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Custom Furniture Design: Keywords You Need To Know

Having a leg-up while hunting the New Jersey market for a new piece of furniture is an opportunity you can’t pass on. Whether your ideal custom furniture design is Mid-Century, Classics, or Chesterfield, there’s a lot to know about the ins and outs of each. Use these terms as your sword and shield while furniture shopping. If information is the key to success, then consider these keywords your own personal lockpicking kit to opening up the world of custom furniture design.

Bench Cushion – A flat, no-crevice single cushion that is not attached to the sofa frame.

68 Inch Dylan Mid-Century Sofa in Renegade Blue Leather
The Dylan, with standard bench cushion, shown in Renegade Blue

Breathe Panel – A permeable panel of fabric on the backside of the back pillow cushion, and the underside of the seat cushions. Most often used when upholstering with leather or vinyl. Leather and vinyl alone can make odd sounds with the possibility of blowing out the seams. A breathe panel allows air to escape from the foam in cushion when sat upon. Made of a durable, quality fabric. Options to upholster fabric on underside available.

The Redding Breathe Panel
The Redding leather sectional, with a cushion flipped to expose the breathe panels underneath, shown in White Leather with tan breathe panel

Colorway – The range of colors or color combinations available for a specific fabric. The style of a print can change dramatically in different colorways.

Deck – The flat platform under an upholstered chair’s seat cushion, usually covered in plain fabric. The deck should be firmly resilient, and you should not be able to feel the springs.

English Roll-Arm –  or simply ‘English Arm’ is a piece of furniture with a slightly sloped back, low curved arms and a curved bottom frame to echo the curve of the arms.

Green Kubrick English Arm Tight Back Sofa in Como Emerald Velvet
The Kubrick with standard English roll arm, shown in Como Emerald Velvet

Nail-Heads – Decorative nails that line the arms, back, or base of some sofas. Also helps retain leather stiffness on the furniture body. Popular on Chesterfield and Classic sofa arms. Our nails are  and-hammered into place, ensuring accurate and attractive design.

The Hemingway,with French Natural Nail-head detail

Pillow Back – Unattached cushions. Adds to the longevity of the piece if you periodically rotate the cushions. Also makes for easier cleaning.

McQueen Double Chaise U-Shaped Sectional Sofa in Brown Leather
The McQueen Leather Sectional with optional pillow back, shown in Berkshire Bourbon

Space-Saver Chesterfield – Where a classic Chesterfield has a roll extending beyond the vertical back, the Space-Saver Chesterfield features a completely flat back without affecting seat depth. This allows it to slide right up against the wall or another piece of furniture. Delivers the same classic look of a Chesterfield while saving several inches of floor-space.

Space-Saver Flat-Back Chesterfield
The Wright, with optional Space-Saver flat back, shown in Caprese Frosted Green Grapes


Blind Stitch – A design choice where the stitching of fabrics or leathers is not visible on either side of the seam, hence a “blind” stitch.

A close-up example of a blind stitch sewing pattern

Saddle Stitch – A design choice where the stitching of fabrics or leathers is visible on both sides of the seam, as if they are the legs on either side of the “saddle”, or seam. Can also be called “straddle stitch“.

A close up example of a saddle stitch sewing pattern

Single-Edge Needle Stitch – A design choice where the stitching of fabrics or leathers is visible on one side of the seam, hence a “single edge”.

A close up example of a single-edge needle stitch

Swailed Side Rail –  When the back legs of a sofa are slightly shorter than the front legs, resulting in a gentle and natural recline to lay into the back cushion. Features a curved bottom edge, usually accompanying an English Arm style.

Green Kubrick English Arm Tight Back Sofa in Como Emerald Velvet
The Kubrick with standard swailed side rail, shown in Como Emerald Velvet

Tight Back – Where the padding is built directly to the frame in place of removable back pillow cushions for a clean tidy look.

Tight Back McQueen Sof in Dark Gray Velvet
The McQueen with optional tight back, shown in Brown fabric

Tight Fixed Seat – A flat, single cushion that is attached to the sofa frame.

fitzgerald bristol blue leather tight seat chesterfield sofa
The Fitzgerald with optional tight fixed seat, shown in Bristol Blue

Track Arms – Flat, straight and usually square-shaped arms that sit lower than the back cushion. Achieves a measured and tailored-detail look. Available with or without nail-head trim.

Custom Track Arm Modern Sectional Sofa in Crypton Chili Crème Brulee Duato Fabric
A custom-ordered track-arm sectional similar to the McQueen with standard track arms, shown in Crypton Chilli Créme Brulee


When materials are truly tufted, stitches or buttons are sewn through intersecting points of the full padding in the furniture to keep the stuffing inside from bunching or shifting. Sofas, sectionals, and chairs can be tufted with a variety of designs and features.

Blind Tuft – A blind tuft is when twine used to secure the tufting is pulled from the inside back of the upholstery and secured inside the cushion. It is characterized by a lack of buttons, achieving a systematic and sleek look.

Roosevelt with blind tufting in Seville Willow leather
The Roosevelt with optional blind tufting, shown in Seville Willow Leather

Button-Tufted – Any tufting that uses buttons. Includes any tufting design that utilizes buttons during the tufting process (Includes Diamond-tufted and Square Button Tufted design).

Blue Leather Chesterfield Sectional Sofa
The Fitzgerald with optional button tufting, shown in Mont Blanc Baltic Blue

Diamond-Tufted – Tufting that uses twine-pulled sculpting to achieve a fancy diamond shaped pattern across the back. Available blind tufted and button-tufted.

Neil Diamond-Tufted Mid-Century Chesterfield Sofa & Armchair
The Neil with optional diamond tufting, shown in Brown Leather

Square-Tufted – Tufting that uses twine-pulled sculpting pulled across the in back to achieve a square shaped pattern across the back cushion. Available blind tufted or button-tufted.

Dylan Mid-Century Orange Leather Tufted Loveseat
The Dylan with optional square button tufting, shown in Renegade Soulful

Channel-Tufted – A tufting feature created by individual upholstered channels that are padded to create a unique and elegant appearance.

The Lambert with standard vertical channel tufting, shown in Black Leather

Tuxedo Arms – Flat, no-curve and usually square shaped arms that are the same height as the back of the sofa. Results in a tailored, sophisticated look. Available with or without nail-head trim.

Dylan Mid-Century Brown Leather Tufted Tuxedo Sofa
The Dylan with standard tuxedo arms, shown in Brown Leather

Welt Cord – Making welt cord, also referred to as ‘piping’, is the act of covering plain cording with a decorative cover. Covers are usually fabric or leather. The cord is sewn into an upholstery seam. This is located along the bottom edge of a sofa, the sides of cushions, and sometimes the back edge of a Chesterfield. Welted edges define the silhouette of a piece of furniture and strengthen the seams. Is generally a mark of good quality upholstery.

Hitchcock Pillow Back English Arm Sectional
The Hitchcock, shown in Blue Fabric with a contrasting welt cord

Understanding custom furniture design is key to making an informed purchase. Check back for new terms on this list. If you’ve heard or seen something that wasn’t on this list and you have a question – give us a shout, and we’ll be happy to help. Also, check out our Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest to help inspire you in your search for custom furniture design.

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Until then, have a safe and happy Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Yule, Festivus, or just a good solid three day weekend

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