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12 Things to Check Before You Buy an Upholstered Chair

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

Figure out what kind of chair you want first. Galen Cranz, author of “The Chair,” groups chairs into five categories: hand-made, mass-produced, craftsman, designer, and artist. Artist chairs are one-of-a-kind chairs and can be pricey. These tips will help you find the right chair for your home.

1. Measure the space. You should measure the maximum width and available height. A chair that is too high will make your room look smaller.

2. Determine the style. Your new chair doesn’t have to match your decor. Many interior designers are mixing modern furniture and antiques these days. Some decorators think 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 hair frames. Some manufacturers are framing chairs and couches with steel.

4. Check the wood type. The Carrington Court Direct Web site recommends maple, poplar, and ash. (Ash is so strong it is used for baseball bats.) The Grand Rapids Chair company uses European beech wood, “a grade ‘A’ hardwood that is stronger than oak or maple in every respect,” according to its site.

5. Examine corner blocks. Corner blocks give the chair extra support. These blocks should be glued and screwed to the frame.

6. Inspect the joints. Joints should be glued together 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 http://www.homefurnish.com site describes sinuous springs as two-dimensional, s-shaped wires fastened to the front rail of the chair. These springs run from front to back.

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

9. Ask about upholstery options. Upholstery fabric is graded according to content and durability. Swatches are grouped in color categories. If the color you want isn’t available you may not buy the chair.

10. Check out swatches. Major stores will loan you swatches for a few days. You pay a small fee and this fee is refunded when you return the swatches. See how the swatches look in the daylight, at dusk, and at night.

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

12. Get return policy info. If you get the chair home and find, after a week, that it kills your back, can you return it? Buying a new chair is fun if you do your homework first.

Copyright 2008 by Harriet Hodgson