Middle to high-end upholstery

blueDenubeApril 23, 2005

Can someone list middle to high-end upholstery makers?

I read about Vanguard, Temple, Century, McReary Modern, Marcus Claintant(?sp), and so on. How does Vanguard compare to Temple? What is the difference between high-end and middle quality? How can one tell?

Thanks for any information.

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Let's start with the basics. A well constructed sofa consists of the following details: 5/4 kiln dried hardwood (like oak), legs that are part of the frame, suspended coil springs that are 8 way (or greater) tied, corner blocks, double dowel, glued and screwed corners and joints, minimum of high density cushions with upgrades available, fabric matched and high quality fabrics available. Avoid sofas that use bands or straps or serpentine for support as compared to suspended coil springs.

What separates high end and middle quality? Materials, craftmanship, quality and scale. If you want to see the best made sofa brand on the market, look at E J Victor. Incredible stuff. Of course, a price tag to match. But you will see the pinnacle of the upholstery market.

You asked for a list of middle and high end upholstery.

Middle: Clayton Marcus, Temple, Jetton, Massoud, Key City, Thomasville, Highland House, Century, Drexel, C R Laine, Michael Thomas, Harden, Ethan Allen, Pa House, Sam Moore, Fairfield, Woodmark, Lexington and Broyhill. And there are many more.

High end: E J Victor, Henredon, Heritage, Southwood, Taylor King, Bradington Young, Hancock & Moore, Hickory White, Hickory Chair and Baker.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2005 at 1:18PM
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I think John_WC's list was very good and should be saved for reference. In addition I would add Sherrill to the middle list since its a very popular line and should be noted. Also I would move Century from the middle to the high end. I think Century's top line (they have several levels) is among the best, certainly competes with Henredon.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2005 at 11:24AM
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What do you consider the best buys in each of the
middle and high end categories?

    Bookmark   April 25, 2005 at 8:00AM
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What about Halligan and Wesley Hall for the high middle or low high? Thanks, btw, for the excellent basics description. I'm going to print it out and use it as the basis for my ongoing search for a decent sofa.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2005 at 12:22PM
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carrie01, best buy in middle is Massoud. Massoud is a small company that makes sturdy sofas that are well tailored. There are many frames available and 1,000 fabrics.

High end best buy is tougher. Depends on price point you prefer to be at. If you want the best, E. J. Victor. If you want a fine sofa for an excellent price point, consider Hickory White, Bradington Young and Hancock & Moore. Hancock & Moore is a specialty manufacturer but does offer fabric; BY makes leather only, if my memory is correct.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2005 at 5:50PM
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When you said that Sherrill is a better sofa than Temple,
can you tell me specifically what is better (cushions,
fabric,tailoring,construction)Is Sherril upper middle and
Temple lower middle?

    Bookmark   April 25, 2005 at 6:14PM
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I think fabric choices and cushion options play a large part in dividing upper and middle. All of the middle and high end manufacturer's I believe use all of the same basic construction methods mentioned. Underneath them all, though, you would likely find the kiln dried hardwood, corner blocked, doweled and screwed frames, and 8 way hand tied coil springs that were already described. I think some might use double dowels and others tripple dowels. There might also be some differences in the thickness of the coils, the hardwood used, such as ash vs oak, and the dimensions of the lumber in the frame, although I am not certain. The higher end manufacturer's often offer upgrades of cushions that include down and down blends, for instance. Tayloring can also be a factor. They might be more willing to guarantee exact matches of complicated fabric patterns all the way around a difficult piece, for instance, although I have received different opinions about who is better at that. For instance, no one seems to want to guarantee a good match of a plaid all the way around a curved wing chair. I have been looking a lot a Sherril recently and the Decorator showed me a Sherril fabric that was embroidered that was 450.00/yd. I didn't see anything that high end from Temple. I didn't see any silks from Temple, and they probably don't offer down cushions, although I can't be certain. I was looking at Drexel Heritage today. The sofa model I liked had the upgraded cushions and was priced on sale at 1200-1500.00 from a special collection of Heritage fabrics. The identical sofa when I picked a low end fabric not in the special selections but still on sale and in the same "grade" was 3-4,000.00. The same sofa when I accidentally reached for a "couture" cotton from the Lillian August for Drexel Heritage line (still cotton, though) the decorator did not even bother to price for me because she had priced a chair in the same fabric for another customer that day and it was 12,000.00. The only variable for 1500.00, 4,000.00 and 12,000.00+ was the fabric. High end exotic woods, carved wood, larger deeper sofas requiring more fabric, etc., would raise it even higher. If anyone knows of any additional differences I would love to know also. Leather is probably the same, since you pay for the type and grade of leather and some are much more costly than others.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2005 at 1:58AM
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I thought this reply to a question from Furniture magazine was interesting and appropriate to this discussion:


