Crafting Upholstered Furniture That Lasts 

Despite the chilly weather and freshly fallen snow, at the Nell Hill’s Upholstery Education Event in January, we had a blast educating our attendees on crafting quality furniture. While they sipped glasses of bubbly and snacked on charcuterie cups, guests stopped by various stations set up throughout the shop to learn more about the topics that interested them. From the very beginning of the evening, I was elated to find a sizeable crowd gathered around the Ward Parkway Brick room, intent on learning more about Upholstery Construction and Cushion Basics. As a self-professed furniture-geek myself, witnessing the enthusiasm surrounding this intricate aspect of furniture craftsmanship from our clients and community was truly inspiring to me.  

At the event, our esteemed Designer, Dianne, alongside Dan from CR Laine, guided attendees through the sometimes-overwhelming world of upholstery construction and cushion basics. From exploring frame materials to unraveling the complexities of 8-way hand-tied and sinuous spring, the event offered a deep dive into the foundational elements that define quality furniture. It was so popular in fact, that I decided to sit down with Dan and Dianne to learn more about the topic, so that I could share it with all of you!  

Dan and Dianne talk cushion construction

Join me as we embark on a journey through the artistry and craftsmanship that lies at the heart of upholstered furniture, and discover the endless possibilities for creating lasting pieces that reflect your unique style and preferences. 

Frame Construction 

More than just an aesthetic decision, frame construction is a critical factor to consider – it’s the foundation for every piece! At Nell Hill’s, we place a strong emphasis on wood frames, as they offer exceptional durability and stability while still delivering on the New Traditional aesthetic for which we’ve become known. However, this doesn’t mean that non-wood frames lack quality. In fact, you might remember from our trip to market that a trend we’re seeing (and loving) is metal accented pieces in decor. But, we understand that every customer has unique preferences and requirements, which is why we offer customizable options when it comes to frame construction. Whether you prefer a classic wood frame or a modern alternative, we have options to suit your needs. 

One key consideration in frame construction is the choice between 8-way hand-tied and sinuous spring suspension. Both options can result in quality furniture, but they can impact the comfort and price point differently. When talking about hand-crafted quality furniture, sinuous springs are typically used when space constraints prevent the use of 8-way hand-tied construction. While 8-way hand-tied construction is more labor-intensive and thus reflected in the price, it offers the assurance of a real person handcrafting your furniture. We’re elated that most of our upholstered furniture is handmade in the US, ensuring the highest quality craftsmanship and attention to detail in every piece. 

Regardless of the frame construction option you choose, you can trust that a custom piece from Nell Hill’s is built to last. We are committed to providing our customers with furniture that not only meets their aesthetic preferences but also stands the test of time in terms of durability and quality. It makes my heart so happy when we have a customer who comes in to replace a sofa that they purchased from us 20+ year prior! Whether it’s a classic wood frame with 8-way hand-tied construction or an alternative, rest assured that your furniture investment at Nell Hill’s is built to withstand the rigors of daily use while maintaining its beauty and functionality for years to come. 

Cushion Construction and Configuration 

When it comes to cushion construction, furniture companies offer a diverse range of options to suit various preferences and lifestyles. The seat cushion is a crucial element in determining the overall comfort and feel of upholstered furniture. At CR Laine, the seat generally begins with a high-resiliency foam core (meaning the cushion bounces back and recovers quickly when the user gets out of the piece), providing a sturdy foundation. From there, different wraps are added to tailor the cushion’s feel. For those who prefer a softer seating experience, at the shop, the Mayfair cushion is a popular choice, featuring a foam core double-wrapped in polyester fiber and encased in a down-proof ticking. Over time, this cushion develops comfort wrinkles, adding to its plush feel.  

