Interior Designers reveal what to look for in well-made furnishings
You know it when you find it. When designing a room there are nearly hundreds of elements to consider, causing many of us to go through several “wrongs” before finding the room’s “right” items. Fortunately, there’s a method to the madness. Interior designers know that high-quality items make all the difference in creating a fashionable and highly functional room and they have learned how to sift through the flawed to find the worthwhile picks. Here, Ames Ingham of Los Angeles, Brian Snow of SemelSnow Interior Design, Inc. in Chicago, Mona Ross Berman of Philadelphia and New York City’s Scott Salvator divulge what they look for in furniture, rugs, window treatments and bedding to determine if they’re quality, so you can too.
Seating is an essential furnishing in nearly every home. What is chosen for the sofa and chairs in living areas often comes right after the windows in setting the tone for a space. However, in order to enjoy the innumerable benefits of the right sofa and chairs in the sea of options available today, one has to make sure they are worth the investment. As Mona Ross Berman points out, “You get what you pay for. If you buy a $800 sofa, for example, it most likely cost about $200 to make in a factory. It has little value and probably won’t last long.”
As well-made upholstered furniture typically is bench-made in a smaller workroom rather than on a factory assembly line, Ross Berman asserts, “You want to have had someone’s hands on it – building the frame, applying the webbing and sewing the fabric’s seams.”
Just as one looks under the hood to admire an exotic car, many designers note that upholstered furniture’s interior pieces or inserts is what help determine if it is a quality piece. These include the webbing, the springs, foam core and its down-to-feather ratio.
A fun fact to know, this ratio is the amount of down, which is a layer of fine feathers found under the tougher exterior feathers on a bird, in relation to feathers in a cushion or pillow. The higher the ratio, the better the quality, as down is rarer and thus more expensive. Ross Berman says, “Down creates a fluffy, plush quality, whereas feathers provide filling but have hard quills that often poke out of the pillow or cushion. For a good cushion insert, look for one that is wrapped in 90 percent down and 10 percent feathers.”
“Don’t be fooled by the wrong window treatments,” says Ames Ingham. “When you choose the right ones they not only look stylish and beautifully filter light for a glowing room but also provide unlimited practical benefits such as energy efficiency, UV-protection, privacy and more.”
HOW TO KNOW WHEN IT’S THE ONE
Forquality, stylish and highly advanced designs, Hunter Douglas, the leading window fashions manufacturer, sets the standard. The company introduced the pioneering energy-saving Duette shade, the first-ever honeycomb shade, in response to the energy crisis of the late 70’s. Since then, the company, whose name is synonymous with innovation, again raised expectations on energy-efficiency at the window with its award-winning Duette Architella shades.
Proving that innovative technologies pay off when it comes to window treatments, these shades feature a highly insulating cell-within-a-cell structure that traps more air. Certain styles can reduce heat loss through windows by up to 40 percent in winter and solar heat gain through windows by up to 80 percent in summer, enhancing interior comfort and saving on energy costs.
Scott Salvator agrees, “The main reason I select a high-quality product is to get the look my client wants , however it's great when a product provides additional benefits such as reduced heating and cooling costs in today's environmentally conscious world. Duette Architella looks incredible and provides more comfort, making its selection a no-brainer.”
Duette Architella shades are GREENGUARD-certified too.
Additionally, showing quality is not only functional but fashionable, these shades offer more than 180 color and design choices for a range of high-design possibilities with fabrics that are soft to the touch as well. Details matter in any quality equation, and the Duette Architella design is also the only honeycomb product to provide superior pleat retention for perfect symmetry on both the front and back of the shade.
Like virtually all Hunter Douglas residential products, Duette Architella shades are also custom-designed and assembled in the U.S., so they are marked with that increasingly important American brand of excellence, efficiency and service and backed by a Lifetime Warranty.
Adding to the not-to-miss quality window fashions line-up, another great option from Hunter Douglas is Silhouette window shadings. In a flawless design that still has the industry guessing, the product combines sheer fabric facings with soft fabric vanes suspended between them. The sheers take the edge off harsh shadows and provide a soft-focus view of the exterior, daytime privacy and superior UV protection. The vanes tilt for precise light control and privacy when closed. Soft and elegant, Silhouette shadings has no cords running through it to detract from its appearance and are equipped with a special anti-moiré patent.
Lastly, adding to their allure, many Hunter Douglas products are now offered with battery-powered motorization that can be operated from a mobile device with a free Platinum App. The App lets users move their window treatments to exact positions by shade, room, time of day or even activity (“Movie Night,” “Sunday Football,” etc.). It’s convenient, affordable on-demand control over incoming light, privacy, security and energy efficiency, are just one more reason why top quality Hunter Douglas window treatments are a definite “right” item.
While many wouldn’t think to look at the back of a painting to find its worth, Brian Snow insists on looking at the underside of a rug to see how it’s constructed.
“Flip it over to see if it’s quality,” he says. “The hallmark of a well-made rug is the ability to see the luster of the rug’s yarns, how tightly they’re tied and how many knots there are per inch.”
HOW TO KNOW WHEN IT’S THE ONE
He continues, “You’ve heard of thread count in sheets, but when it comes to area rugs, there are tie-knots such as 60, 80 and 100. This refers to the number of knots per square inch in a handmade rug. The total can range from 25 to 1,000. In most cases, the higher the number, the higher the quality of the rug.”
Be “in the know” by keeping in mind that the majority of mainstream area rugs are made on computerized looms and have rubber backings to fuse its construction. With this backing, you can’t see how the rug is woven. Often, the elastic gives it a bit more durability, but overall, according to Snow, the rugs tend to wear out more quickly.
“Quality area rugs are more of an art form than just a practical necessity,” he says. “These are handmade, hand-knotted rugs that are investments to be passed down to your children.”
“Forget about what you thought about sheets previously,” says Chicago’s Brian Snow.
Many think a sheet’s quality all comes down to thread count, and while this can certainly make for better sheets, there’s more to it than just the number listed. Two other factors of quality include the fiber from which it is made and how the fabric is woven.
Snow continues, “Thread count is not an indicator of quality or softness – 800-count is not necessarily better than 400. In fact, a client was looking for soft sheets and rather than the typical high thread count some ask for, we chose sheets of a better-quality fiber with a lower thread count.” He continues, “The Egyptian, 250 thread count we chose gets softer through washes and is a better option than a higher thread count sheet with a lower quality fiber.”
In fact, Frette, which has furnished the highest-quality linens in world-famous hotels such as the Savoy in London and the Ritz in Paris, confirms this misconception. Revealing that thread count doesn’t equal quality, the highest thread count Frette sells is only 490, while counts can go up to 1,000.
There’s more to consider than softness as well. You must determine what you want in a sheet. Do you want your bedding to stay crisp? Try percale sheets, an upscale plain weave made from both carded and combed cotton yarns. If you’re looking for sheen, Pima and SuPima cottons may be for you or a sateen, cotton cloth made in a satin weave (though this is more apt to pull or tear than a plain weave). Also, linen is cooler than cotton and durable enough to last decades, but wrinkles easily.
From cotton varieties including Egyptian, Pima and SuPima to linen, sateen, silk, bamboo and percale, there are limitless options. As Snow’s choice shows us, Egyptian cotton is a good pick for a sumptuous bed linen. The fabric is made with the finest, longest staples (length of the individual fibers) of all cotton types, producing an extremely soft and supple weave known for its luxurious softness and luster.
Your décor style is a matter of taste but when it comes to determining quality, some simple rules can help you find the right items to create an environment that is well-designed, comfortable and long-lasting.