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‘Dissecting the Couch’ ~ What are you really paying for?

Why does some upholstery cost more than others?

Its a combination of factors: the fabric quality, trim details, workmanship, cushion material and the frame construction.

The frame construction is really important because it is the bones of the entire piece. If the frame is well made, then the piece can be reupholstered many times in the future and look like new each and every time. Strong frames should be made from Kiln dried, solid hard woods, double doweled, corner blocked, glued and stapled for strength and stability.

Then there are three main types of Suspension, which is the part of the frame that holds the cushion in place so that you can sit on it.

1) Coil

2) Zig Zag or Sinuous Spring

3) Pirelli Webbing or Nylon Webbing

‘Coil’ is the more expensive technique since the coils are tied together by hand. The coils are literally tied in 8 places, or ‘8 way hand tied’ as seen in the photo. In this photo there are actually 10 ties, the 8 that hold the coils in place and one on each end attached to the metal bar that is attached to the frame. It is a technique that has been used for many years and is seen in many antiques and fine furniture.

‘Zig zag’ or ‘Sinuous Steel Spring’ suspension provides great comfort and good value as it is not as labor intensive. This technique seems to be found in more contemporary furniture.

‘Pirelli Webbing’ is a name brand for a nylon webbing seat support system. It is constructed by interlocking bands of strong durable nylon in a crisscross pattern. It is also called nylon webbing, woven webbing, European webbing.

Cushion materials vary greatly and are reflected in the cost. Down feather inserts are at a premium, where a combo of down wrapped in foam is a little less. There are foam wrapped coils, cushions filled with a mixture of feather, down and fiber, high resiliency foam wrapped polyester fiber encased in non woven ticking material, and some companies even boast proprietary combinations that offer extra comfort. Much of the cushion choices are subjective, depending on how you like to lounge!

Without actually dissecting the sofa you are about to purchase, know that you get what you pay for. There is a lot that goes into each piece of fine upholstery and there are a lot of short cuts that can be utilized that make an inexpensive ‘bargain’ too!


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The common element throughout is good design. There’s always a reason why an element is chosen for a certain place, whether it’s a colorful painting in a room or a specific fabric on a chair. There’s also a functionality to every item that is unique to each project’s solution. It’s sort of like an oversized jigsaw puzzle with a place and reason for each piece.