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How to Buy Upholstered Furniture

by Trisha Berendt

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Whether it's a sofa for your living room, a chaise for your bedroom, or a chair for your dining room, upholstered furniture is comfortable and stylish. You may be tempted to simply pick your favorite color, but remember that the inner construction of each piece makes just as much difference to the quality as the exterior does. When you're shopping, consider all of the features, and you'll end up buying pieces that will perfectly suit your needs.

Upholstered Furniture Features:

  1. The frame: Choose upholstered furniture with a sturdy frame for optimum support. Kiln-dried solid hardwood is one of the most durable materials; for the best long-term value, hardwood frames are an excellent choice. Steel and molded plastic frames are also very good, but they may not have quite as long of a life span. Furniture with a softwood or plywood frame will be the most affordable, but you will probably not get as many years of use out of it; if you're decorating your first apartment and not planning to keep the pieces forever, this may be a good option.

  2. The springs and filling: Eight-way hand-tied coil springs are the strongest for sofas and chairs. Steel springs are slightly less durable but also a sturdy choice. Dense foam works well for upholstered sofas and arm chairs, although cotton batting and down are also comfortable, if a bit less resilient, choices.

  3. The size: Measure the spot where you want to put the piece of furniture to see what size would be best. Consider the scale of the piece, too; a large sofa will look great in a contemporary great room, but it would overwhelm the living room in an older home. Also consider how deep the seat is and how tall the back is; the deeper and the taller it is, the better the piece is for lounging, but if you want a chair that's more for conversation or dining, you wouldn't want the seat to be very deep.

  4. The covering: Fabric-upholstered furniture comes in a wide variety of colors and designs, so you'll easily be able to find one that appeals to you. If you have kids or pets and need something that will wear well, consider leather furniture or microsuede furniture.

  5. The care: Some upholstery fabrics are easier to care for than others. Review the care instructions before making your purchase, so you know what the piece will eventually need. If a stain-resistant treatment is available, strongly consider getting it; this can save you a lot of work later on. Once you have your furniture, make sure you know what kind of cleaning solutions can be used on it. For more information on upholstered furniture care, read our guide on cleaning furniture.

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