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Upholstered Furniture – Essential Tips on Shopping and Maintenance

Updated on January 13, 2017
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It was his love for cleanliness that prompted Jason to establish this company in 2000 and Perth seemed to be a natural choice.

A Living Room with Upholstered Furniture
A Living Room with Upholstered Furniture

What is Upholstered Furniture?

If there is an aspect of living room which you just cannot afford to ignore, it is that of upholstered furniture. In addition to setting the tone and complementing the décor, this factor is also crucial in determining the degree of comfort that the room provides.

As a rule, upholstered furniture is always sheathed within what could be fabric, leather or vinyl. Given that these come in a range of attractive colours and designs, it is but natural to imagine why buyers get carried away by the external appearance while shopping for upholstered furniture. However, there is another side to this type of furniture that should also be taken into account, namely comfort, and this is attributed to cushions and foam which are a part of the package.

Ever since it came into being in the 17th century, upholstered furniture has always been associated with stability and comfort. That said, the shapes are often a result of creativity of the craftsman and as long as they are sufficiently supportive, all that is needed is to be concealed within a sheath that is appealing in terms of colour, design and texture. Therefore, when you venture out to shop for this type of furniture, not only should you be aware of the style but also of other parameters that could define its relevance.

Traditional Upholstered Furniture

Types of Upholstered Furniture

Based on style, upholstered furniture falls under two broad categories namely traditional and contemporary and the difference between the two is discussed as follows –

Construction – Traditional furniture is based on hardwood structure which is constructed with the help of screws, glue and dowels and as a result is both solid as also stable. This skeleton is then wrapped up in layers of wool or horsehair till it acquires a desired shape. In case you opt for the traditional style, a good way of judging the quality would be to weigh the furniture because heavier is always superior.

Contemporary furniture is built using board, foam and fibre wherein dense foam is wrapped around a metal or timber frame to acquire the desired shape. A characteristic that sets modern furniture apart from its traditional counterparts is its angular shape or curvy lines not to mention exposed frames.

Springs – While springs in traditional upholstered furniture are coiled, S-shaped or serpentine, contemporary furniture relies only on coiled versions.

Looks – Usually the term ‘traditional’ is synonymous with classic or formal and this is applicable in case of upholstered furniture too. While strictly traditional furniture is tight-backed and bereft of loose cushions, there are variations wherein you can change covers every once in a while and add a couple of cushions to accentuate the shape.

Comparatively modern furniture is minimal and simplistic and the number of cushions is determined by factors such as style, size and shape. There are options like modular and recliner under this category wherein the furniture is as functional as it is aesthetically appealing.

Contemporary Upholstered Furniture

A Note on Leather Furniture

Sleek and luxurious, leather is a popular choice for upholstered furniture owing to its durability and resistance to dust mites. However, it is expensive and hence requires a higher investment as compared to other types of fabric. It also needs regular maintenance in terms of polishing using specific cleaning agents that are meant to make it shine without causing any harm.

Choosing Upholstered Furniture As Per Usage
Choosing Upholstered Furniture As Per Usage

Buying Upholstered Furniture – Factors to Bear in Mind

Irrespective of whether you opt for traditional or modern furniture, fact remains that it is likely to be the focal point of your living room on which your family would spend plenty of time. Therefore, it has to be perfect and to ensure that it is, following are the guidelines that you must bear in mind –

Size of the room – The bigger the room, the more would be the number of furniture pieces that you would require to cover up the space. Corner sofas, wall-lined sofas and recliners are some options that are ideally suited for large spaces since they can accommodate a big crowd on one hand and also ensure intimacy for a close-knit family as and when required.

Likewise, smaller rooms call for small-sized sofas and may be options that would provide seating options without the room appearing too crowded,

Upkeep and maintenance – Does your family comprise of children and pets? Is it located in an area wherein construction work is often in progress or is in close proximity to a busy thoroughfare? These are some of factors that you need to bear in mind while selecting furniture since they would have a direct bearing on its upkeep.

Families that are inclusive of children and pets must choose furniture that would be easy to clean in terms of spills, stains, urine and pet hair. To this effect, areas that are prone to dust and grime must opt for upholstery that can be brushed every day and deep cleaned once in a while without suffering any adverse after-effects.

Comfort – This is probably the most important criterion when it comes to furniture because there is no point in dotting your living room with chairs, couches and sofa that are uncomfortable and hence are best avoided. Often comfort is an outcome of texture and thickness. So the onus is on you to opt for a fabric that would be comfortable all through the year regardless of the ongoing season.

Patterned Upholstered Furniture
Patterned Upholstered Furniture

Colour – For the upholstered furniture to blend in smoothly with the existing décor, the colour of the upholstery should complement to colour of the carpet and the walls. For example, a room with plain beige walls would look attractive if the upholstery features attractive patterns on a beige base.

Style – Do you want your living room to echo a classic undertone or would you prefer subtle contemporary lines and curves? Because furniture is one of the elements that play a crucial role in reinforcing the theme, bearing in mind the style during the selection process is of utmost importance.