    Bookmark   April 26, 2005 at 4:12AM
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Thanks for posting the link to furniture magazine. I just went over there and inquired about subscribing. Good stuff. As a self-employed decorator, I find that being educated about furniture is a must. You seem pretty knowledgeable...are you in the trade?

John_WC...You really know your stuff re: vendors/quality. Are you a furniture professional? Just curious.

Thanks both for good input.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2005 at 10:02AM
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Thanks, Sue, for the excellent link. I'd forgotten about this magazine. It really is a good resource. I asked the editor a question one time, and though it took him several months to answer me, he did get back!

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2005 at 1:10PM
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Your welcome for the link. I am not in the trade, just like to understand where my dollars and pennies are going and what I am really paying for. That way, I can get quality and still get good value. I know many people who can't afford a lot and buy cheap sofas for 799.-899. that last a few years if that, and then look awful. I know people that have paid that much at local discounter with a 99.00 deliver fee. I can have an eight way hand tied sofa shipped from NC to CT for 949.00. Just doesn't make sense to me. Also, my father had a job making furniture when he was young, about 40 yrs ago, and my uncle did Upholstery for many years. They didn't talk about it much, but my mother knew when something wouldn't pass muster and my Father wouldn't let it in the house. She would point out why my Dad wouldn't find it acceptable, like poor pattern matching or cushions that didn't fit correctly. I guess I learned early not to accept poor quality.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2005 at 2:09PM
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Hi John WC,
I'm curious why Southwood ranked so high on your list. I recently scrutinized a lot of upholstery during my NC trip. Of course I couldn't pull off the fabric to inspect the frame, but I judged by the quality of what was visible. It's safe to assume that if the product looks sloppy on the outside, it's sloppy on the inside as well. Quality of Southwood's sewing was poor: the skirts were lined with flimsy material, edges of the fabric weren't finished, skirts were sloppily stapled onto the frame. In contrast, the sewing of every piece of Michael Thomas' upholstery I inspected was absolutely neat and done with care. Even better than EJ Victor's, on that count. MT's frames felt substantially heavy too.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2005 at 10:51PM
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Another thing to look for in quality upholstery is sanded frames. This factor may seem pointless, but you want sanded frames so that nothing catches on the frame whenever someone sits on the chair or sofa. There is always movement throughout the piece of furniture when you sit down, all the way down to the frame. If it is not sanded, the padding will catch on rough spots on the frame, and in turn, will prevent the fabric from being able to move smoothly. Cheap upholstery usually wears from the underside (like along the arms) out, not the other way around although it may appear to be from the outside in.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2005 at 12:32AM
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How exactly are you supposed to know if the frame is sanded? You can't see it and I havent seen even one manufacturer mention it in information about the construction. If it is not even mentioned by the manufacturers that DO it isn't likely to be brought up by those that don't. It makes some sense, I just dont know how you know this on every sofa you look at.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2005 at 3:02AM
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A dealer should be able to tell you if a frame is sanded or not. Just ask them. Anyone who is reputable will take the time to learn the lines they sell, and all of those lines' selling points. If they can't tell you (or won't tell you), it isn't sanded!

