Proper Specification of Upholstered Furniture

As professionals in the interior design industry, we are the “go-to guys” regarding good upholstered furniture buying habits. All upholstery work is not created equal, of course.

We always advise our clients to purchase the best upholstery they can afford, especially for those rooms they will be sitting in every day. There are many different types of upholstered chairs and sofas, and they vary widely in quality. A high price tag does not necessarily indicate quality. High-quality and low-quality upholstered furniture can be found in all price ranges.

When we specify fine quality upholstered furniture, we review the detailed specifications from the manufacturer and look for many, many construction details which are often hidden to the consumer. Your designers prefer upholstery from manufacturers who guarantee the frame for life. This means that you, as the original buyer, are entitled to a repair or replacement if the frame should ever crack or break.

Other aspects of fine upholstered furniture we look for are as follows:

  • Bench Made Upholstery: The piece you are buying is not mass assembled, but hand made one piece at a time on a raised bench and usually overseen by one lead craftsman who takes great pride in their work.
  • 5/4 Kiln Dried Hardwoods: 1-1/4” hand selected Grade A hardwoods are dried in a kiln to remove moisture and used to hand construct your frame. This prevents warping of the frame and provides strength. Joints should be snugly fitted, glued, double doweled, and reinforced with screwed-in double sized corner blocks for lasting strength.
  • Support Foundation: Seat backs should be wire springs or a Marshall unit for support and comfort. Good seat systems are typically comprised of a spring system with individually placed eight-way hand tied tempered steel coils. We also like European suspension systems that look like woven seatbelt materials and provide excellent comfort.
  • Padding and Fills: These can include polypropylene, blended cotton, poly fibers, environmentally safe polyurethane high density foams, down/feathers over spring systems and other materials to add comfort and plushness to the look and feel of your upholstery. We prefer all fills enclosed in muslin casings for long-term ease of use and cleaning.
  • Upholstery Textiles and Coatings: The durability of the fabric is determined by the type of fiber used in the construction of the fabric. Each fiber has unique properties such as color retention, luster, sturdiness, cleanability, and pleasing touch or tactile qualities. Some fibers most often used in upholstery fabrics are cotton, linen, flax, silk, wool, acrylic, nylon, trevira, polyester, and rayon. Leather is also very popular but not classified as a fiber. How textiles are applied to a piece can make a world of difference in the final product. We always recommend textiles and leather be coated for stain prevention. There are literally millions of textiles on the market today, and designers have access to materials you do not. Your designers are trained in textiles, leathers and applications at the university level and can assist in proper specification.
  • Styling: Good upholstery manufacturers allow a myriad of choices in the tailoring of your new upholstery. Good manufacturers include 4-way pattern matching of fabrics centering designs on seats and backs, and welts cut on the bias. You can also specify railroaded fabrics (turning the fabric 90 degrees), contrasting welts, high-end trims, down-filled toss pillows with or without trims, special seat and back cushions, various arm and leg styles, various skirt styles, multiple exposed wood finishes with standard or premium prices, tight or loose back cushions, seat tie-downs, soft edges, by-the-inch scale options and the list goes on and on. Your designers can help specify all the perfect options for you to give you that true custom look.
  • Sectionals, Sleepers, Motion Furniture: Sectionals come in 2 pieces or multiples with a huge variety of shapes and configurations, and can contain a sleeper as well. Sleepers have upgraded spring and mattress options for comfort, and motion furniture like recliners can now hug a wall with zero clearance needed. Again your designers are trained to evaluate these options for you.

A well chosen piece of upholstered furniture can provide great comfort and style, as well as become an heirloom for your family. As professional interior designers, we also have access to wood refinishers and reupholstery artist to rework a fine piece of upholstery to take it into the next century. Reworking a piece of fine furniture allows the designers to upgrade fills and textiles, and drastically alter the look of the frame as well, if appropriate. After your room is properly space planned, let us help you specify your next upholstery purchase or reupholster your furniture to ensure your satisfaction for years to come.

Please feel free to contact us via telephone at (317) 357-0155 with any questions about this material or to request more information about our services. Visit the It’s YouTM section on our website at to learn more about the Jeff Sheats Designs, Inc. interior design process. We are your partners in interior design.