What is the best fabric for upholstered furniture?

The best fabric will depend on a number of different factors:

  • How much are you willing to spend?
  • How important is stain prevention?
  • How long do you expect to own the furniture?
  • What texture(s) feel best to you?
  • Do you want solid colors or patterns?
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If stain prevention is important stay away from the natural fibers like cotton and linen. Removing stains from silk can be almost impossible.

Over the past few years there have been many new fabrics developed that are specifically designed to be practically stainproof.

There are now many high performance American Made fabrics with built-in permanent stain-proofing technology. Some of these brands include Crypton, Sunbrella, Revolution and BellaDura. There are several others as well.

If long term durability is important check out the Abrasion test rating for the fabric.

The most common (but not the only) abrasion test is the Wyzenbeek double rub test. According to this scale fabrics below 15,000 double rubs are considered light duty for residential use. 15,000 – 30,000 are medium duty and above 30,000 is considered heavy duty.

The price of the fabric has very little relationship to durability. There are many inexpensive heavy duty microfibers, polyesters and others.

Expensive fabrics are often delicate (and difficult to clean.)

Fabric mills have come a long way in the science of creating new looks and textures using common fibers. For example 100% polyesters can look and feel like suedes, velvets, linens, wools, cottons and other textures.

In recent years polypropylene (also known as olefin) fabrics have become very popular as durable, stainproof options.

Most (but not all) of these synthetics are solid colors. More exotic looks and textures can be found in fabrics made with a blend of natural and synthetic fibers. There are thousands of different fabric blend combinations available.

Cottons and cotton blends still give the best choices for colorful prints. Most (but not all) of these will be less durable and more difficult to clean than most of the synthetics.

Regarding “scotchguard” or other after market fabric protectors — When aftermarket fabric protectors were first introduced about 50 years ago they were silicon based and worked great! Unfortunately they were also determined to be carcinogenic and banned from sale.

Today’s fabric protectors are water-based – much safer but also much less effective. Basically my feeling is that they add some protection to cottons, linens and other textured loose weave fabrics.

This protection is not permanent and should be renewed every 6 months to a year to maintain the protection.

I have not seen any conclusive evidence that these fabric protectors add any significant protection to microfibers or fabrics with built-in protection such as Scotchguard, Teflon or the Crypton, Revolution, BellaDura or Sunbrella fabrics.

Aftermarket fabric protection is a big profit maker for retailers. You can generally get the same protection at a fraction of the price by buying a spray can of the stuff at your local supermarket or hardware store.

One warning about added fabric protection – check your warranty before adding any type of fabric protection.

Many furniture warranties will specifically exclude coverage for any fabrics that have been cleaned or had fabric protection added.

(The same warranties will usually exclude most of the most common types of problems that may occur even if you don’t have fabric protection.)

-Reprinted with permission from Jeff Frank’s blog. Jeff is a 40 year furniture professional and owner of simplicitysofas.com.

His opinions do not always reflect those of Furniture Works, but we find his ideas & expertise always interesting. For more useful articles, visit our blog.

What Everyone Needs to Know Before Buying Their Next Couch

Cushion construction is the single most important factor in determining the comfort and lifespan of your couch, sofa, or chair.

A furniture industry survey recently indicated that most consumers expect their new couches to last only 3–5 years.

That estimate is probably pretty accurate. The reason for this short lifespan, however, is very surprising to most consumers.

Uneducated consumers concerned about the durability of their furniture often ask first about frame/foundation construction and fabrics.

In reality many “cheap” frames and inexpensive fabrics will last far longer than 5 years.

Cushions are almost always the first part of a sofa or couch that will wear out and need replacement.

Unfortunately, most manufacturers and retailers make it very difficult to replace worn out or damaged cushions.

Cushion replacement generally requires working with a professional custom upholsterer and can be expensive.

Most cushions sold with low and mid-priced upholstered furniture will begin to lose their shape and comfort within 1 – 3 years and will need replacement within 3-5 years.

There are three basic types of cushion construction for most couches and sofas sold in the U.S.

Coil springs
Many cushions are made using a combination of two or all three of these various constructions.

Foam is the most commonly sold cushion construction. It is available in several different densities.

Each foam density is available in a wide variety of different firmnesses.

Although most people think that density and firmness are synonymous they are actually very different.

