How to Spot Quality Furniture Before You Buy

Know the Differences & Dangers of the "Cheap Seats"

November 9, 2020

When we were younger, many of us gave little thought to buying good quality furniture.  Knowing that we might be moving to a new city or changing jobs made it easier to purchase items that could be discarded or replaced easily.  As we matured and settled down, we began to think of furniture in a different way.  Quality pieces designed to last became more important to us, as well as focusing on lasting style.

So, what is good quality furniture? 

It is a clever combination of the construction of the frame, suspension and cushions.  These three elements are key to determining the quality of a new piece of furniture.

Quality starts with the frame.

It is especially important to know what type of wood was used to make the piece of furniture you are interested in purchasing.  Be sure that the wood is kiln-dried hardwood, as it will guarantee a strong, warp-resistant frame.  Avoid engineered hardwood, such as medium-density fiberboard, particle board and standard plywood. They are less expensive materials and will not hold up over time.

It is also important to understand frame construction.  This is how the pieces are joined.  If it is done poorly, the sofa will become unstable and rickety.  Be sure to look for terms like mortise and tenon, double dowel (indicates that a sofa frame has been constructed to last, especially when used with other joint construction methods) and corner block-reinforced (additional joint support).  It is best to avoid frames that are held together with screws and glue, as well as metal connectors attached to two pieces of wood.

Suspension is what holds you up!

Suspension is another important aspect of high quality furniture, which refers to the part of the sofa under the cushions that supports you when you are sitting.  Before making a purchase, it would be helpful to become familiar with the following five ways a manufacturer can create suspension:

1.     8-way hand-tied springs was developed in the 1850’s for high quality seating and longevity.  It is the most labor intensive and expensive method that directly impacts the quality, comfort and durability of a piece of furniture.  Twine is tied by hand side to side, front to back and diagonally.  The twine keeps the springs from shifting, ensures the suspension will not squeak over time and results in maximum flexibility, support and comfort.  (TIP: You can feel each spring of an 8-way hand-tied sofa by picking up the seat cushion and pushing down on the seat deck.  You should be able to feel each spring through the fabric).

2.   Drop-in coil springs are mounted on a metal frame that is added to the furniture as a single piece.  There is no support at the bottom, so over time it will sag.  There is also metal to metal contact, which will result in squeaking.

3.   Sinuous springs are the most common type of suspension in low-to mid-priced sofas.  Rows of zigzagging pieces of metal run perpendicular to the front of the sofa in the foundation of the seat. The springs are also easier to install.  Some people argue that sinuous springs perform just as well as 8-way hand-tied but cost less. The only way to ensure you are getting the best quality when you are considering furniture with sinuous springs is to be sure that there are at least two 8-gauge wires running across and clipped to each spring.

4.  Grid suspension is less common and similar to how a trampoline is attached to its frame.  Think of wire grids attached to a frame with springs on the sides.  This is an extremely poor suspension.  The wires are noisy and tend to break easily.

5.   Webbing suspension is found in the lowest quality furniture.  It is made by weaving fabric or elastic strips into a grid-like pattern and is not recommended for seat suspension.

Know your cushion quality.

Cushion quality is especially important when looking for high quality furniture.  Not only is it the most visible aspect of the sofa, it is being used every day!  This daily use will test how well your cushions will maintain their shape, sag or flatten out.

Let’s start with the inside.  Seat cushions should be made with foam wrapped in polyester fiber or down.  The core should be at least 4” thick.  A higher quality cushion will have an inner core of individually wrapped springs (8-way hand-tied).  Avoid cushions that are all foam, as they are too firm and uncomfortable, or all down and  they will not hold their shape.

Back cushions should not be filled with foam.  They should be filled with polyester fiber, down or a combination of both.  It is important to note that down-proof ticking should be used and sewn with channels to ensure the filling will stay put.

Good quality upholstery fabric is crucial to furniture longevity as well.  Choosing the proper fabric, material composition, and pattern will guarantee a longer lasting cushion and a happier customer.

Why you can’t seem to find it on your own…

Spotting quality furniture alone is not easy, despite how hard you have tried to decorate on your own from the many furniture stores around town. This can be frustrating because when you see it done in another home, you KNOW immediately a piece is well-made. That piece very likely came from a certified interior designer with the credentials to sell for some of the best furniture companies in the country. Like us!

Stonewood Interiors is a trusted dealer of more than 30 top designers and furniture makers! We even have regional exclusivity to some of the most practical-quality (and beautiful) brands on the market! That mean you can finally stop searching alone for something that only we can provide through a simple one-on-one experience. It is important to note that exclusivity should not be confused with over-priced. You get what you pay for– good and bad! Furniture makers trust their products with experienced professionals to educate buyers about the product, communicate orders properly back to the manufacturer, and uphold their commitment to quality. Sofa, sectional, dining chairs, AND lighting that matches- we can help!

Our relationships are built to last too!

We hope we have helped you better understand what goes into creating high-quality furniture.  Good quality is built to last, which ultimately keeps more money in your pocket and is a wise investment. If you are considering a new purchase, contact us at 610-966-5005, or email  We would be happy to help you with your new furniture selection!

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