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How to Effectively Measure the Quality of Your Furniture

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When considering which pieces of furniture to purchase for your home, cottage, or condo, it’s really quite easy to judge a book by its cover. Customers are all too easily tricked into imagining that a piece of furniture is of acceptable quality because of its contemporary design, the presence of sought after materials like hardwood, or brushed steel - or because of an inflated price tag that, for some, epitomizes quality.

The quality of furniture is often perceived by a combination of its price, its finish, and its overall aesthetic. In this post, we’ll decipher the things you should be looking for, what you should avoid, and how to effectively measure the quality of your furniture before you buy.


Price

For a long time, price has been the pinnacle point of recognizing a good quality piece of furniture. A large price tag can psychologically denote worthiness, craftsmanship, laborious construction processes, and solid materials. Make no mistake - this is not always the case. Sometimes, a poor quality piece only features the beefy price tag to convince customers that it’s worthy of their investment.

A good piece of furniture doesn’t have to overly expensive. The price tag should reflect its commitment to the buyer - affordability should never impede quality. A quality piece of furniture should of course look like a good quality piece of furniture - but there’s more to it than that.


Construction

A good piece should be level on the ground and free of any twists, creaks or wobbles. Any rickety feeling you may have when you sit down or give it a jiggle can spell poor construction that’s hidden from view. If the legs of a coffee table, for example, are uneven - this can translate as mass production that hasn’t given much thought to the fit-and-finish of its products.

Wooden joints should be constructed in a time-tested process like mortise and tenon, dovetail, or box joints. Reinforced corner blocks are insinuate good quality construction. As well, consider how fabrics, armrests and backrests are secured to the frame - screws and dowels are signs of well made furniture, while staples and glue are evidence of poor construction.

Structurally speaking, any kind of solid wood or sturdy 9+ sheet plywood can represent a good quality product. An insider tip; hardwoods aren’t all hard, and softwoods are not all soft. Many people mistake softwood furniture like pine or cedar as poorer quality, and maple and oak as the best of the best - but every rule has its exceptions. For example, Aspen is a hardwood that’s actually softer than some softwoods. Softwood only means the wood comes from a coniferous tree, meanwhile hardwoods come from deciduous trees.

The trick to picking a solid wood material is being able to assess if the finish will absorb punishment from use. Oak, maple, ash, beech and mahogany are very hard woods and are highly resistant to scratches and damage, meanwhile if pine is not lacquered or finished properly can be easily scratched and gouged. In the wood itself, watch for thin plywood, particleboard or pressboard as signs of poor quality that can peel and de-laminate over time. In solid woods, watch for big knots and cracks.


Upholstery & Cushioning

Another good overarching tip is to look at the material of the piece. Fabric upholstery that features a pattern should always be aligned at the seams, not hodge-podged together with whatever fabric happens to be within reach. Good quality upholstery cushions should always feature protective inner covers and even reversible slipcovers to prolong the life of your purchase.

If the piece features removable cushions, unzip the cover and have a look inside. A good quality cushion will have an interior foam wrap made of dacron, a durable polyester fibre; cotton; or even down, in very high end pieces. Traits like bare foam, pulled stitching, or loosely filled cushions are a sign of poor quality furniture. A good question to ask a salesperson is regarding the density of the seat foam - a good quality piece will feature density of 1.8 pounds or higher. High quality foam density ratings usually come in at around the 2.8 pound marker.

Squeeze the arms and backrest of the piece you’re looking at. A sign of poorer quality would be to feel the frame through the thin padding included under the upholstery.


Leather

The tricky part about selecting leather as your furniture finish, is that manufacturers are very, very good at emulating the look and feel of leather in man-made materials - and that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all. There are a few different levels of leather quality that you should be aware of, and some faux leather finishes that can bode very well if you’d rather a cost-effective material that can stand up to abuse.

Bonded leather is a great choice for people looking for an easy-to-clean finish that won’t visually change much over the years. Bonded leather is essentially a leather product, comprised of a minimum 17% authentic leather and plastic filler. It’s considered the bottom level of leather quality, but looks great and comes in a plethora of colours and styles.

Bi-cast, or PU leather, is referred to as the next step up in quality. It’s made by splitting leather into horizontal layers and the bi-cast layers are sections of the cut that are too thin or flawed to use. Bi-cast is then completely sealed with a layer of polyurethane.

Next is split leather - level three on the quality spectrum. Split is another layer of the underside of leather - so it’s genuine leather that lacks the character of top-grain because of processing procedures. Split leather can appear fuzzy and velvety until it’s put through a process that helps to mimic the look and feel of genuine leather. Because of this process, it can lack the softness and feel of all natural leather products. Leather match is when a piece of furniture features leather of the touchable surfaces of the piece, and non-leather of the sides and back to keep cost down.

Then we have top-grain, the be-all-end-all leather specimen comprised of all-natural, smooth, pebbly and warm hide. Top-grain leather is made of about 12-14% water, so it will quickly acclimatize to your body temperature when you touch it, and will gain a patina finish over time. Top-grain is broken down into two different types: Aniline & Semi-Aniline

Aniline has no coatings or additives. It’s simply old school genuine leather. Semi-aniline is treated with a protective coating to prohibit stains and “sweating.” For this reason, the best quality leather we’d recommend would be a semi-aniline because of its incredible quality and resistance to the mishaps of everyday life.

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The bottom line to determining furniture quality is to look with both your eyes, hands, and heart. First feel and inspect the piece, then go with your gut feeling. If there’s an aspect of construction, finish, or the price tag that seem a little off to you - keep looking. The perfect piece will come along soon.

Pallucci Furniture’s selling point has always been that we provide the highest quality furniture we can find for prices that make quality attainable for all. Our mantra is to rise above the competition as transparent and honest neighbours that care whether you’re happy with your purchase 5 or 10 years down the road. 

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