Most foam suppliers typically stock 4-5 commonly used densities for residential furniture seat cushions ranging from 1.5 to 2.5. The number designates the weight (in pounds) of 1 cubic ft. of foam.

Each of these different densities may be available in 10 or more different firmnesses ranging from very soft to very firm.

The expected lifespan of a foam cushion is primarily dependent on the density and thickness of the foam.

Another important factor is whether the foam is HR (High Resiliency) which recovers its shape better after use.

The frequency of use and the size of the people using the cushion will also affect a seat cushion’s lifespan.

A foam cushion’s “firmness” has very little effect on the expected lifespan.

However since most consumers equate “firmness” with durability, cheap foams are often made “extra firm.” With a low density foam, however, that “extra firm” feeling will not last long.

Foams used in seat cushions for moderately priced residential furniture generally range from 1.5 through 2.0.

Lower density foams are typically used for back cushions or padding that goes over the arms or other parts of the frame.

Higher densities (2.0 – 2.5) can be found on more expensive residential furniture.

Furniture designed for heavy commercial or institutional use may use foam with densities of 3.0 or higher.

The higher the foam density the more the cushion will cost. Variations in firmness usually do not affect cost. HR (High Resilience) foam is more expensive than non-HR foams.

The most commonly used foam density for residential furniture sold in the U.S. is 1.8.

Foam that is described as “High Density” without any specific number is usually 1.8 density foam.

The foam core is usually anywhere from 4″ – 6″ thick and is typically wrapped in a dacron polyester fiber.

The fiber wrapping is generally 0.5 – 1.5″ thick on the top and bottom of the cushion. It softens the feel of the cushion and will add 2-3″ to the total cushion thickness, but has no effect on lifespan.

A 4″ thick foam core made with 1.8 density HR (High Resiliency) foam can be expected to last about 2 years with average use before the foam begins to lose its ability to bounce back and keep its shape .

A 5″ thick foam core made with 1.8 density HR (High Resiliency) foam can be expected to last about 3 years with average use before the foam begins to lose its ability to bounce back and keep its shape.

Foam cushions will typically still be usable for another couple of years after the deterioration process begins. Foams that are not High Resiliency will deteriorate more rapidly.

Actual foam densities will vary during the manufacturing process. A variation of 0.1 is considered normal. A 1.8 density foam may actually be 1.7 or 1.9. Larger variations are not unusual.

There are many couches sold with cheaper (and lighter weight) 1.5 density foam that will deteriorate even more rapidly, sometimes within one year of purchase.

The overall thickness of the cushion may or may not be an indication of a cushion’s durability.

“Value priced” couches will sometimes have cushions that are bulked up with several inches of polyester fiber around the foam core.

That polyester fiber will rapidly compress causing the cushion to lose its shape. Better quality sofas typically use 1″ – 1.5″ of fiber on each side of the cushion.

Lower quality couches may use up to 3″ of fiber on each side. Thick layers of fiber are a cheap way to bulk up a cushion over the short term. Thick fiber quickly compresses and causes the cushion to lose its shape – often within one year.

If you want to get more than 5 years of use from your couch you will need to find a couch with a better quality cushion.

Higher priced couches generally use thick higher density foams with at least a 2.0 density. but preferably higher.

Cushions supported by built-in coil springs are typically (but not always) more durable than lower density foam cushions.

These coil springs are surrounded by a foam border (which is typically 1.5 or 1.8 density) and then padded on the top and bottom with additional soft padding.

Down/feathers are often used as the padding in combination with coil springs. A down/feather “jacket” is used as a layer of padding on the top and bottom to soften the feel of the cushion.

Other common types of padding used in combination with coil spring cushions are memory foam and polyester fiber.

Down blend cushions use Down/feathers in combination with a foam core cushion. Down blend cushions have a shorter lifespan when compared with a solid slab of similar density foam.

When down/feathers are used with either coil springs or foam cores the mixture is typically 5% (or less) down and the remainder feathers. Down is far more expensive than feathers.

More expensive furniture may use higher percentages of down. Down is much softer and plush than feathers.

100% Down/feather cushions were extremely popular in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. They are far less common today, both because of the high cost and the need to fluff up the cushions every time you stand up. Down/feathers have no “resilience” and do not “bounce back” by themselves after use like foam or coil springs.