    Bookmark   May 4, 2005 at 6:32PM
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Thank you all for responding. John, that's a very helpful list. How is McReary Modern stack up? I am looking into Room & Board. Also, has anyone heard of M&M upholstery?

    Bookmark   May 13, 2005 at 1:40PM
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I would add Stickley to the list of high end upholstery. I do not particularly like the Mission look but when I was searching for a new sofa, I found that Stickley had some really beautiful traditional and contemporary pieces. It took 14 weeks to receive the finished product (not unusual) and it is beautiful. The cushion options were good to have as we like a firmer cushion. Henredon does not offer the cushion options that many other high-end manufacturers offer. I'm considering a daybed by Barbara Barry (for Baker) but am not thrilled that there are no finish options. Does anyone have experience with Barbara Barry upholstery or Baker upholstery that would be helpful?

    Bookmark   June 23, 2005 at 1:33AM
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Chickensoup - you comment worried me a bit. I just ordered Southwood sofa from Boyles!! I'm still waiting for the ETA. When I was at Boyles the sofa looks nice. I probably didn't inspect it in detail as you did because I thought if Boyles/Beacon Hill carries it it should be ok. But in general, the quality of upholstery looks ok to me. I ordered with COM and use expensive fabric. Now I'm hoping it is done nicely!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2005 at 1:18AM
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People, don't get too hung up looking for sanded frames in fully upholstered furniture. I have been in the furniture business over 40 years and have yet to hear of anyone who does this (but I am still learning). You really don't want the padding to be moving around under the fabric, this would cause lumps. Of course, an exposed wood frame should be smoothly sanded and finished.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 10:57PM
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Great thread but I have no Idea how Hickory-White gets put into the high end catagory. Buddy Sher.... bought them to put them into a casegoods group and they are still a case goods company trying to make upholstery. No way are they at the level of E J Victor, Henredon, Century, Heritage, Southwood, Harden or Hickory Chair.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2006 at 11:30PM
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What group do you put Bernhardt furniture in? Thanks for the info. RJ

    Bookmark   March 7, 2006 at 11:53PM
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Putting HW into the high end category was solely based on my opinion. No, HW is not E J Victor; similarly, it is also not Lexington. When one attempts to answer a question and smash many different mfg, into two categories, some overlap will result. Moreover, HW is a compelling best buy.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2006 at 11:57PM
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I'm new to this forum, but not the garden web. I found this thread through a link in the decorating forum. Where do you rank Isenhour upholstered furniture? I have an Isenhour sofa and chair, which were expensive and satisfy all of the criteria listed above for high quality furniture, but I'm having a problem with it--the fabric is pulling apart by the seams of the cording--I think the fabric was damaged somehow when the cording was sewn. I've contacted the interior designer who sold me the sofa, and she is contacting Isenhour, but it's going slow and the problem is getting worse every day. I'm wondering what I can expect from Isenhour--it seems to me that if they are the high end manufacturer that I was lead to believe that they were that they should stand behind their product. Thanks.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2006 at 10:24AM
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In case anyone else has Isenhour, I asked Furniture Magazine about Isenhour and I'm posting most of Dwight Ball's reply below--it ranks Isenhour and also discusses the sewing of covers which, although it was addressing my problem, I think also fits into this thread because it talks about low end vs. high end.