Budget – Given the overwhelming number of options, it would be a good idea to ascertain the budget beforehand so as to narrow down the choices. Doing so would also limit your shopping to those avenues that offer furniture in the range desired by you and also enable you to check discounts and offers.

Choosing Shades and Fabric of Upholstered Furniture
Choosing Shades and Fabric of Upholstered Furniture

Tips for Selecting Perfect Upholstered Furniture

At the time of looking for furniture, there are certain aspects that everyone would unanimously vote for namely comfort, aesthetics and style. So the perfect option would be one which is a combination of all these elements. That said, following are a few useful tips that could come in handy while shopping for the perfect upholstered furniture for home or commercial use –

  • Before you begin shopping for upholstered furniture, it is important to ascertain how it would be used in terms of amount of time spent on it and activities. If it is likely to be used by children and pets, a recommendation would be to invest in furniture that is sturdy as also easy to maintain. Similarly if your family intends to spend most part of the day lounging on it, then it should be resilient enough to retain shape.
  • Preference should be given to frames that are solid, stable and strong enough to resist warping because these have been known to last for a long time and therefore act as good support structures.
  • Frames made of hardwood, maple or oak have been known to be more durable than those made from plywood, plastic or steel which are prone to bending as a result of daily usage.
  • Not only should all the pieces of the frame be glued correctly but they should also be adequately supported through webbings, sling straps and springs. You must opt for furniture in which corner blocks are either glued or screwed together and coil springs are used to provide support.
  • Cushioning of the furniture should be a combination of foam and polyester wherein the emphasis should be not just on comfort and resilience but also resistance to moth, mildew and fungi.
  • If your upholstered furniture is likely to be used frequently, you must opt for durable fabrics like nylon. Likewise if it has limited use, then you can think in terms of using satin and brocade.
  • As far as possible, go through every inch of the selected furniture to ensure that buttons and zippers are functional, seams are straight, patterns match all across the surface of the upholstery and the cushions fit well.
  • Last but not the least, sit on every piece of furniture and check how it feels in terms of height and depth of the seat. Angle of the back-rest is another feature that should be checked since it has a direct bearing on your spine’s health.

Upholstered Furniture with Cushions
Upholstered Furniture with Cushions

How to Clean Furniture by Yourself

  • Remove all the cushions.
  • Using a brush with soft bristles, brush the surface thoroughly to get rid of the dust.
  • Vacuum clean the entire surface.
  • Dilute cleaning agent with water and apply it on the upholstery.
  • Scrap away the dirt.
  • Rinse the surface with a clean damp cloth.
  • Let it dry completely before being used again.

How to Maintain Your Upholstered Furniture

After your carpet, upholstery is the next aspect of your house that is most susceptible to attracting dirt and grime which in turn render its appearance dull. On being ignored, dirt and dust tend to form a layer and then it becomes increasingly difficult of the home-owner to restore the furniture to its original beauty. Rather than procrastinating and letting the upholstery of your furniture suffer, you could resort to regular maintenance by following the measures described –

Getting Rid of Dirt – By brushing off the dirt and dust every alternate day, you can prevent the build-up of multiple layers on the surface of the upholstery. The same can also be achieved by vacuum cleaning at least twice a week as long as you are careful not to pull out the threads of the fabric.

Shield Upholstery from Direct Sunlight – Fabric has been known to fade if exposed to the direct rays of the sun and hence this should be avoided by keeping furniture a little away from the windows or alternatively keeping it covered. Exposure to sunlight also implies letting in pollutants and fumes which could further cause damage to the fabric. For this reason, even cushions and slip-covers should not be dried outside in the sun.

Use Fabric Protector – One of the ways that you can protect the fabric of your upholstery entails application of a protective layer that would preserve the shine and cleanliness of the surface. Given the wide variety of fabric protectors available in the market, a strong recommendation would be to select one which is eco friendly and at the same time strong enough to protect the fabric without leaving any traces.

Remove Stains Immediately – As soon as you notice a stain, you must act upon it by using a cleaning agent and rubbing the area gently. Not only will this measure prevent the stain from soaking within the fabric but will also prevent discolouration of that particular patch.

While the normal wear and tear of upholstered furniture is inevitable, what can be prevented is rapid deterioration and this is the objective of regular maintenance. So over a period of time, even if your furniture loses its new look, it would still appear clean and hence would be appealing to guests.

Final Word

Overwhelming though it might seem, your objective at the time of selecting upholstered furniture should be to pick pieces that are versatile. To this effect, you must opt for fabrics that are neutral and accentuate them by gathering cushions and adornments that would hold up well throughout the year.

Using slip-covers is another way of changing the look of your upholstered furniture without much effort and this will also provide the much needed variety in your décor. Having assembled the entire unit, you must dedicate your energy towards maintenance so that the magic that you have created remains preserved for as long as possible.


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