A Chesterfield sofa is easily one of the most recognizable pieces of furniture around. Stunningly antique and elegantly robust, it is a historical piece of furniture with as much attention to detail as it has class. The hallmark of a quality Chesterfield sofa is extensively visual; luxury leather stretching over a vivacious frame, deep buttoning, and a low back with high, roll-top arms.
Unfortunately, the furniture market is flooded with fakes, impostors, swindlers, and tricksters. Each of them cashing in on the reputation of the Chesterfield sofa while not providing the true premium product. To learn what to look for and look out for, and to be sure your next purchase has quality matching reputation, continue reading below for of Iron & Oak’s official insider tips.
Red Flags for Fake Chesterfields – The Devil’s in the Details
It doesn’t take a trained eye to spot the differences between a good quality Chesterfield sofa and a second-rate one. All it takes is a few penetrating questions for the manufacturer and a little patience and attention to detail.
Red Flag: There are terms to look out for when manufacturers describe leather. Buyer beware for anything made with bonded leather, this is a manufacturer skimping out, leaving you with a weaker leather with a shorter lifespan.
Green Light: The best for quality leather furniture is fully aniline dyed, full grain leather. Both of these use the full thickness of the hide in construction, and will last and age elegantly.
“Pre-tufted” or sewn-in tufting, where individual fabric pieces are stitched together then buttoned to create the illusion of natural tufts. As a result, these options produce a looser, wrinkled look that doesn’t hold shape.
When materials are truly tufted, stitches or buttons are sewn through the full padding in the furniture to keep the stuffing inside from bunching or shifting. True tufting also adds a decorative element to furniture and cushions without looking cheap or shaggy. At of Iron & Oak, artisans tuft the fabric or leather directly into the furniture. This takes great skill and experience to do.
Frame of Reference
When it comes to internals, the first question you should ask any manufacturer is the type of wood used in the frame construction.
Fiberboard is the absolute worst thing to have in any piece of furniture. If a company mentions fiber board, your best option is to run away. Additionally, any sort of cardboard, softwood, or plywood frame ensures a sofa is more susceptible to damage and breaking. If a frame is advertised as hardwood but does not specify that it is kiln-dried, buyer beware – moisture that remains in wood can lead to shrinkage or warping down the line.
**IMPORTANT** Many furniture brands use clever wording to suggest their frames are hardwood. If a brand uses terms such as “hardwood laminate” or “plytanium” – those really mean plywood and they are trying to pull a fast one on you.
Our frames are a prime example of what to look for in a frame. Starting as a basic hardwood cut from maple, oak, cherry, or walnut, materials are placed in a temperature and humidity controlled kiln. Once inside, high temperatures bake the wood, drawing out at least 90% of the moisture that the lumber retained after harvesting. Drying out the wood helps prevent any of that warping or shrinkage and safeguards the sofa from sagging and losing its shape. Kiln-dried hardwood is the ideal frame.
More Cushion for the Pushin’
Poor quality foam cushions and Swiss Cheese have two things in common. Both have large air pockets and both kinda stink. These large air pockets will collapse over time. Likewise, cushions made with inferior foam will dry out and become brittle over time.
When searching for a quality Chesterfield, the best modern seat cushions are made with sophisticated layering systems. Each utilizes a variety of densities of materials to provide the desired support and sink-in quality. Comfort is a subjective term. Some like it firm, some like it soft and others like it just in the middle. Arguably, the best seat cushions, “Spring-down” incorporate a triple-threat including central core of springs flanked on the top and bottom with a layer of high quality of foam and a layer of down & feather blend that is channel stitched into place wrapped in down proof ticking.
Our standard seat cushion is often other companies upgrade or double upgrade. They feature a high quality foam central core with channel stitched down and feather top and bottom surface and is wrapped in down proof ticking. We can substitute the down and feather wrap for a synthetic fill for those who are opposed to down and feathers. These quality materials and layering of materials ensures a comfortable sit with a resilient bounce destined to outlast all other sofa cushions.
Suspension of Disbelief
Connoisseur’s would say true mastery of quality Chesterfield suspension is found in what is known as 8-Way Hand Tied Suspension. It starts by securing and supporting coil springs to the bottom of the seat deck using a steel webbing. The tops of the springs are then secured with waxed twine, which inspires the name. Every spring is individually attached to the frame at eight different locations, all hand-woven and tied down to the frame. This literal web of support keeps springs from shifting in place within the seat deck. As a result, you get years of steadfast support far superior to any simple spring or foam system.
Another spring system that is a newer innovation and was developed for the high-end bedding market is pocket coil spring systems. These spring systems are made by fully encasing each individual spring in fabric. This holds the springs in place and allows for more springs to be placed close together. That way offers even compression and distributes the weight evenly across the bed of springs when sat upon.
Sinuous springs lower-quality spring system type in the furniture world. Sinuous springs tend to hold their shape less, sag, and squeak more. That’s due to hasty, unsupported construction and a lack of superior materials. “Drop-in” 8-Way Hand Tied Suspension is another piece of terminology brands use to trick you, true Eight-Way Hand-Tie spring systems are tied by hand one at a time by skilled craftsmen. It’s an incredibly time consuming process. You could imagine why some manufacturers try to cut corners with a simple drop-in that look hand-tied, but really isn’t.
With a few questions, you can easily transition from the uninformed majority to a furniture-savvy force to be reckoned with. Next time you shop for a quality Chesterfield, you’ll be ready to take charge and remind the manufacturer who’s the boss. To stay up to date on the ins-and-outs of custom furniture and sharpen your cutting edge, keep up to date with of Iron & Oak on Facebook, drop us a line if you have any questions, or visit us in our Lambertville New Jersey showroom!