"Isenhour is a custom upholstery company based out of Hickory North Carolina. They import a lot of their frames from Europe, the Philippines and Italy and do most of the sewing and "frame up" in Taylorsville, North Carolina, which is just down the road from Hickory. It sounds like they are a medium, maybe slightly higher quality product which should not be pulling apart at the seams after three years.
The way your problem happens is, a sewer will be putting your cover together on a commercial machine at speeds that are almost a blur. It is a skill that takes many years to perfect. The factory is trying to get the seam as close to the edge as possible because obviously the wider the seam the more fabric it takes to make your sofa. Multiply that out by a thousand sofas and it is a lot of money.
If the sewer's attention is distracted for even a second they can go from a beautiful straight seam that will last decades to a seam that is a disaster waiting to happen. It sounds like perhaps your seam was cut too close in the area you describe.
. . .
As far as whether this should have happened on an Isenhour sofa, the answer is no. But the answer would be the same for a cheap sofa from Wal-Mart or an expensive sofa from Southwood.
The cheaper the sofa, the less the factory will pay their sewers so the less skill they get for the money. I've been in the factory of an extremely high-end upholsterer and watched the sewers work on covers. It is almost an art the way they become one with their machine. Then I've been in low end factories where it is more of an assembly line and you can tell people are just doing a job.
Hope this helps.


    Bookmark   May 12, 2006 at 10:27AM
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If you are looking for high-end custom furniture, I highly recommend Baron Upholsterers. Every piece is made custom, by hand, and the worksmanship is amazing. The materials used are of the highest quality, and the result is just breath-taking.

They are the best I have seen! You can see their manufacturing process in the link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: high end furniture - their manufacturing process

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 11:20AM
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Actually mid to highend upholstery manufacturers on the east coast ie: NC Miss. Ohio etc. will use poplar lumber or plywood or a combination of both. Almost never will you see oak or ash inside a upholstery frame, unless its exposed. On the west coast they will use Alder instead of poplar.
How well your upholstery furniture will last is more based on design of all the elements: frames, springs, padding, fabric and skills used in assembling. A poorly designed sofa will never last or sit well no matter who makes it. A well designed sofa with sinous (no-sag) wire springs will sit more comfortable and last longer than most 8-way hand tied coil springs. An 8-way hand tied sofa works best when it has a spring edge, which very few manufacturers offer spring edge on their sofas. Only the very high-end custom shops do.You will be lucky to find a salesperson in a furniture store that understands exactly how each manufacturer makes their furniture, let alone each individual style. I suggest when you find something you like, note the manufacturers style number, then call the manufacturer, ask them for this exact style, how is it constructed, is frame hardwood or plywood, they use springs or elastic webbing or?, The density of the foam in the arms and back (should be 1.8 or better). The standard cushions are they a HR foam or marshall unit ( springs) or if you can upgrade to a better cushion. Ulta-cell foam is a good choice, however a 2.0 density HR is much better. Most manufacturers outsource their seat & back cushions, but I doubt they will tell you which company. Back cushions should have atleast 2 separate channels for up to 18" height, 3 channels if taller. Conjugated fiber is most popular filling, next would be a blend of half feathers/down and half of the same type of fiber (blend-down).The higher the ratio of down to feathers will increase the price, comfort and usually last longer. But all will require fluffing. Leather cushions should breath very well if not then the life of the filling will be greatly reduced. I think one of your best resources for information on upholstery is your local reupholstery shop thats been in business for long time 10 years or more. Many furniture stores will have them do repairs instead of shipping back to the manufacturer, and which stores or manufacturers stand behind what they sale based on how they handle the repairs with them. Please dont buy furniture based solely on brand name and how it looks on the outside.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2007 at 1:19AM
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rmanbike - you certainly seem to know a good deal about upholstery construction. Are you in the business? Anyway, if your input is from experience, please post more of your tips.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2007 at 7:20AM
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Here's a shout-out to a high-end West Coast company...Cavalier Mfg. Very custom. If you can dream it, they will build it!! Not a well-marketed brand, but their construction features sound very similar to Henredon, EJ Victor, etc. My designer friend turned me on to this line and it was available thru my local furniture store.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2007 at 3:10AM
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what about reupholstering an 80- year old wood frame sofa. We are getting very different estimates. the sofa seat is sagging badly.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2007 at 10:28AM
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I am no upholsterer, but I know the basics and can execute them with skill. HOWEVER, I am able to identify "good lines" and quality construction in spite of a general appearance that can be pretty pathetic. I've pulled several great pieces of furniture off the side of the road!

