Here's my little speech on upholstery <grin>;
There's no secret to making good furniture, its not rocket science. You need two things to make a good piece of upholstery: 1) A quantity of Materials, and 2) Skilled Labor. Combine the two and you have the product, obviously. If you use the best materials, and the best workers, you have the best product - and that is generally going to cost xxxxx dollars regardless of the brand. A furniture maker will decide what market he wants to capture or play in, and then has to build the furniture to that price point.
For example, Hancock and Moore uses the finest materials and the highest skilled work force in the industry. Result? Most their sofas are $ 3,000 (average retail price).
Bradington-Young decides they don't want to go head-to-head with Hancock and Moore and decides their target market is the $ 2,200 sofa. Now they have to cut out either design elements of their pieces, internal construction components, or use a slightly less skilled work force to achieve that price point. And they do.
Then you get a Company like Flexsteel that decides its market is more Midwest middle class and they want to be in the $ 1,500 sofa range. They have to cut back on the same components and work force even moreso.
Finally you get to the bottom feeders which are brands like La-Z-Boy and Ashley - and there are tons in this category - and they want the $ 999 sofa. More cuts in material and craftsmanship to get to that price point.
As a consumer, you have to buy within your comfort level - thats important - and you have to decide what your budget has to be. You job as a consumer is to use forums such as this to gather information as to what makes a good or not so good piece, and then decide for yourself what is your best bang for the buck within your buying comfort level. Generally speaking, the salespeople in the furniture stores wouldn't know the difference between split and top grain leather, or an 8-way hand-tied spring vs. an 8-way hand-looped spring or really care as long as they can convince you to buy from them TODAY. It's mostly 'buyer beware', hence the more homework you do on your part, the better you will be able to see for yourself what a good buy is for your money.
I've been in this business over 25 years now. I can tell a quality piece of upholstery from fifteen feet away (not kidding!). I just have a trained eye. You can learn that as well if you invest the time. Don't rely on silly red "CLEARANCE" or "SALE" tags in the stores to show you the 'bargains'. Like I said, there is no magic in this industry - as the price comes down so does the quality.
Here's the other part of this formula:
"Everything looks good when its new". This further aggravates your buying decisions because its hard for most people to tell the difference between a $ 3,000 sofa and $ 1,000 one. The acid test is five years down the road. That $ 3,000 sofa is still looking great and performing near new, while the $ 1,000 one is broke down and ready for Salvation Army.
1) Watch Craigslist for Premium Brands. The do come up and are usually excellent buys for those of you just starting out. Typically the used pieces sell for about .30 on the $ 1.00 of their new cost and have plenty of life left. I'd rather have a 5-year old Hancock and Moore sofa for $ 1,000 than a brand new Ashley for the same price.
2) Go to the local stores and look for floor models they want to get rid of. Every store has them (even me!). There may be only one or two per store, but they're there. For example, I have a H&M Member Sofa in Brown Leather I want to move out...if you were to order this sofa in the exact same leather it would honestly cost you $ 3,400. I have this one unit on my floor at $ 1,995 because quite frankly I'm tired of looking at it and want to bring in a fresh piece. That's the sofa you want to find ....
I'm going to send you to a competitor since you are in Northern Virginia. Go to Greenfront Interiors in Mannasas, VA. Huge place, and what they do is buy the High Point showrooms after each furniture market. They have the buying power to take whole showrooms unlike little stores like mine. When they do, they buy them at 30 % LESS than regular wholesale, which allows the to put smoking hot prices on their floor models. Now, a lot of the stuff they have is very funky as Decorators have had their way with the pieces for Market Showrooms, but you may find a high quality piece on their floor in your price point if you can use the style and cover it comes in. Their prices are not so great on ordering you something, so concentrate on buying something off the floor. High end brands they will have on their floor at market showroom discounts will include anything from Hancock and Moore, Southwood Furniture, Century, Hendredon and Taylor King.
So there ya go! Hope that helps.
Straight answers from thirty years in the business.
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