You Only Cry Once: The Value of Well-made Upholstery

Upholstery for chairs and sofas

Stacey Lapuk, ASID

Other than providing a place to sit, sofas, chairs, and other upholstery need to feel comfortable. Looking beautiful, having proper proportions and scale for the room and living easily with the other elements of your room are added bonuses.

Whether you’re curling up with a book, entertaining guests or lounging after a long day, these pieces serve as sanctuaries of relaxation. However, not all upholstery is created equal. There is a significant gap between a well-crafted, luxurious sofa or chair commanding a larger investment, and their less expensive counterparts. So, what should you look for when considering your new furniture?

The most obvious distinction is the quality of the materials used in the construction of your furniture. Hardwood frames that are properly kiln-dried and sustainably sourced, full-grain leathers and beautifully woven fabrics, high-density foam, quality feathers and down, and exceptionally finished metals for nailheads or chabots all add to the quality of the sofa or chair.

These premium aspects not only enhance the comfort, but also contribute to the durability and lasting enjoyment of the sofa or chair.

In contrast, less expensive upholstery frequently utilizes materials of a lower grade to minimize costs. “Genuine” leather lasts for only a short time, as it is produced from leftover leather after the full- and top-grain leather products are made. Its feel, therefore, is far less pleasing. “Corrected-grain” leather is produced from hides that do not meet the minimum standards in making aniline and vegetable-tanned leather. Again, they do not last, nor feel very nice. Faux leather upholstery is another way to save on the production costs of a sofa or chair, as are lower quality fabrics. Thin foam padding and particleboard frames add to the compromise of the longevity and comfort of a piece. The result is an upholstered piece that may initially seem appealing, due to its affordability. However, it will quickly deteriorate under regular use, leaving you with sagging cushions and peeling upholstery.

A well-made sofa or chair is a testament to the time it takes to create and the skill of the craftsman. Expert artisans meticulously construct each piece, paying attention to every detail, from the stitching on the upholstery to the precision and quality of the joinery and extra blocking where needed. This level of craftsmanship not only enhances the sofa or chair’s aesthetic appeal, but it also contributes to its structural integrity.

Less expensive sofas and chairs, on the other hand, often sacrifice craftsmanship in favor of mass production. Assembly line manufacturing prioritizes speed and cost-efficiency over quality, resulting in sloppy stitching, uneven seams, misaligned fabric patterns and shoddy construction. While these flaws may not be immediately apparent, they can manifest over time, detracting from the overall comfort and appearance of the sofa. And they simply don’t feel right.

Comfort, as noted earlier, is perhaps the most crucial aspect of any sofa. A well-made sofa or chair provides unparalleled comfort and support, thanks to its superior design and materials. High-density foam and feather cushions conform to your body, offering optimal support and pressure relief, while sturdy frames prevent sagging and hold up to the antics of kids and animals.

Budget-friendly upholstery will manifest in uncomfortable seating that will look and feel worn before its time. Thin cushions compress easily, and inferior frames lack stability.

Investing in a well-made sofa or chair is not just about immediate gratification; it’s about long-term satisfaction. High-quality sofas are built to last, boasting robust construction and premium materials that withstand the rigors of daily use. With proper care and maintenance, a well-made sofa can retain its beauty and functionality for years to come, making it a worthwhile investment.

Sofas and chairs that are much less expensive, on the other hand, often have a limited lifespan. From flimsy frames prone to warping and bending to subpar upholstery that easily tears and stains, these sofas are more susceptible to wear and tear . They will look old and worn quickly. While the initial cost may be enticing, the need for frequent replacements can add up, making them a potentially less economical choice in the long run (and adding to our landfill!).

Beyond comfort and durability, (which is, in my mind, of great importance) the aesthetics of a sofa or chair play a significant role in defining the feeling of your living space. Well-made sofas exude stability, comfort and beauty with a timeless design to support all styles. Whether it’s a classic leather Chesterfield, a modern, clean-lined sectional, a timeless wingback or a cozy swivel lounge chair, these pieces are statements that anchor and enhance the design of your home.

Cheaper upholstery often lacks the correct proportions, scale and attention to detail found in their more expensive counterparts. Simple, general “safe” designs, as well as generic upholstery fabric and “leather” options, limit customization and result in a lackluster appearance that fails to make a lasting impression.

Be aware of these differences. Consider what is most valuable to you. While the allure of cost-effective pieces may tempt you initially, investing in high-quality upholstery is ultimately a decision that pays dividends in comfort, durability, and style. By prioritizing superior materials, expert craftsmanship and timeless design, you can elevate your living space and enjoy the unparalleled comfort of a truly wonderful sofa or chair for years to come.

Need help selecting the right upholstery for your space? Get in touch with us to schedule a consultation.

Stacey Lapuk, ASID

Stacey Lapuk, ASID is celebrating her 30th year with her firm. Named “One of America’s Ten Designers To Watch” by Design Times Magazine, one of the “Top 100 Interior Designer in North America” by Blink Art Resources, and the winner of multiple national design awards.  Her goal is simple: To co-create with her clients the home of their dreams with responsive and comprehensive solutions, and timeless, beautiful results. 

Her full service firm attracts clients desiring the finest workmanship, materials and custom design. Facets of work include partnering with architects on new construction, remodels, kitchen design and bath design, color consultation, custom furniture, flooring, area carpets, wall and window treatments, lighting design, art procurement and antique acquisition.  Service areas include but are not limited to Marin County, San Francisco, Napa, Sonoma, Ross, Kentfield, Belvedere, Tiburon, San Rafael, and Pacific Heights.