Alternatively, the Hallmark cushion offers a firmer feel with less pronounced wrinkles, making it ideal for those seeking a more tailored look. With a foam core wrapped in polyester fiber and encased in fabric ticking, the Hallmark cushion offers good recovery and durability. Additionally, various cushion configurations are possible, including 3 over 3 (meaning three back cushions over three seat cushions), 2 over 2, or 3 over 1 options, allowing for customization based on individual preferences. As the largest CR Laine dealer in the US, Nell Hill’s is proud to offer many of these upgrades at no additional cost, providing customers with exceptional value and comfort. 

Fabric and Leather Options 

When it comes to building upholstered pieces that are built to last, your fabric selection plays a pivotal role. At Nell Hill’s, we understand the importance of choosing fabrics that not only complement your style but also stand the test of time. During our recent upholstery education event, we had many inquiries about leather upholstery. Leather, particularly aniline-dyed, top-grade options from reputable brands like CR Laine, Lee, and other lines we carry offers exceptional durability and can last three to four times longer than cloth upholstery. Additionally, leather upholstery is relatively easy to maintain, with regular cleaning and conditioning to preserve its supple texture and rich color. 

Understanding upholstery material fibers, treatments, and cleaning codes are crucial for maintaining the longevity of your upholstered furniture. Fabrics are made up of different materials, some of which are treated to be easier to clean, and therefore have different cleaning needs. Standard industry terminology and industry-aligned cleaning codes dictate the recommended use and cleaning methods for each individual textile. Our knowledgeable team can guide you through the options available, ensuring that you choose the right fabric for your lifestyle and maintenance preferences. For instance, they’ll tell you that while performance fabrics are known for their stain-resistant properties, it’s essential to note that they still require upkeep to maintain their pristine condition. Regular cleaning and care are key to preserving the cleanability and wearability of any fabric, whether it’s a high-performance option or a traditional upholstery fabric. 

At Nell Hill’s, we offer a diverse range of fabric options from our upholstery vendors, including performance fabrics known for their durability and stain resistance. However, our commitment to customization doesn’t end there. We also provide the option for upholstery in our exclusive Nell Hill’s fabric, allowing you to create upholstered pieces that reflect your unique style and preferences. Whether you opt for leather upholstery, performance fabrics, or a more traditional option, rest assured that our fabric selections are curated with longevity and quality in mind, ensuring that your upholstered furniture withstands the test of time while maintaining its beauty and functionality. 

“Dressmaker Details” 

While frames and cushions are exciting to learn about (at least to me and fellow furniture nerds), the customization options might just be THE most exciting thing of all. These details give furniture pieces that custom, designer look and turn a functional piece of furniture into a work of art. On pillows, we call them “dressmaker details” – pleats, folds, cording, flat flanges – anything that adds a dash of visual interest and flair. These little details, like welt, tape trim, nail heads, even the topstitching used add character and sophistication to your piece, making it truly one of a kind. 

One notable feature of our hand-crafted furniture is the individual placement of nail heads, as opposed to using a strip of nails like you might find in some alternatives. This meticulous attention to detail ensures that each nail head is precisely placed, contributing to the overall durability and craftsmanship of the furniture. With our extensive range of customization options and meticulous craftsmanship of our furniture partners, you can trust that your upholstered pieces from Nell Hill’s will not only be a beautiful addition to your home but also a lasting investment in quality and style. 

In the intricate dance of craftsmanship and design, upholstered furniture becomes a narrative of comfort, quality, and personal style. We revel in the art of creating pieces that stand the test of time, reflecting both the expertise of the artisans that made them and the unique stories of those who bring these furnishings into their homes. As you embark on the journey of selecting or customizing your upholstered treasures, remember that it’s not just about the form and function—it’s about the legacy they hold. May your choices at Nell Hill’s bring enduring joy and comfort, weaving a tapestry of memories within the fabric of your life. We’re so grateful to get to take the journey with you!  

Thinking about creating your own piece? Now is the perfect time — our 20% Off Upholstered Furniture Sale is happening NOW! Save 20% on all in-stock and custom upholstered furniture (like the pieces you see above) until Thursday, February 15. Pop by the store to shop any time, or if you live too far to make it in person, you can always schedule some virtual one-on-one shopping time with one of our Designers (it’s free!).