12 things to check before buying an upholstered chair

Chairs have evolved over thousands of years. There is evidence that Stone Age people used chairs. Chairs were routinely used by the Egyptians as early as AD 650. By the 1600s, chairs had become a part of interior design. In the 1700s, upholstery began to appear on chairs. Upholstered chairs are common today, but you should do your homework before buying one.

Find out what kind of meat you want first. Galen Cranz, author of “The Chair,” groups chairs into five categories: handmade, mass-produced, artisan, designer, and artist. Artist chairs are unique chairs and can be expensive. These tips will help you find the right chair for your home.

1. Measure the space. You need to measure the maximum width and height available. A chair that is too tall will make your room seem smaller.

2. Determine the style. Your new chair doesn’t have to match your decor. Many interior designers are mixing modern and antique furniture these days. Some decorators think that every home should have a distinctive chair, one that doesn’t match.

3. Check the frame. According to “Upholstered Furniture,” an article on http://www.homefurnish.com, kiln-dried hardwood is best for cabinets. Some manufacturers are framing chairs and capes with steel.

4. Check the type of wood. The Carrington Court Direct website recommends maple, poplar and ash. (The ash is so strong that it is used for baseball bats.) The Grand Rapids Chair Company uses European beech wood, “an ‘A’ grade hardwood that is stronger than oak or maple in all respects,” according to their site.

5. Examine the corner blocks. The corner blocks give the meat additional support. These blocks must be glued and screwed to the frame.

6. Inspect the joints. The joints must be glued and also joined with dowels or L-brackets.

7. Check the springs. Manufacturers have two systems, eight-way hand-tied springs and sinuous springs. The site http://www.homefurnish.com describes sinuous springs as two-dimensional S-shaped wires attached to the front rail of the chair. These springs go from front to back.

8. Feel the filling. The sales associate should be able to answer your questions and may have a brochure showing the fill. According to http://www.grandrapidschair.com, high resiliency foam is “the Cadillac of cushioning.”

9. Ask about upholstery options. Upholstery fabric is graded based on content and durability. The swatches are grouped into color categories. If the color you want is not available, you cannot buy the chair.

10. Take a look at the samples. The most important stores will lend you samples for a few days. You pay a small fee, and this fee is refunded when you return the samples. See what the samples look like in daylight, at dusk, and at night.

11. Get time information. Is the chair you like in stock? How long does it take to make a custom chair? Does the company have a reputation for delivering on time?

12. Learn about the return policy. If you take the chair home and discover, after a week, that your back hurts, can you return it? Buying a new chair is fun if you do your homework first.

Copyright 2008 by Harriet Hodgson

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