How to Find the Perfect Upholstered Piece

Pick the Perfect Upholstered Piece

Pick the Perfect Upholstered Piece

Whether you’re looking to upgrade from shabby to chic or searching for that piece de resistance to finish a new space, take the extra time to find furniture that fits your special needs. Finding a fabulous piece of upholstered furniture, whether it’s a sofa, chair, or ottoman, requires more than spending a few minutes with it in a store — no matter how far you’ve fallen in love. So before you go shopping, take a look at our helpful tips below.

How to Pick the Perfect Upholstered Piece

Measure, measure, measure

There’s nothing more disappointing than having new furniture delivered to your home only to realize it doesn’t quite work as you had imagined, or it simply doesn’t fit. Ensure your new upholstered furniture is the right size and scale by measuring the space before you shop. Use our helpful Room  Planner tool to mock up a layout of your room. Mark off windows and doorways, too. Remember to measure your doorways to ensure your furniture will actually fit through the door.

Imagine living on it

Your upholstered furniture should reflect the way you live, so you’ll love your furniture just as much in years to come as you did the day you bought it. What room is your furniture going in and how often do you use it? For example, if you need a sofa for the family room, you’ll want something that can withstand years of daily use. If you love to lay down watching TV, find one that’s long enough to stretch out on.

Got kids? Look for more durable fabrics that are pre-treated with stain repellant. The most effective stain guard treatments are done by the manufacturer because the repellent is embedded in the fabric and heat-set for sustainability. Ask a salesperson to help you choose a fabric with a stain guard treatment that best meets your needs.

Another easy-care option is slipcovered furniture. We happen to love the casual live-in look of slipcovers, and they’re easy to clean and maintain. Plus, you can completely reinvent your look with a simple change of your slipcovers. We have slipcovered collections in a variety of styles and sizes, so you can find the one that fits your life best. You’ll find a helpful guide explaining their construction at the end of this article.

What is in furniture cushions

Look for sink-in comfort & lasting quality

It’s important to know what’s under that beautiful fabric that you love so much. The quality of the construction is what makes the piece last and provides the comfort you’re looking for.

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  • Bench Made – What does it mean? Well, technically, it means that your piece of furniture is made by one person and not on an assembly line. So if a piece of furniture is bench made, it’s crafted by a highly skilled artisan from start to finish. Bench made furniture is always of higher quality.
  • Frames – The finest frames are made from kiln-dried hardwood. The corner joints should have corner blocks that are glued, screwed and dowelled for maximum reinforcement. Try feeling the edges of the piece—they should be well padded with smooth corners.
  • Spring Support Systems –The industry standard is using eight-way hand-tied springs, but there are other systems that are as resilient and long lasting. S-shape springs are continuous steel and are attached from front to back to provide long-lasting quality. The best way to test the springs is to bounce on them. Good springs should bounce back with no noise and should not be visible through the deck fabric, or top layer of padding.
  • Cushions – Choosing the right cushion often comes down to your personal preference, but there are other factors to consider. Unzip the cushion to make sure it is encased in fabric (muslin). A cushion should be heavy for its size and should be plump and well- shaped. Poly-foam cushions should bounce back to their original shape immediately. Some feather or down blend cushions are less stiff looking and require some plumping to return to their original shape. They have a softer, more relaxed look and feel.


What fabric should you choose

What fabric should you choose?

Aside from body style, fabric is the most important factor that stands out and speaks to your personality or preference. Of course you want it to look great, but you also want it to last. For durability, always look for a tightly woven fabric. Some may even have a backing for additional stability. We’ve identified some of the most popular choices – and our favorites – below to help guide your search.

Natural fibers
Cotton comes in a wide variety of weights and thicknesses; cotton twill is especially durable. Chenille is another blend of cotton that looks great in a casual setting. (To ensure chenille is tightly woven, hold it up to the light. It’s too thin if you can see through it.) Cotton velvet is also a good choice and is known for its ability to wear well. Plush velvet, on the other hand, crushes easily and is not recommended for frequently used, everyday furniture.

Highly resilient indoor/outdoor fabric options have gained popularity in recent years and we’ve got a beautiful selection. Today’s indoor/outdoor fabrics look and feel fabulous and are usually made from tough acrylic fibers with built-in stain resistance — a great choice for a kid-friendly environment. Any of the microfiber fabrics are equally suitable for heavily used areas. Microfibers are synthetic, non-woven materials that retain their color and are resistant to stains and odors. And how we love linen! Being one of the oldest and most durable fabrics makes it a winner, but with some reservations. Linen does wrinkle, but if it is blended with a synthetic fiber it tends to wrinkle less. Browse our Fabric by the Yard for inspiration.