Your piece is about 80 yrs. old and the seat is "sagging badly"? sounds like a PERFECT candidate for "ripping down" and "reworking". But make sure you like the lines before you commit to the project. Call a few upholsterers and get prices; they can vary greatly. Generally though, an 80 yr. old piece that is still "sittable" probably has a great frame, and it's the frame that defines any upholstered piece of furniture.

Here's what you need to understand about REupholstery: you are essentially paying to have someone remake your piece. To do it properly, everything must be stripped away, and the basic webbing supports must be replaced. After that, the springs must be resited and then stitched into place and then TIED to each other to maintain vertical and lateral stability. All that takes TIME. After that, the layers of padding and muslin must be applied and lastly, the decorative fabric is stretched into place. It's a step by step, layer by layer process. It takes time and you will pay for TIME and the fabric you select.

I have had several pieces completely reupholstered over the years. I've NEVER regretted the decision and if you are thoughtful I doubt you will be!

I love rehabbing old furniture... can you tell?

    Bookmark   April 30, 2007 at 8:43PM
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Gee, chelone. Now you're making me regret not having our Highland House sofa reupholstered. Instead, we bought a Rowe to replace it. We've had the HH eight years and it's like brand new, structurally speaking: not a sag in sight or a creak within earshot. The upholstery has suffered cat damage, however, and the cushion covers have worn spots. Well, maybe I can find a good home for it, anyway. *sigh*

    Bookmark   April 30, 2007 at 10:23PM
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bgirl nw - Could you tell me where you saw the Cavelier line, I'm in So. California.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2007 at 3:06AM
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Smith Brothers. Has anyone heard of this Amish company in Bern, Ind? I've heard that they are very well made. 1 1/2" maple frame, 8-way hand tied coils. Any opions on Smith Bros?

    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 3:07PM
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We like this chair from Jackson Carter - are they any good?
We found it on boyles.com ?



    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 6:21PM
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I am interested in purchasing a media sofa from Domain. Can anyone tell me the quality of Domain furniture? It is on sale until Sunday, so I have to decide quickly. Thanks Marlene

    Bookmark   September 28, 2007 at 9:17PM
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Some very interesting information on this thread.

suect makes some good points about pricing and fabric.

Thank you a1forte for the link to baron upholstery.

I think the most important point made here -- at least for me -- is the one about a sofa "sitting" well. No matter what the price point, the sofa must be comfortable. I've been amazed at how many uncomfortable sofas there are at every price range.

It's really helpful to rank brands according to quality. But truth be told, is any factory-made sofa likely to be made of oak or ash, have sanded frames, and come with down cushions? Not likely. If that's what's required then I'd go to a custom house, such as a Baron or De Angelis or many others.

If I'm buying a brand, I'm picking a sofa that's comfortable, fabric I love and a price point that's comfortable for my budget because I'm not in the high end of the market buying a custom sofa. I'm in the mid or high mid range for the most part.

Re Barbara Barry. It's very beautiful stuff, for my money some of the nicest I've seen. It's very costly but it always will have her name and be Baker.

Thing with upholstered furniture is that it's like cars -- it depreciates the moment it comes in the door.

I recently saw a PAIR of Donghia sofas go for $500 at a high end auction. Those are very good quality custom sofas and someone got a great buy. The estimate was $3000.

Some brands - Barbara Barry by Baker is one -- should hold their value a bit better and be resold. Some furniture brands from the 1930-60s that are becoming collectible.

That might not be important to many people but I do think it's something to consider given what things cost these days.

Chelone also makes a super point about reupholstery. I'm a great believer in reupholstery. I once bought a custom sofa in a thrift shop for $200 and had it redone for $1000. It looked like a custom sofa in the end.