Regardless of the price that you paid for your cushions they are rarely covered under Warranty.

Warranties (including extended warranties) are usually written so that anything that happens to the cushions is considered either “normal wear” or “abuse.”

Either of these conditions will typically invalidate your warranty — even if the cushions are less than one year old.

Tip for the uneducated furniture purchaser – When shopping for a couch always test the cushions by picking them up.

As a general rule if the seat cushions feel “light” you are looking at a couch with a very short expected lifespan.

The longest lasting cushions will be the heaviest.

-Reprinted with permission from Jeff Frank’s blog. Jeff is a 40 year furniture professional and owner of simplicitysofas.com.

His opinions do not always reflect those of Furniture Works, but we find his ideas & expertise always interesting. For more useful articles, visit our blog.

What is the difference between $1000 and $2000 sofas?

Expensive high end sofas ($2000+) may have very different constructions than less expensive mid-priced couches ($1000 or less.)

Expensive sofas may also have identical constructions as much cheaper couches.
If you take two identical looking sofas with the same fabric there should be substantial construction and quality differences if one is priced at $1000 and the other at $2000.
But it is also possible to find $1000 and $2000 couches with identical construction and quality of workmanship.

Fabric cost is a huge variable.

$1000 mid-priced sofas often use very inexpensive fabrics. There are durable fabrics available to manufacturers at a mill price of $3 per yard.
There are literally thousands of fabrics available at $4 – $5 per yard.

Some of these are very good looking and durable. It is not unusual to find $5 fabrics on sofas (with superior construction) selling for $2000 or more.

An average sofa may use 15 yards of fabric. At $4 per yard this means that the sofa has a total of $60 worth of fabric (at the manufacturer’s cost.)

High performance fabrics are becoming very popular. Although there are some available for as little as $5 per yard, many have a cost of $10 – $20 per yard (or more.)

A manufacturer using a $15 per yard fabric for the same sofa above is now spending $225 for the fabric. [$165 more than the sofa with the $4/yd. fabric selling for $1000.]

After adding in the manufacturer’s and retailer’s profit margins, that $15/yd. fabric can add $500 or more to the retail price of the sofa.

Leather is even more expensive. Even a cheap Chinese leather can cost $350 – $500 per sofa.

When you add that to the original $1000 sofa you now have the same sofa quality and construction selling for $1800 – $2000. Better quality (more expensive) leathers can boost the cost even higher.

There are genuine leather sofas available in stores for $1000 – $1500.

Those leather sofas start with frame construction and quality that are equivalent to what can be found on $400 – $600 sofas made with low cost fabrics.

-Reprinted with permission from Jeff Frank’s blog. Jeff is a 40 year furniture professional and owner of simplicitysofas.com.

His opinions do not always reflect those of Furniture Works, but we find his ideas & expertise always interesting. For more useful articles, visit our blog.

Dive into the Future with Accessible-Friendly Furniture

picture of sofa

Although it’s been over 25 years since the Americans with Disabilities act has passed, less than one percent of U.S. housing is wheel-chair accessible. According to a study by the Department of Urban Development, about a third of housing is potentially modifiable for a person with a disability but haven’t unlocked their full potential. This is all about to change with the introduction of new accessible-friendly furniture. Through advancements in technology, the house doesn’t have to be wheelchair friendly, just the furniture that people choose to go in it.  

Robotic Assistants Disguised as Furniture

1 in 5 people in the United States live with a disability, yet many home furnishings do the bare minimum to accommodate everyone. Therefore, one company is revolutionizing the industry by introducing robotic furniture designed to help people live independently within their own homes. The robot is known as Relay and is considered a cross between a multifunctional table, a walking device, and a voice-controlled assistant. Each piece of furniture performs meaningful tasks for the homeowner. The furniture can carry heavy items around the home, help someone stand up from a seated position, provide extra support while walking throughout the house, and open doors. All the homeowner has to do is say a command like “Come here”.

Smart Homes Making Smart Choices

The smart house concept started in 1996, allowing humans to interact with robots living within the walls of their house. Nowadays, smart technology is everywhere and can be fitted to help everyone with their daily activities. These smart house devices can be installed within a home and allow users to simply talk to their furniture. You can install a smart light to allow you turn lights on and off with your voice, connect a smart remote so that you can turn the TV on just by talking, or utilize smart cooking technology so that you can make a meal right from the palm of your hand.

