Good Chair Guide

How to Choose a Quality Occasional Chair

When people are looking to purchase a new piece of furniture, they are often understandably confused by what they should look for to ensure that it is of good quality and built to last.

With upholstered furniture such as chairs and sofas this is even more tricky since one cannot see inside and examine how it has been made.

We hope this guide will help you decide if a piece of furniture is of good quality, built to last and is good value for money.

The Frame

The frame is the heart of a piece of furniture but is often invisible in upholstered chairs & sofas.

The majority of upholstery sold in the UK is now imported from Eastern Europe, China and the Far East. Virtually all are made on a chipboard frame, which has been stapled together to meet the low price demands of the mass market.

However if you want a sofa or chair to last more than a few years you need to have a 100% hardwood frame (Beech, Birch and Maple are the most commonly used hardwoods). These frames require skilled craftsmen using quality woods from renewable forestry sources, and so are inherently more costly than chipboard furniture. But an investment in this type of construction will be rewarded by many years of comfort.

All our frames are made using traditional methods of glued, screwed and dowelled joints.

If you want to find out if a frame Broken Sofais made of hardwood or not, simply try lifting it; - if it is easy to lift it probably has a chipboard frame.

DISAPPOINTMENT: A cheap broken imported piece of upholstery. Uses plywood rather than hardwood and webbing rather than springs.


We prefer to use some form of steel springs in our upholstered chairs rather than webbing. Webbing is perfectly acceptable for the back of a sofa with loose back cushions, but metal springs should be used in seats and fixed backs if you want the furniture to last.

Filling and Cushions

Good quality chairs will be completely padded and insulated with high resilience materials such as polyether foam, felt, cotton wadding and Dacron fibre.

Usually on a low quality sofa you will be able to feel the frame when you press down on the arms or feel under the arms or back. This is because they have used low quality fillings and in certain cases, cardboard or nothing at all.

We use fire retardant fillings and cushion compatible with stringent UK fire safety regulations. We offer our customers a choice of seat and back cushions dependant on the type of comfort required.


The fabric is usually the main feature of an upholstered occasional chair and it is what attracts customers to a particular item.

In recent years the fabric industry has tried to guide customers on the durability of fabrics. This is done through the Martindale Rub Test, an abrasion resistance test. In short, a fabric is rubbed until two threads are broken or in the case of pile fabrics, when the pile has completely worn off. To be suitable for upholstery, British Standards recommend a fabric has passed a minimum of 15000 cycles. But for longevity we recommend using fabric with a rub test of at least 25000 for general domestic use. For heavy domestic use or contract use a fabric should be rated at 40000 rubs.

Photo of chair on fire - one that did not meet fire safety regulationsIn the UK, fabrics must also pass the Furniture and Furnishings Fire Regulations (BS 5852 Part 1) for cigarette and match, or be capable of use in conjunction with an FR interliner that meets Ignition Source 5.

OUCH!  We all want to avoid the "hot-seat"!!

In addition any fabric chosen should have good resistance to light and should be colourfast – all fabrics have a tendency to fade in strong sunlight.

Unlike some furniture suppliers we do not force you to choose from a limited range of anonymous “in-house” fabrics. You can choose any of the thousands of stylish fabrics we have from reputable design houses or we are happy to use any other fabric you may specify. This means that you can create a unique piece of furniture and you can coordinate your chairs with your curtains and other soft furnishings.


Virtually all leather furniture sold in large discount stores is imported. Leather has gone from being a high value premium product to becoming a mass-market commodity produced mainly in China and Eastern Europe. The large stores now compete furiously to produce the cheapest possible leather sofas and not surprisingly quality suffers.

Many pieces of so-called leather furniture are really a combination of leather and vinyl, reconstituted leather or split leather (a skin is peeled and split to give two thin skins instead of one). If you have a sample of genuine leather you’ll soon notice the difference.

One reason why importers have flooded the UK market with leather is that genuine leather is one of the few coverings that has natural fire resistance and will often pass fire tests without treatment specifically for the more stringent UK fire regulations.

Real leather is a natural product and it breathes and is warm. Each hide is unique and will bear marks from its natural origin. These hallmarks in no way detract from the quality of the leather and are signs to the discerning customer of the authenticity of the product.

We only use full thickness hides with as natural finish as possible. With care and attention leather furniture should last a lifetime during which time it will develop a unique patina that enhances its beauty.

Production & Transportation

The majority of upholstery sold in the UK nowadays is mass-produced in factories overseas. Fabrics and leathers are machine cut and production is done in a flow production system.

Our furniture is made in the traditional manner by skilled craftspeople working in Long Eaton, the UK capital of furniture making. Frames are constructed by skilled wood machinists and fabrics and leathers are cut by hand and pattern matched by eye.

Every piece of furniture we sell is made to order. The majority are made in standard sizes but dimensions can be tailored for special situations; large or small rooms and tall or short customers.

Furniture imported from overseas is crammed into shipping containers to minimise cost and items often suffer damage or the effects of heat and humidity in transit. In contrast furniture that we supply is individually wrapped and transported directly to us or direct to you.

Quality isn’t an accident

As you can see, quality furniture is designed in from the outset. It requires a combination of good design and manufacturing, skilled craftsmanship and high quality materials. Unfortunately quality does not come cheap, but cheap is usually a false economy that leads to short-lived or uncomfortable furniture.

We are only in business to provide our customers with beautiful high quality bespoke occasional chairs.

If you have any questions, do get in touch,

Bronia and Steve
Posted by Steve Whitt