One of the things that I’ve mentioned in quite a few of the previous posts is the inclusion of foundational investment pieces in a homes interior design, which means nothing more than including well made high quality furnishings. Of course quality comes at a cost which is why I think it’s a good idea to have a mix of furnishings at various price points to balance out the cost of furnishing or designing a home’s interior. This is especially true if your budget is limited. Not everyone can afford to have the best of everything immediately so a slow steady approach that begins with a mix of furniture that will be kept for the long term and trendier less expensive pieces that will eventually be replaced over a period of time is a smart option.
So what exactly are the qualities to look for in a well made high quality investment piece such as an upholstered piece of furniture? To answer this question I’ll like to share with you the highlights of and pictures that I took at a recent chair building event that I attended at the Kravet showroom at the Washington Design Center. At the event a Pelham chair was custom built by Steven Bolick a 3rd generation upholsterer with over 30 years of experience. The completed chair has a retail value of $2,620.00 and is an American handcrafted product that is normally fabricated at the Kravet manufacturing facility located in Conover, North Carolina.
So if you’re questioning how anyone could possibly justify paying this sum for a chair consider that it is backed by the lifetime guarantee of Kravet, a 5th generation company that was established in 1918. Also consider there are basically two approaches to shopping: make a larger initial investment for something you only intend to purchase one time or pay considerably less for something you expect to replace multiple times. One works well for those who hate shopping and tends to lean towards a classic design aesthetic and the other works well for those who like shopping and keeping up with the latest trends. It’s a personal preference. That being said if the original owner of this chair had a remaining life span of say 40 years the average yearly cost to own this chair would be less than $67.00 and given its quality it could then be passed down to the next generation at no additional cost unless the heir chooses to have it reupholstered in a fabric more suitable for their design style. This option may not be practical for a lesser quality piece. The expense of reupholstering might not be worth it for a poorer quality piece that can’t withstand the test of time.
So let’s take a look at something you normally don’t get to see when you’re considering making an upholstered furniture purchase whether that means a chair, sofa or sectional:
This frame is made of 28 ply laminated hardwood with mortise and tendon joints that are glued with non –formaldehyde glues.
Each seat spring is secured with an 8 way hand tied construction designed to hold the springs up and down to ensure a level surface.
All exposed wood is made of maple and there are steel strips at the bottom of the seat to ensure seat springs do not come out of the bottom of the frame.
Layers of cotton and fiber are added to the frame to provide luxury and integrity to the construction. The hardwood frame provides the support and structural integrity, there is no cardboard used which is often the case on the arms of lower quality furniture to create the shape.
Next a heavy duty upholstery fabric with a 39,000 double rub rating is used as the covering. This rating system classifies 15,000 double rubs as a heavy duty fabric which determines the wear and durability of the fabric. Fabric of this quality retails for $99.00 per yard.
A standard cushion has covered springs inside of the surrounding fiber which consists of 18 pound foam. This ensures that the cushion maintains it shape over time and does not require constant plumping.
Above you see self decking which uses the same fabric beneath the cushion and has a soft edge cavity to prevent the cushion from shifting.
More cotton fiber is used to pad the seat back.
Next the back fabric is added with black pull down material which is tucked into the frame to keep the fabric pulled tightly around the frame.
Next the welting is added to the edges of the frame. The fabric for the welting is cut on the bias (diagonally) to ensure that the welts lie straight.
More padding is added to the back of the chair before the outer upholstery fabric is secured to the back.
Thin aluminum ply grips are placed on the sides of the back to grip the back fabric tightly.
The bottom of the chair is enclosed with a breathable fabric.
The labels are applied which includes the fiber contents.
And here’s the completed chair.
So this was an abbreviated look at what it takes to build a Kravet custom designed chair with a frame that has a lifetime guarantee for the original purchaser. In addition to what I was able to photograph it normally requires a team effort of framers, sewers, cutters, upholsterers, wood finishers and a final inspector who all do a great deal of work behind the scenes. And finally for those who care about sustainability, this is why quality matters. This chair definitely meets the requirement of being a sustainable product in light of the fact that it is an American made product that was designed with a superior level of quality that is probably more likely to fill the home of future generations rather than a landfill.