Furniture that Turns into Whatever You Want

A new system of furniture is being developed at a lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology that uses modular robots to assemble into different pieces of furniture. Therefore, you can use these tiny robots to assemble into a full-sized couch or break apart and become six dining chairs. Researchers are currently manipulating the robots, called Roombots, through a Bluetooth device, but they are attempting to provide control via gestures and Microsoft Kinect. This will allow elderly people or anyone with disabilities to simply make a motion to move a glass of water closer, pull a dining chair in and out, or turn a table into a walker. Technology is working to make our lives easier and, in the future, non-accessible homes will be a thing of the past. Eventually, our furniture will not only be stylish but accessible-friendly as well.

For more useful articles, vist our blog.

Chef-Approved Tips for Organising Your Home Kitchen

Staying healthy and eating proper food is one of the most important things in the world, but it’s also a challenge you need to invest a ton of time and energy into. That’s why lots of people spend hours and hours in the kitchen every single day, trying out new recipes and discovering new ingredients.

In order to do everything right, you need to organise your kitchen first and make sure it’s functional, practical and properly designed. Doing this on your own is quite all right, but listening to someone else’s advice can’t hurt, so here are a few ways to organise your kitchen, recommended by chefs who really know what they’re doing.

The Layout

This is the first step towards putting together a well-organised kitchen you can be proud of. So much depends on the type of the layout you pick, from the way you move around your kitchen to the food you prepare, so making sure the layout works for you is more important than you can imagine. After all, just picture spending your entire life in a kitchen you don’t like at all, not knowing where everything is and wasting time trying to prepare your food – doesn’t sound like fun, does it?

Luckily, there are lots of layouts you can choose from, so spend some time exploring these and figuring out which one is going to fit your kitchen the most. Depending on the amount of free space you have, you can choose between a U-shaped or an L-shaped kitchen, and these are two of the most popular designs out there. Alternatively, you can design a galley kitchen, a one-wall kitchen or a peninsula kitchen, but just be sure to leave enough space for moving around as well.

The Cabinets

Once you’ve decided which layout you’re going to use, it’s time to start furnishing and decorating your kitchen. First, take care of the cabinets because these will determine what kind of cooking experience you’ll have and whether you’ll love spending time in the kitchen in the first place or not. These are crucial, and not all cabinets will do, so give them all the attention they deserve.

No matter how big your kitchen is, utilise every inch of free space you have – this might not seem that important at the moment, but this is ultimately going to make or break your kitchen design. Don’t be afraid to design your own cabinets and tell your contractor what you want them to look like, because that’s the only way to get the cabinets that will actually fit you. Organise them in accordance with your own needs and try to keep the things you use on a daily basis close by while storing those you use rarely on the top shelves.

The Island

This is another feature you can see in all chef-approved kitchens, and it’s really something all cooks need, regardless of their experience and cooking skills. A kitchen island can seem too big at first, especially in tiny kitchens, but you can’t imagine how essential this really is. An island is an additional working area, storage area and, if you add a few bar stools to it, an additional eating area too, so it’s amazing on more levels than one.

What’s even better is that you can spice up your island by adding more features to it. Things like sinks, stoves, convection ovens, and dishwashers can be easily incorporated right in the middle of your kitchen island, not to mention lots and lots of pullout drawers that can fit in more stuff than you can imagine. If you opt for a stove, though, don’t forget to install one of those powerful fire ducts above it as well, as these will come in handy whatever you’re cooking.

The Countertops

In the end, this is another thing all modern kitchens need, so don’t forget to add as much countertop space as you can. Of course, you need to pay attention to the colour and make sure it matches the colour schemes of your walls and your cabinets. Going with the same colour can turn out to be too boring and counterproductive in the end, so either pick an accompanying colour or one that’s completely different.

When it comes to the materials, granite, marble, quartz, and wood are among the most popular choices out there. All of these materials are durable and are going to last you for decades, but check their pros and cons before making the final decision.

In the end, picking your kitchen furniture doesn’t have to be so hard, as long as you know what you’re trying to achieve and what kind of effect you’re going for. Take your time, think everything through, and you’ll surely come up with the best kitchen design in the world.

For more useful articles, visit our blog.