up-front cost turns out to be less than you think. Just figure the lifetime of the furniture and divide by the purchase price. Sometimes the cost is less than you would pay for a latte! Now who wouldn’t spend that money on something that will last longer than a midday pick-me-up? When deciding on a new piece of furniture for your home, remember that investment is key. Furniture doesn’t always have to be expensive to be a good investment piece, either. There are plenty of great furniture pieces out there you might have never considered before.
What makes quality furniture is their skeletal structure. Just like people, furniture can have good and bad genetics. Quick and cheap tables and chairs may be eye catching at first, but they break down quickly in day-to-day use.
The two most important factors of a quality piece are the components that make up the piece and the skill used to construct it. Most home furniture is upholstered, meaning that little to none of what makes up the furniture is exposed. This makes it difficult for the average shopper to know exactly what they are buying.
The largest and most important part of what makes a quality piece is the frame. This should be made of real hard wood (think oak, cherry, hickory and mahogany), which is sturdier than other types of wood, such as softwood (think cedar or pine). For quality, also stay away from “faux wood” like particle board with a veneer designed to look like hardwood.
Hardwood allows the screws and joints to remain sturdy throughout the years of wear and tear. The quickest and easiest way to determine which type of wood your furniture is made of is to lift one end of the piece. If the furniture is heavy, it is more than likely hard wood. If the piece seems too light in proportion to its size, it might be made of something else. Good quality furniture techniques add to the weight as well, which will result in longer lasting furniture. You can also get an idea of the quality of furniture by pressing in on the fabric to see if there are additional horizontal support beams that have been added to prevent any moving or twisting of the frame.
Next move to the seat and check the condition of the springs. Standard springs are very firm and only allow an up-and-down motion. Instead, look for an eight-way hand-tied spring system that allows more motion in all directions for a more natural and even sit. The cost may be more for the eight-way because it is assembled by hand, but the comfort is unmatched.
Consider cushion condition, as well. Upholstered furniture has cushions that sit on top of the springs on what is called a “seat deck” while back pillows and cushions rest against the back of the furniture. Pay close attention to this part of your furniture. Most cushions are made of a high-density foam core and then wrapped in a batting to create a softer look. Cushions can also be filled with feather, down or other hypo-allergenic substitutes. Feather and down provide the most comfort, durability and resilience, and are often used for pillows. Because the insides are filled with loose pieces, they are able to be fluffed regularly to achieve a plush and full look. Padding is very important because it substantially affects the comfort of the furniture.
Now let’s get to what we know best, fabrics. When talking about upholstered furniture, textiles can make up the majority of the cost. A good upholstery weight fabric should be tightly woven or a blend. Heavier fabrics tend to wear better than loose-weave or light fabrics, and are determined good for upholstery by calculating the double rubs of the fabric. Double rubs are the amount of times a fabric has been rubbed in a back-and-forth motion by a machine until the fabric wears a hole. Upholstery weight fabrics can range anywhere from 30-200,000 double rubs, but most often are around 75,000. This number is helpful in figuring out how long the fabric will hold up. For a sofa that receives an average of 4-6 hours of sit time a day and will be used on a daily basis, you should look for heavy upholstery weight fabric that has around 100,000 or more double rubs. For an occasional chair that is meant more for decoration, about 30,000 double rubs will suffice and last.
After investing in a worthwhile piece of furniture, it is wise to hang on to it for as long as you can. New furniture can be expensive, but is out there, sometimes even the most unlikely places – like a thrift shop or your own home! Just remember to start with the frame structure and go from there. If you happen to find a piece for discount or maybe even have your own but are considering getting a new piece, opt for reupholstering. Not only will your trusted couch love this idea, but so will your wallet. Reusing an existing frame to reupholster with new fabric will save you money and allows you the freedom to customize the piece however you’d like. You aren’t locked into choosing from a small selection at a furniture store, and you get to keep something that you already know fits in your home. This also gives you the option of customizing cushions and foam densities as well to suit your personal preference.
Once you invest in a new piece of furniture or reupholster a piece, be sure to take care of it so that it lasts. Fabric care and protection is key. To prolong the life of your furniture, appropriate attention to care should be taken. Twice a month vacuum your pieces, making sure to remove all cushions and deep clean between crevices. Keeping fabrics clean will not only help with the appearance but will also keep dirt from settling and prolong the life of the fabric. Avoid placing fabrics in direct sunlight to prevent against heat fading. Sun and heat can deteriorate textile fibers and can fade fabric colors. Furniture that will inevitably see a lot of sunlight should be covered in a heavyweight light colored cotton or cotton blend to reduce deterioration. Use a white cloth to clean spills and stains to reduce dye bleeding during the cleaning process. Make sure to blot all stains and never rub or the stain might spread and set in permanently, as well as weakening the fabric in that area. Most often textiles are pre-treated with a stain protectant after manufacturing, though it is always a good idea to reapply a fabric guard after each washing or cleaning.
If you have children or pets, slipcovers are a great alternative to help protect the furniture. This allows the outer layer that receives the most wear and tear to be easily removed and washed without the fuss. Make sure to wash all of the slipcovers at the same time to prevent fabrics fading at different rates.