So if you can get a high quality older piece that needs reupholstery, and have the craftsmen available, it sometimes can cost less and give a higher end result than what can be comparably purchased new. Other times it's more -- so there's always the balance of cost/value.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2007 at 9:20AM
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so that sofa cost you 1200$ and still it was not new whats the benefit of it then. Plus there is no guarantee of its durability

Here is a link that might be useful: wholesale furniture suppliers

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 1:35AM
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Elements Contract Furnishings is a high end custom upholstery for an affordable price. They ship anywhere in the US as well.

The Link to their site is below

Here is a link that might be useful: Elements Contract Furnishings

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 7:07PM
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After 1 month our Broyhill sofa and chairs look terrible. The cushions are sinking and out of shape. The fabric is stretching and piling. The store I bought from contacted customer service and I haven't heard from them yet. Any idea what I should have or make them do? I feel, if they try to fix it, it will never be a good product. It looks so bad, I would not pay any price for this quality of furniture. It DOES NOT belong in the middle end category.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 9:56PM
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I have a problem. I am looking for a leather sofa sectinal made in the usa. I do not have a large budget from 2-3k.
I was scard off by the prices of Massoud, Hickory White and others. Is it possible to get a decent sofa. Should I get a good used one and reupholster. We are sr. citizens and do not expect to keep it as long if we move. Our room is 15x16 and is an older home. Should we get fabric instead. What do you think

    Bookmark   January 11, 2011 at 10:37PM
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As a designer, this is a bugaboo topic. I for example, bought a sofa 18 years ago. I paid 1900.00 my cost, which would translate to much more for a retail client. I have slipcovered it three times, and it looks, and "sits" brand new. It is comfy and classic. I get totally frustrated in today's market, which includes a plethora of ready made sofas from the likes of major catalogue folks... claiming quality at 1900.00. NOT! It is simply impossible, as costs of labor, fabric, cushioning, springs etc have risen. What you are getting at that price is unfortunately not terribly comfy, and is mostly....junk. Manufacturers are lowering the quality to hit a price point. What comes out? The longevity of the cushions, the pitch, the springs which are unfortunately usually sinuous versus hand tied. Hand tied can mean many levels of quality as well. Spring down cushions vary greatly as well. The coil strength makes a huge difference in whether your cushioning will hold a crown, or pancake in two months. Most frustrating is the client with a ninety thousand dollar automobile, balking at a six or seven thousand dollar sofa. They will spend more time by far on the sofa, own it for a much longer time... but balk they do. Beyond that, is the fact that anything moderately priced will have a good looking life of no more than a few years. After that, it's looks and comfort are a downhill ride. Comfort is personal, but the only manufacturer who even mentions the word "pitch" is Baker. You will pay dearly for a Baker sofa, but you will likely be rewarded in comfort and style choice. Having said that.....even theirs are not the sofas of twenty years ago. For all the same reasons mentioned above. Truth is, a to-die--for sofa is a very expensive proposition, so divide the price, by the number of nights you plan on sitting in front of the tv. And no... it isn't better to get the cheap one and just start over. Furniture comes in your home, and it tends to stay nearly forever.... nice if it is comfy and good looking while it is there.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 10:31AM
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Can anyone tell me how Craftmaster, Broyhill, and Thomasville compare in quality and where you would place each of them high to low end?

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 6:02PM
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Just curious, what do people think of George Smith sofas?

And what about older furniture at auction? We bought two 19th century chairs and had them redone. I love the lines of both, but one we bought because the lines were classic and even after picking out custom Ralph Lauren fabric, it was much less than a new Baker chair.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 9:53PM
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Compare Craftmaster, Broyhill, and Thomasville. Craftsmaster and Broyhill are middle and Thomasville could be somewhat of a step up. All three have plywood frames. Craftmaster and Broyhill have sinuous springs. I am not sure what type of spring Thomasville has, you could ask. Check out the tailoring and see what kind of cushion options each has. All in all they each make a nice product.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 6:48AM
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