Upholstered furniture

Buying & maintaining upholstered furniture

Start by thinking about what you would like to improve about the furniture you are replacing.

Shed your overcoat and try out sofas and armchairs in a range of showrooms. (Image: Holloways)

Armchair by Holloways

Consider the dimensions and scale of the room; choose upholstery with compact arms if the room is small.

Tall seat backs offer good head and shoulder support and complement a room with high ceilings. (Image: The Odd Chair Company)

Armchair by the odd chair company

It is important to consider how you will get the sofa into the house: take door or stairway dimensions into account.

When access is limited, there are manufacturers that will make a sofa in two parts and assemble it on site. (Image: David Seyfried)

sofa by david seyfried


Sofas or armchairs that are made to order allow for dimensions to be adjusted.

Seat depths are often available in shallow, medium or deep to allow for comfort and the height of the individual. -Traditional upholstery has hardwood frames with coil springs and horsehair or fibre stuffing, then a layer of wool felt or cotton padding. (Image: Dudgeon)

Sofa by Dudgeon

High quality contemporary upholstery has a base of firm short coil springs or elasticized webbing and hessian with high density foam on the frame.

Cushions can be filled with foam, down, down and feather, or foam with a down and feather wrapper.

Feather and down cushions are luxurious but need to be plumped regularly

Foam cushions are the firmest type, but their boxy shape is not to everyone’s taste.


Consider the type of legs, which defines the period style; cabriole, bun feet or turned legs are more traditional; squared or tapered legs more contemporary. (Image: Go Modern)

Upholstered chairs by Go Modern

Select the timber finish for the legs of the sofa or armchair or choose to have the legs covered with a valance or skirt.

Upholstery nail heads can be used to decorate the front of the arms or the back seams of your sofa or armchair.

Seat or back cushions can be fixed, boxed or Turkish-style.

Cushions can be piped with an alternative piping or self-piped.

Consider a fringed skirt on traditional upholstery.

Castors are often available in brass, antique brass, chrome or pewter.

Once you select a fabric to cover your sofa or armchair, check with the manufacturer to ensure it is suitable for its purpose. (Image: Kingcome Sofas)

Sofa by Kingcome

Care & Maintenance

Check whether the sofa or armchair you are buying has been treated with Scotchgard to repel stains.

Consider having an extra set of arm caps made which can be cleaned independently.

Upholstery needs regular vacuuming to prevent dirt or dust from becoming ingrained.

Upholstery shampoos are available in most supermarkets but velvet, tapestry, silk or brocade sofas or armchairs should always be cleaned by specialists. (Image: Dudgeon)

Armchair by Dudgeon

To make homemade upholstery shampoo, dissolve six teaspoons of pure soapflakes in a pint of boiling water and add two teaspoons of ammonia. Let the mixture stand until it gels, then whip with an egg beater before applying to the fabric. Scrub using only the foam and avoid saturating the upholstery.

Leather armchairs and sofas should be dusted and cleaned with saddle soap. Use as little water as possible. Treat leather once or twice a year with a good leather conditioner. (Image: The Chesterfield Company)

Sofa by The Chesterfield Company

For a selection of makers and suppliers of contemporary and traditional upholstery visit www.thehousedirectory.com/category/furniture



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