Upholstered Furniture 101
How your furniture looks and feels is largely dependent on the materials – that is, the fabrics, foams and springs – used to create a sofa, chair or other upholstered piece. Here's a breakdown of what's inside and what to look for when shopping.
Fabrics & Leathers
You've picked a color, but what now? When choosing upholstered
furniture, the key is to select a material that not only looks great, but also wears well and is easy to maintain.
Generally speaking, the more tightly woven it is, the more durable it will be. Fabrics such as microfiber are made from fibers that are 100 times smaller than a human hair. This allows more threads to be woven into each inch of cloth, making the fabric extremely durable, soft to the touch and more resistant to stains, moisture and bacteria.
Believe it or not, higher quality leathers will retain more natural characteristics, such as color variations, wrinkles and scars. More economical leathers use less of the natural hide and are treated with synthetic materials to produce a similar consistency, but weakened durability. Remember, since no two hides are the same, every piece of leather furniture will a have a slightly different look and feel.
Common Types of Leather
Top grain: the outer, strongest part of a natural hide
Nubuck: top grain leather, buffed for a velvet-like feel
Split: inner, less durable layer of hide, often used as suede
Leathermatch: economical mix of top grain leather & vinyl
Here's where the deep-down comfort comes into play. Inside most upholstered seating, you'll find a network of springs attached to the frame. The various designs and materials used will affect the unique level of comfort that the piece provides. So, the choice is yours! Here are some key differences between the two most common spring systems:
Coiled springs are attached to the frame of an upholstered piece to provide a firm, supportive feel. Because of their resilient design, the springs also help retain the shape of the piece over time. Sinuous springs are flat rows of s-shaped or zigzagged springs that run across the frame of the seat or back. Unlike coiled springs, this design provides a softer, cushier feel.
Soft and snug, today's cushions are typically filled with a solid foam core, wrapped in various blends of down, feathers, polyester, cotton or Dacron batting. Unlike old-fashioned feather cushions, these foam cores help retain the shape of the cushions when pressure is applied. The end result is a soft, luxurious cushion that provides endless hours of support.
The heart of any sofa or chair, the frame holds your furniture together for the life of the piece. Accordingly, it has to be incredibly strong. Today's frames can be made from wood, metal or plastic – wood typically being the most durable. For higher quality pieces, look for frames built from kiln-dried (or engineered) hardwoods, which are resistant to warping, swelling or shrinking. To learn more about the types of woods used in furniture, enter our Wood Workshop.
Types Of Wood Used
MDF wood is engineered from softwood, which has broken down into fibers, which are then combined together once more. In order for these fibers to stay together they are coated with wax and resin and baked at high temperatures as pressure is applied to the mixture in order to create the MDF panels you see in your local DIY store.The biggest advantage to be had from buying bedroom sets which use MDF only a mixture of MDF and real wood is the price. Certainly these types of furniture sets are often considerably cheaper to buy than real wood ones are. Moreover, MDF is far easier to look after than those pieces of furniture, which are made from pine, cherry wood, mahogany or oak for example.
Wood veneer is a thin slice of wood cut or peeled from a log. The slice can be as thin as a piece of paper or thick enough to accommodate sanding and refinishing down the road. The
veneer is adhered to another wood surface. Typically, the outer layer is made from the most beautiful or exotic woods, while the substrate is made from utilitarian woods or particle board.
Wood from broad-leafed trees that lose their leaves in winter, such as oak, ash, cherry, maple, walnut and poplar is known as hardwood. Hardwood is generally considered better for furniture construction than softwood as it has strength and stability. Conversely, it can present difficulties in carving or detailing. There are many tropical hardwoods that come from tropical forests, such as mahogany, teak and ipe.
Solid wood can mean that all exposed pieces of the piece are solid, but areas hidden from view may be another material. There can be one single board or plank of wood, or also several wood boards or blocks that are glued together.
KD or RTA
This term is used for furniture that is sold unassembled or partially assembled which is known as "Knocked Down." furniture It is also called often referred to as RTA furniture which stands for “Ready to Assemble” furniture.
WILL IT FIT?
It may seem obvious, but measuring your space is an essential step to deciding on any piece of furniture. Compare the dimensions of the piece with the size of your room. Don't forget to consider how you'll get the furniture into the space: Are the doorways large enough? Any narrow hallways or stairwells?
If space is an issue, consider modular furniture and sectionals. These sets come in several pieces that can often be rearranged to fit your space or style preference. Small room? Try love seats or apartment sofas, which are a few inches shorter than sofas in the same collection.