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karen paul interiors
Drexel Heritage, Vanguard, Hickory White, Hickory Chair, Sherrill, Taylor King, Pearson, Lexington. These are all worthwhile manufacturers. The Taylor King line is something many showrooms will use as their own "private label". It's a decent quality and is pretty much simple lines. It's probably going to be your best value. Lexington used to be one of the bottom of the barrel lines and has completely changed it's quality. I recently ordered several upholstered chairs for a job and was blown away by the attention to detail and the excellent quality. I was shopping price point and found them to be much higher than they used to be, but I was not disappointed. Vanguard is still considered a decent manufacturer but they have (as have most all better manufacturers) put in place their price-point lines. So you still have 8-way hand tied construction with all the bells and whistles but their tailoring shows short cuts at times. However, you still get a far better quality and execution that all the names mentioned thus far. Hickory Chair has not compromised its quality but it is, for the most part, a more traditional manufacturer. Hickory White is very decent and better priced than Hickory Chair, Drexel Heritage and Vanguard (for the most part). Pearson tends to be more transitional but I haven't specified them in decades because I had been working with a more traditional clientele until now. All the "upscale" furniture stores such as Ethan Allen, Crate & Barrel, Room & Board, Rowe, Lazy Boy, Natuzzi and Z Gallery are all pretty much the same quality. None of them are producing a fully 8-way hand tied product. Also, for the most part you can detect the quality (lack of it) in the tailoring in these lines. Welting will not be even, seams will show up where they shouldn't be and patterns don't match from top to bottom and as you turn a corner....all things that drive me nutz! There is 8 way (fully) and then 8 way...two totally different procedures. Anyway, I guess you have to ask yourself how long you plan to live with this upholstery. The fabric will wear out before the piece and then you will feel you need to have it recovered because of the quality of your investment. For me at this late date, I look at the tailoring all the way around (all the finishing touches), how it sits and I open up the cushions to have an informed opinion and if the price is right, I'll make the purchase. Hope this helps.
December 27, 2012 at 10:15pm     
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karen paul interiors
If you are contemplating a piece of upholstery without the fully 8-way construction, then it is important to check out the cushions. I've clipped a piece that describes the variety of wrappings and what performs well and what will not keep it's shape. Density, density, density. Now that you have considered the frame and seating support, it is time to look at what kind of filling is used for the cushions.

If you want a really soft seat then consider down cushions. These are considered to be the premium choice, and as you might imagine they are also among the most expensive. High quality cushions will have down proof ticking under the upholstery fabric to prevent feathers from poking through. Be warned that cushions filled just with down are very high maintenance requiring daily attention.
Down used in combination with other materials is also a good option, but also expensive. Pads made out of a Dacron® polyester fiber and down, known as Blendown pads, are wrapped around high density foam.
These pads can also be used with springs that have been wrapped up in foam. High density foam surround the springs that are then wrapped in down pads. The result is a soft surface with a strong, resilient support inside. This is a good option as the cushions do not lose their shape easily.
The most common filling is high density polyurethane. Obviously, the higher the density, the firmer the cushion will be. Foam can be wrapped in softer material or cotton to make it softer. Dacron wrapped foam is the cheapest option, but again it won’t last as long.
Make sure that you are getting high density foam, as lower quality foam can start breaking down pretty quickly.
December 29, 2012 at 11:01am     
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Peggy Berk - Area Aesthetics Interior Design
housebrowser, there's 8-way hand tied and 8-way hand tied today... companies such as Ethan Allen advertise 8-way hand tied but they are using pre-fab 8-way hand-tied drop in boxes from China, not quality 8-way hand tied upholstery, which is indeed tied by hand. While there are better and worse quality sinuous springs, they will not last as long as hand tied springs.

The quality of fabric is important, but not nearly as important as the innards - as most fabrics weaken from the inside, from the abrasion of the springs (8-way hand tied springs are designed to lessen this abrasion)...

If you're going transitional, I would stay away from foam altogether - very few manufacturers put springs in their foam cushions (mostly European manufacturers of very high end modern and contemporary upholstered pieces); without springs, even the best foams don't have the longevity....

I think Lee makes a good sofa for the price point and, if you have a designer to work with, I would recommend Kravet (available through the trade)... they have a wide range of styles at many price points and more than 60,000 fabrics to choose from. I think it's the best value (quality v. price) in the marketplace.
December 29, 2012 at 12:25pm     
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karen paul interiors
To Peggy....Absolutely correct about the 8-way hand tied situation. I listed all the supposedly "upscale" manufacturers and Ethan Allen was among them. That was tongue in cheek, of course. I forgot to list Pottery Barn. I'm also assuming Restoration Hardware fits into the same category as the others. I've not researched them. What is truly sad is most of the salespeople don't even know what they do or don't have in their upholstery lines. I worked for Ethan Allen for a year when I was desperate for a job after having moved out West. We did the factory tour! Lord have mercy, to hear them opine about their quality one would think they had the best of the best. I was fortunate enough to go on many factory tours back East and learned the ways and the wiles of manufacturers. This of course was before the U.S. was importing upholstery from China. Back then it was the occasional "Cherry" dining room set and when I noted the wood was filled with termites, that cause quite a stir!. Peggy mentions Lee which seems to be quite popular among designers, but I've not yet specified their line. The popularity though doesn't really count as I know many designers are also specifying Crate and Barrel which is a shame for the client. The public has become very price point oriented and doesn't really understand what has happened to quality in general. The low end manufacturers reached price parity with the better lines quite some time ago. So that is how you now will pay $3,000 for a piece of junk and you could have had an entirely different quality from a better manufacturer for about the same amount, or a little more. A lot of research and knowledge will go a long way to arm the consumer with what it takes to make good decisions. I will tell you however, you can begin with letting your eye inform you. Low end manufacturers are not going to take the time or go to the expense to make certain welting goes on straight, or that a pattern match occurs (this requires more fabric and makes for a more expensive piece). Those are just 2 things you can begin with before you ever have to turn a piece over or inspect the inside of a cushion. Cynthia is absolutely correct about the sinuous spring situation also. Most of these manufacturers with the lesser quality do not really expect their pieces to hold up for more than 4-5 years, if that long. We have become a throwaway society. Decades ago one would buy the best with the understanding that those pieces would be kept for 20 or more years and we would from time to time have those pieces reupholstered and would have the springs checked to see if they needed to be retied. That was then and this is now. Unfortunately, the dealers have come to the conclusion they cannot afford to go above a specific price point if they really want to move their merchandise. The era of the Big Box stores and the Chains have made it nearly impossible to find quality anything. That is why it is so important to spend the extra money and find yourself a well-informed designer who can lead you in the right direction toward quality you can count on. That is where research on your part is so incredibly important. If you find yourself speaking to a designer who appears to know even less than you about construction and what to look for, you will then be able to keep looking until you find your expert.
December 29, 2012 at 2:03pm     
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