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Buying upholstered furniture is a big investment. It should last a long time and be well-built and attractive. Above all else, look for quality. If you can't afford good quality furniture, you're probably better off making do with what you have until you can afford to buy top quality upholstered furniture.
The frame construction of upholstered furniture should be made from strong woods. Hardwood such as cherry offers a tougher support system than softwood such as pine. The joints of the frame should be double or triple doweled for the most secure construction.
The type and number of coils used in upholstered furniture is a good indicator of quality. The sinuous types of coils are usually considered fine for use in the seat back, but not in the seat area itself because this area needs more support. Sinuous coils in the seat areas of upholstered chairs and sofas signal low quality. Instead, look for spring coils. Spring coils are hand-tied to the frame with twine, clips or ties.
The webbing material between the frame and the springs should be tightly woven and taut. It should stretch smoothly across the entire area with no gaping or bunching. Feel under the cushions of upholstered furniture with your hand. If it feels well-padded, the piece may be of high quality.
Cushions should have even stitching and seams. Fabrics should be smooth. Patterns such as stripes should be matched up. Loose threads signal low quality work. Remember that expensive fabric may not always be the best choice.
Make sure that the fabric on the upholstered furniture you're considering buying works with your lifestyle. For example, will it disguise pet hair or make it more noticeable? Does it have a soil-resistant finish? Does the cleaning method meet with your expectations? As a general rule, plush and velvets tend to wear well, while loosely-woven or glazed cottons may look dull and worn with use.
When you sit in upholstered furniture, it should not only feel comfortable and supportive, but it shouldn't move or make noise. Move back and forth and from side to side to test the upholstered furniture you're considering buying. When you find the right upholstered furniture for your needs, remember also that it should fit in with your home’s style and the room size. Smaller rooms generally need smaller scale furniture, while larger rooms can often accommodate larger pieces.