Finding the Perfect Piece of Custom Upholstery
Looking to replace or purchase your first piece of upholstered furniture?
Four simple steps in the process will help you select a quality piece of furniture that should meet your needs for years, if not decades to come.
1. Identify What You Are Looking For?
The best way to find your ideal furniture is to consider how you will use it? Will I curl up and read a good book, or am I looking to gather several people on the sectional for the Sunday game? What is the life you really live? Not the life we share on Instagram. Be true to this because we rarely change our life to accommodate the furniture we buy. We need to buy a piece of furniture that will fit the life we actually live.
Who is going to use it?
Is it only for company or does Rufus have a favorite spot even though “you never allow the dog on the sofa?”
Do you get a lot of natural daylight?
Darker colors may fade. Do you have small children? Performance fabrics might be where to start. Do you have cats and/or dogs? Leather may not be the best option as it can scratch or puncture from teeth or nails.
What are you replacing?
Most importantly, if you are replacing a piece of furniture, it is best to create a list about that current piece you have noting what you liked and didn’t like about it. Now’s your chance to make it longer, deeper, whiter, softer and so on.
2. Prepare for Making the BIG Purchase
Measure, measure and measure some more!
- Measure your room.
- Know how big your space is.
- Measure your ceiling height.
- Average is not a thing.
- Measure the current piece of furniture.
Note: If it could be bigger or smaller. What was there wasn’t necessarily right to begin with so don’t assume you need to replace it exactly.
Take pictures of the space to share with your salesperson.
It is important to share what other decorative items you have in the space when selecting scale, fabrics and styles.
100% Made in USA Is the Highest Quailty
Assuming you are looking for quality, American made is still the best. Not just assembled or finished in the USA, but 100% made here.
- Find a store or brand that offers that. We carry Norwalk Furniture, the longest running manufacturer of custom upholstery made entirely in America.
- Do your research online.
- Look for resources to back up the construction process.
- Look for green practices and sustainable resources used.
- Once you have selected the lines you are interested in, head on over to your local showroom with pictures and measurements in hand. Be prepared to spend some time at the showroom. (i.e. Don’t go on an empty stomach with 20 minutes to spare before you have to pick up the kids.)
Test drive the floor samples.
A showroom should have at least five pieces of furniture by that maker so you can see the overall quality and compare the comfort.
- Sit on the furniture exactly the way you would at home. Be respectful of the showroom pieces, but good showrooms will expect you to lie on it and curl up your feet (after you remove your shoes).
- Ask about the manufacturing process. Our showroom has furniture that has been cut open so you can see the inside frame and construction. If you can’t see it, we guarantee it. But we love to show you the seven layers of interlocking hardwood, the extra layers of down fill around the foam core and the machine tied interlocking springs. We love that it takes 54 pairs of hands to build each piece of our American made furniture. The showroom that you visit should love these details too. They should also have plenty of documented supporting materials to explain the process and details behind the frame construction and warranties.
Take it apart
Once you have sat on it, get up and take it apart.
- Look at the decking under the cushions.
- Feel the sides of the frame. You shouldn’t be able to feel cardboard under the fabric or be able to stretch the fabric with your knee.
- Look at how the seams line up. Do the patterns line up perfectly?
- Does the frame rock? Is it super lightweight? These are not good signs of solid construction.
3. Consider the Considerations
Styles change with the times.
Try to avoid details which might date the age of your purchase. High back frames, large rolled arms, and fussy fabric trims/ tassels are no longer a trend. Fabric details such as button tufting seating are attractive and used regularly in mid century modern furniture. However they are dirt collectors. Who is going to keep those details clean?
Leather versus fabric is a personal choice.
Leather does require care and is not impervious. Leather can stain. It can also get scratched or punctured. You do have to treat and clean your leather. All leather is not the same. Quality leather (usually from South America) should be half or full aniline. This means the hide has been soaked in a drum of dye so the color runs all the way through. Leather that chips or cracks has not been dyed. The color has been sprayed on and the plastic coating is what peels and cracks off.
Fabrics come in a variety of fibers and colors.
Each fabric swatch should describe the fabric. Man made materials like Olafin, herculon and 100% polypropylene have made fantastic strides providing softness and a better hand than decades ago. Look for blends. These fabrics are some of the easiest to clean and care for. Avoid satins, linens, cottons and silks for fabric frames. These are best for throw pillows. They tend to not hold shape and they are the hardest to clean.
Consider a neutral color for the frame, bringing in more daring and trendy fabrics on pillows. That way your frame remains timeless, and you can update your style with less expensive accents.
Sunlight is not friendly to fabrics.
If you have a lot of natural daylight, avoid darker fabrics. Fabric grades don’t determine the quality of a fabric. Bolts tend to be more expensive when there is a pattern as there will be more waste lining up stripes and details. Most importantly, the hand or feel of the fabric is everything. How does it feel when you run your hand over it? That is how it will feel against your leg or arm. Make sure it feels good.
Cushions are a personal preference.
Firm, soft or just right will be different for everyone. Look for a good warranty (our foam cushions are guaranteed for life). Down cushions or foam wrapped in down are an upgrade and generally not guaranteed forever. But oh how good they feel.
4. Choose the Right Showroom
Find a showroom that encourages your questions and has supporting materials to back up their answers.
If someone offers to come to your house, let them!
They might see the things you forgot to tell them. Like the sofa you are selecting won’t fit through your front door?
You can work with a showroom like ours virtually.
If you can’t find a local showroom that is a good fit for you, we have the technology to interface online. And Black Whale Home ships FREE anywhere in the continental United States.