Browse Our Upholstered Sofa Collections

We obsess over every detail to produce a line of well-designed and well-made upholstered furniture that you’ll love to live with. The guide below explains how our upholstered furniture is constructed and what materials we use, so you can make an informed decision. Find out what’s under all that beautiful Ballard fabric:

Eton Collection – Constructed of kiln-dried hardwood frame, seat support system, cushion cores surrounded by hypoallergenic down blend encased in 100% cotton channel quilted down proof ticking.

Ballard Designs Eton Sofa Collection

Baldwin Collection – Frames are bench-made in the USA of kiln-dried hardwood, and then corner blocked and double doweled for strength. A sag-resistant, patented steel spring system supports double-wrapped, high-density foam core cushions layered with luxurious down-blend. Each piece is covered in off-white muslin and ready for a custom-fit slipcover.

Ballard Designs Baldwin Sofa Collection

Vintage Vogue Collection – Frames are bench-made in the USA of kiln-dried hardwood and fitted with resilient Flexolator springs. Deep, foam core cushions are cocooned in a triple-wrapped blanket of soft poly-fiber. Each piece comes upholstered in off-white muslin and ready for a custom-fit slipcover.

Ballard Designs Vintage Vogue Sofa Collection

Manchester Collection – Engineered hardwood frames are kiln-dried and bench made in the USA with mortise-and-tenon joinery, the industry’s highest standard. Arms are nicely padded to accentuate their graceful slope. Split cushions are finished with self-piped seams and filled with luxurious down blend.

Ballard Designs Manchester Sofa Collection

Davenport Collection – Engineered hardwood frames are kiln-dried for enduring strength and finished with sag-resistant sinuous springs. Cushions have a foam core wrapped in soft poly-fibers and encased in luxurious down blend for a perfect marriage of support and comfort.

Ballard Designs Davenport Sofa Collection

Larkin Collection — Kiln-dried hardwood frame is artisan crafted in Virginia using the finest techniques. Cushions have deluxe, high-density foam cores wrapped in two layers of soft fiber.

Larkin Collection from Ballard Designs

Browse more of our upholstered furniture online.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

How to Decorate Team

We enjoy spending days interacting with How to Decorate readers. From answering Design Dilemmas to writing How To articles and working with guest designers, our passion is to provide informative and accurate resources to help people solve their design problems.


  1. Reply

    Joe Franklin

    July 26, 2017

    I’m glad that you talked about bench made furniture being high quality, and luckily we inherited some from my mother-in-law! We’ve been looking into some furniture reupholstering options that we have for these bench made pieces that will make them match and look good in our home, and I think that it could also add quality for us! I’m going to have to see if we can find a good reupholstering service in our area that will be able to match the quality workmanship of the bench made furniture we have! Thank you!

  2. Reply


    June 12, 2016

    Bought mealy a beige sofa from Ashley painted fawn colored walls & briber beige & darker beige rug what color & kind of odd chairs I need 2 for front of window print or solid color

  3. Reply

    Carol padgett

    May 3, 2015

    I just almost finished the kitchen and want to furnish the living room. The sofa is the only thing I have bought. I would like to refinish the green chair and buy a rug and table for the tv, create a smart entryway , and of course drapes and accent pieces on a budget of $1500-$2,000 . Can u help me? Now tell me how to include photos

    • Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      May 7, 2015

      Hi Carol,
      We’re always happy to help with a customer’s space! Our Design Solutions team does just that. You can send us your questions with photos using this form.
      We look forward to hearing from you!
      The How to Decorate Team

  4. Reply


    February 28, 2015

    I would luv to ourchase a sectional sofa but don’t know if room would allow room is 14 x 26 lots of cutouts fireplace 2 open doorways and French door how do you configure this ?? Thank you

    • Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      March 3, 2015

      Hi Janet,
      Thanks for your comment. We would love to help you pick out the right sectional to fit your space. We actually offer a free service where our Design Solutions team will help you come up with a plan. Simply complete this form, and we’ll reach out to you. Don’t forget to include photos of your space in the form!
      We look forward to hearing from you,
      The How to Decorate Team

  5. Reply


    March 27, 2014

    I am looking for a chaise for our bedroom. How does one pick out a piece without having the ability to sit in it. I want to use it as a reading nook as well as TV viewing so it is to my comfy! Any suggestions?

