At KP Designs, we strive to provide the best quality products to our clients – products that not only look beautiful, but will hold up through everyday life. Being in business over 20 years, we have researched and partnered with many different vendors and have learned what will hold up in your home and what may only last a few years. Through our client feedback, we have found that quality upholstery is undeniably worth the investment. One of our clients, Chelsea, from her experience with performance fabric, says “We were very reluctant to go with a lighter fabric having pets and young kids in the home. We were drawn to the lighter style so we went for it and have no regrets. It cleans so easily, it’s incredibly durable and so comfortable.”
Chelsea’s performance fabric sofa in her home. This lovely space was designed by Michelle Sanders-Osborne.
What Is Performance Fabric? And Why Is It Worth It?
Within the category of quality upholstery, we highly recommend performance fabrics, especially for rooms like the Family Room and Kitchen, as those spaces are high traffic areas for your family and for your guests. Michelle Sanders-Osborne says, “Performance fabrics are made to hold up to kids, pets, food stains and other wear and tear. They are a must-have for clients who like to entertain or have small children and pets. [They] take the stress out of whether or not your upholstered pieces will hold up over time. Most, but not all, furniture suppliers have performance fabrics as an option. In order to classify as a performance fabric, the upholstery will have characteristics which make it extremely durable and stain resistant. For stain [and odor] resistance, fabrics are treated with a solution which resists stains or are made of manmade fibers which repel water, liquids, grease and dirt.
Another characteristic is the ability to hold up to long term wear and tear. This is determined by a “rub test”. A fabric is tested and assigned a number identifying how many times it can be rubbed before it shows wear, breaks down or loses its texture.” Meaning, the higher the number of rubs, the better quality the upholstery is. High quality upholstery will have at least 15,000 – 20,000 double rubs.
How To Know If A Piece Is High Quality
This photo and article feature photo by Tiffany Ringwald Photography
High quality pieces take time and skilled craftsmanship to create. They require durable materials inside and out. Because of this, many large online retailers may only carry low to medium quality mass produced furniture. Designer Audria Mitchell points out that tailoring details on quality upholstery are very precise. They even go so far as to take the time to “purposely center the pattern on the cushions and throw away excess fabric. Other manufactures who have a lower price point are less concerned [with matching patterns because] it costs too much money for them to match it, so they maximize the fabric usage.” Notice in the photo on the left, how the pattern on this high quality chair Audria and Kellyann used is perfectly lined up from one cushion to the next.
Many consumers purchase furniture based on brand name, but Michelle warns against blindly purchasing based on brand. “As a consumer, it’s important to read reviews, check the product out and do your homework before purchasing… Asking questions like: How is this piece constructed (8 way hand tied)?, Is it made from solid hardwood? Is this a performance fabric?, What is the warranty on this furniture piece?, What are the cushions made of?, Was this piece mass produced? These can be good identifiers on whether or not a furniture piece is good quality. Another thing to keep in mind is that even if an item is expensive, it doesn’t always ensure high quality. Some retailers might have a high cost which leads people to think they are better quality when actually the quality can be quite low and people are enticed to buy based on the name.”
Emily O’Malley says “High quality upholstery is not just about the fabrics you pick. It is also important that the frames are made from hardwood so they don’t warp or crack over time, the joints are reinforced, and corner blocks are used to reinforce the corners of the frames. The cushions are also another very important part of the piece. You want a high density/high resiliency foam. A quality cushion can be wrapped with down for more comfort. The more down that is added, the more you will need to flip and fluff those cushions. Springs are also an important part of a sofa – you want the wire for the springs to be a heavy gauge wire so they don’t lose their shape over time. The springs should be layered with a mesh or web type material. This helps distribute weight so that the coils don’t wear out over time.” As you can tell, there are a lot of manufacturing details that go into creating a long lasting structure from the inside-out. In summary, Emily says an “easy way to see if an upholstered piece is a quality piece is to lift it. If it is super light then it isn’t a high quality piece. Check out the cushions on a sofa, if they have removable covers that is a good sign.”
We recommend researching when it comes to purchasing a knockoff piece of furniture. Michelle warns that “Even though they look the same, the quality can be very different.”
How long does high quality upholstery last vs. low quality? Is it worth the price in the long term?
Customers tend to choose low quality upholstery because the items are easily accessible, in stock and budget friendly, with a sectional beginning around a few hundred dollars and up. A high quality sectional can begin around $5,000 and go up from there. Michelle explains “There are many suppliers who have short lead times and low prices. The manufacturers can do this by mass producing the items, skimping on the craftsmanship and sourcing lower quality materials. This is okay for someone who likes to update their furniture more regularly, is on a tighter budget or views their pieces as more disposable. It’s also very common for people to have a mix of both high and low quality items in their home. I have had clients who want to invest in a very high quality sofa because they want it to last for years and then purchase a lower quality accent chair because they will want to switch it out as their style changes.”
High quality sofa used by Emily
Low quality sofa results after a few years
Keep in mind that no upholstery will last forever. Michelle notes “Some people are naturally harder on furniture than others and I think it’s important to also be realistic about the longevity of the furniture if it is subjected to a lot of wear and tear. Even high quality pieces can get destroyed if they are not taken care of.” Emily adds, “Even though performance fabric resists liquids, if you leave a spill on it for 24 hours it will eventually soak into the fabric.” No matter what furniture you purchase, make sure to check the care instructions and clean or fluff your cushions regularly. Neglect of any furniture piece, no matter the quality, will deteriorate quickly if not cared for properly.
Regarding normal wear and tear, we believe quality upholstery is definitely worth the investment in the long run. With low quality upholstery, you can begin seeing fabric pilling, snags, stains and compressed and wrinkled cushions within a few months. These pieces typically last a few years at most before completely losing their comfort and needing to be replaced. High quality upholstery, on the other hand, can last 15-20 years if taken care of, meaning that one family might replace a low quality sofa 4 or 5 times before another family needs to replace their high quality sofa. In fact, the New York Times reported that Americans alone throw roughly 12 million tons of furniture into the landfill each year and that number is only growing.
In summary, Audria classifies upholstery in three categories of good, better and best:
Good upholstery qualities:
Not made from premium wood
Can get trendy
In stock and easily accessible
It’s not customizable
It will last a few years
Better upholstery qualities:
Seating suspension has less distance between springs and gives longer cushion life
Cushions have longer lasting foam
Not as much flexibility with changing arm style and cushion style
Best upholstery qualities:
Seating suspension has less distance between springs and gives longer cushion life
Can choose seating cushions from extra firm to soft
The craftsman match patterns of the fabric and spend more time on the design details
Will last 15-20 years if properly cared for
Up to 500 custom fabrics to choose from
Unique sofa specifically customized from fabric, arm, cushion style, legs, depth and length
Are you interested in learning more about how we choose furniture and upholstery to fit your lifestyle needs? Reach out to us for a complimentary phone consultation!
High quality leather sectional used by Emily