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Buying Q&A: Quality Upholstery?

Q.

The Nest Q&A

How can I tell if the upholstered couch I like is good quality?

A.

First and foremost, pick up a corner of the couch; it should be heavy. “Good upholstered furniture is heavy because the quality products and techniques cost more,” explains Sergio Tinoco, founder of L.A.’s custom design company Designs by Sergio, which has done upholstering work for hotels and celebrity clients, including Jennifer Garth and Noah Wyle (designsbysergio.com). “If the furniture is weightless, it’s a sign it is made with low quality materials and wood.” Next, ask or do research to find out what wood was used to make the frame inside. “The best is the kiln-dried hardwood frame, which is pliable but sturdy, and won’t fracture easily,” says Sotheby’s-trained home shopping expert Jennifer Litwin, author of Best Furniture Buying Tips Ever The hardwoods of choice, adds Tinoco, “are alder, maple, oak, walnut, and mahogany.” Third on the list, check the fabric. Most important is that the fabric is double-stitched. Then, “Make sure the fabric goes all the way down the inside back of the couch, rather than just halfway and then covered by pillows,” says Litwin. “Over time, the staples become undone and loose, and the fabric will get more ratty looking.” Even better? Where the fabric meets the wood or metal legs, “look for welting or piping there, which protects the fabric so it doesn’t pull and remains in place,” says Litwin. And finally, ask if the couch legs are hot-glued to the base—believe it or not, you want this. “Screws and nails can come loose,” says Litwin, “so it’s important to have a hot glue attachment to the base.” Who knew?

-- Amy Spencer

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