    • Reply

      How to Decorate Team

      March 28, 2014

      Hi Lynne,

      We totally understand your concern about sitting in a piece of furniture before you purchase! Unfortunately, unless you are near one of our stores, you wouldn’t be able to try out one of our pieces, which we understand feels risky! We would definitely recommend reading through the reviews of each item. We encourage all of our customers to be very honest, and they often have great feedback about the comfort of our pieces.

      You may also be interested to know that we have a 10 guaranteed return policy on several of our upholstery collection, including our Eton Chaise, Baldwin Chaise, and Davenport Chaise. Those might be a great place to start!

      Best of luck,
      The How to Decorate Team

  6. Reply

    Carol Harrison

    January 10, 2014

    I just purchase the Caroline quilt and Amelie bedding as pictured on page 34 of the January 2014 cat. Could you recommend what color in the velvet curtains would match up with the quilt please. The monogram on the white Amelie was done in SPA. Also, i would like to order a bench for the bottom of our King bed to coordiant with the rest and would like a suggestion on which bench and fabric. Everything is the room is currently neutal and pretty stark. Thank you in advanae for your suggestions.

    • Reply

      How to Decorate Team

      January 14, 2014


      Why not try Mineral Velvet or Sand Velvet. Either will work with the bedding!

      The How to Decorate Team

  7. Reply


    June 27, 2013

    I’m getting ready to purchase the Coventry benches and corner unit for my kitchen addition. which indoor/outdoor fabric color would you recommend? I like color but don’t want to be “stuck” should I decide to change the wall color.

    • Reply


      June 28, 2013

      Susanne: We suggest a multi-colored stripe, like Seneca Stripe, for a subtle color option or use a solid neutral, like Canvas Taupe or Sand and then bring in your color pop with artwork, accessories and great table top pieces! Style Studio Team

      • susanne

        June 28, 2013

        Seneca Stripe is one of my top choices. Great! Can it be rail roaded for the Coventry Bench? I’d also like to do a couple of lumbar pillows. Which fabric do you recommend to compliment the Seneca Stripe pattern? Either indoor or outdoor fabric?

      • Miriam

        July 2, 2013

        Susanne: For the best result with the Seneca Stripe fabric, we don’t recommend railroading it on the Coventry Frame.

  8. Reply

    jayme nunn

    September 1, 2011

    I wanted to order an upholstered headboard and need a california king size. I do not see this size in your catalogue or on-line. Any chance that you are going to add this size or can you do a custom order?

    • Reply

      Ballard Designs

      September 2, 2011

      Dear Jayme: We do not offer the California King Headboard, however our Camden Headboard is 80″ w and 50″ high – the California King is usually 72″ wide which would give you 4″ on either side of the mattress. The legs won’t line -up, but if you are handy perhaps the regular King Size Headboard would work for you.
      The Style Studio Team

  9. Reply


    March 21, 2011

    Please tell me options that match well (color) with imogene blue fabric. We want to purchase chairs in the imogene and want to puchase a couch in a solid. What colors are recommended (preferrably light)?

  10. Reply

    Ballard Designs

    February 23, 2011

    Dear Gerri: Because Parchment Linen is a neutral, your choices for covering the bench are limitless. Try looking around the room for an accent color that you really like and look for a fabric in that color. Without knowing what other colors are in room, we are at a loss – but because Parchment is so neutral – making a mistake is miniscule.
    The Style Studio Team

  11. Reply

    gerri keeley

    February 17, 2011

    What fabric would you suggest for a bench in a bedroom if you are using the suzanne kasler linen in parchment in the camden tufted headboard?

    • Reply


      June 18, 2014

      I love the Valentino rug pictured, but also like the Harrison tufted Rug on the website. I have a camel sofa and two wingback armchairs in med. brown paisley with a hint of gray and taupe. Wall are a butter color. what do you recommend? Please help as your advice is important & love the idea of adding the spa color in both rugs.

      • Caroline @ How to Decorate

        June 27, 2014

        Hi Marcia,

        We would love to help you pick a rug for your living room. In fact, we have an entire team dedicated to helping customers solve decorating problems in their home. If you go to this page and complete the form, someone from our Design Solutions team can get back to you with a answer to your question!

        Looking forward to helping you with your space,
        The How to Decorate Team

  12. Reply

    September 8, 2010

    Darlene: You can purchase replacement cushions for the Vintage Vogue sofa and the Twin Sleeper. What a great advantage – it can keep your upholstered pieces looking new for years to come. Just call our Customer Service Reps at 1-800-367-2775, and they will be happy to place an order for you.
    The Style Studio Team

  13. Reply


    August 27, 2010

    Can one purchase replacement cushions (seat cushion and the back cushion) for both the Vintage Vogue Sofa and the Vintage Vogue Twin sleeper?