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Mel’s advice: How to pick out a sofa or a chair.

Bottoms up! Let’s pick a sofa or chair, shall we?

What prevents you from sinking down in a chair or a sofa? Not everyone agrees on what type of suspension is the highest quality and will last the longest, so let me help you get to the “bottom” of this issue. There are many different types of suspension systems manufacturers use, I favor Sinuous Springs or Eight-Way Hand Tied. My client’s budget decides which suspension I purchase.

Ok, so let’s talk about these common types of suspension.

Pocket Coil

Pocket coil suspension is a bunch of coils individually wrapped in a fabric similar to what you find inside a mattress. I can’t imagine this suspension working well on a sofa or chair. Bottoms down on this one however, the good news is that I won’t be dropping any of your bottoms because not too many manufacturers use this method.


Did you know that there is a suspension similar to how a trampoline attaches to the round frame? Yes, I found this suspension is indeed used on mid-priced pieces at popular retailers. This wire grid attaches to the frame with springs on the side. I know you’re thinking, “ that’s perfect for my boys who bounce all over my furniture” but I’m here to tell you NO! avoid this one. Remember, trampoline wires aren’t very thick and often break. Why invest in a piece of furniture with an expected end date?

Coil Springs

A less labor-intensive version of spring suspension mounted on a metal frame then added to the furniture as a single piece. The coil suspension can offer some of the support of the eight-way hand-tied springs without the high labor costs. This means the coil spring system isn’t supported on the bottom by anything because it is screwed into the sides of the frame thus, sagging is inevitable. Also, because there is a lot of metal to metal contact squeaking down the road is a reality. I can’t imagine being a guest in your home and I make your sofa squeak as I seat. No thank you! awkward visit for both of us. This system is hard to tell because you can’t feel it through the material unless you look at the frame. Honestly, who picks a sofa up and looks at the frame in the store? If you did lift it, you’d notice that this drop in unit is only attached to the frame in the corners. Yeah, let’s just pass on this heavyweight challenge.

Eight-way hand-tied

It’s considered the gold standard of sofa suspension because it is the most labor-intensive and costly option. Eight-way hand tie is the mark of a high-quality piece of furniture. The bottom of the sofa springs are supported by webbing and the top of the springs are secured by twine tied by hand at eight different spots and then attached to the frame. This keeps the springs from shifting, in turn providing years of unwavering support thus, ensures that the suspension won’t start to squeak with use.

So besides being told that the furniture piece was been constructed using an eight-way hand tie,(believe me, any vendor who takes the time to use this construction, is proud to tell anyone who will listen) how would you know? Easy, pick up the cushion and push on the seat deck, you should be able to feel the individual springs through the fabric. The price of the sofa will also tell you.

Sinuous Springs

This common type of sofa suspension can be explained as large zig-zagging pieces of metal set in rows several inches apart and running perpendicular to the front of the sofa. Commonly found in low to mid-price sofa ranges, sinuous spring systems wire should be at least 8-gauge with at least two silent-tie wires running across and clipped to each spring. I’ve always thought of a Large S curve as better support but the truth of the matter is smaller turns in a sinuous spring are more ideal. So, Sinuous springs vs eight-way hand-tied? Well, sinuous is less labor-intensive, offers adequate support so buying a piece of furniture with this system is a less costly and true bank for your buck on a moderate budget. Size matters, check that gauge.

So question is, how comfortable are you with buying furniture online without knowing how to search for these fun facts?

My Advice

What is your expectation for your investment? Is this a piece of furniture that’s just decorative of the main seating piece in your home. Splurge and invest in comfort, long-lasting quality pieces of furniture when possible. If eight-way hand-tied is not in the budget, buy the next best thing (sinuous spring suspension). Unless you can afford to replace your furniture periodically, pieces with webbing or mesh suspension should never be allowed to occupy space in your living room.

In time, they will be uncomfortable and flimsy. The goal of purchasing your sofa is to keep bottoms up.

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