The Difference a Good Seat Makes

Most of the time after a long day of activities, we like to plop ourselves onto our couch.  A couch is generally softer and more comfortable to relax in, than say, an office or kitchen chair.  What part about the plopping dictates the most comfortable seat?  I vote for the active spring of a seat, the bounce back, and shock absorption that all plopping needs to exist.  

I have tried some serious plopping at a certain big box store, and felt like I had thrown myself onto a fake corner sofa made of cement.  The kind caress of a welcoming cushion was completely absent, and unsettled my comfy expectations.  If it’s not comfortable, then a good looking couch will also never be good enough for everyday enjoyment.

Which seat is the best seat?

The Webbing Seat

Webbing's essential function in upholstery is to create a foundation for cushioning in certain parts of a chair.  When it’s used as the seat’s foundation, it’s likely an easy and cheap alternative rather than a structural necessity.  There are certain styles that require a webbed seat like the one pictured below.  

Webbing is the best choice to maintain the curvature of this seat.  Springs would create a totally different aesthetic look.

Webbing is the best choice to maintain the curvature of this seat.  Springs would create a totally different aesthetic look.

Webbing is commonly used as the foundational support on the back and sides of a chair.  

Webbing is commonly used as the foundational support on the back and sides of a chair.  

The Solid Wood Base Seat

The total absence of any spring to the seat is just solid plywood topped with foam, cotton, and the outer fabric.  This approach is commonly found in kitchen chairs where the seat is attached separately to the actual frame.  It's also a frequent characteristic of mass manufactured furniture to cut construction and labor costs.  The solid board makes a stable foundation but lacks the stronger shock absorption of metal springs. 

I had this challenge with my dining room chairs.  They were conveniently lightweight, foldable, and nicely shaped—but that hard seat plainly too uncomfortable for long social sessions with guests.

See that wood base on the middle left?  Rubberized coconut coir is the secret to getting plop worthy cushioning.

See that wood base on the middle left?  Rubberized coconut coir is the secret to getting plop worthy cushioning.

Plopping is now a pleasant reality with my dining chairs.

Plopping is now a pleasant reality with my dining chairs.

Luckily, I found a solution in the right layers of materials atop the wood created a surprisingly comfortable level of spring.  Just like building a sandwich, the meat of the seat is rubberized coconut coir with natural latex topped in addition to the natural latex foam cushion.  Learn more on the Materials page.  In mass manufactured furniture, only a polyurethane foam cushion is used and sometimes as a harder density to last longer.  Pleasantly for me, plopping hardcore onto my dining chairs is now a reality.

The Zigzag Spring

The zigzag spring is also a sign of mass manufactured furniture.  Compared to coil springs, they are significantly easier to install and don’t require any hand tying.  I have seen all sorts of metal clamps and small coil hooks connecting zigzag springs at certain stress points to create foundational stability.  When I restore pieces with these springs, I choose to additionally 2-Way hand tie them for a comfier feel that improves the overall structure.

Springs hand tied in addition to manufacturer's original metal coil connecters.

Springs hand tied in addition to manufacturer's original metal coil connecters.

The original small coil hooks connecting zigzag springs at certain stress points.

The original small coil hooks connecting zigzag springs at certain stress points.

The Coil Spring

Coil springs hand tied in the 8-Way method is the golden child of custom and traditional upholstery.  It’s a dying art for the very reason it is coveted:  one of the more labor and time intensive steps in the process if upholstery restoration.  The end result is a strong foundation of interlocking knots and hemp twine that lasts for decades—it speaks to the highest levels of skill and commitment of better quality furniture.

Creme of the crop:  8-Way hand tied coil springs!

Creme of the crop:  8-Way hand tied coil springs!

This couch is halfway to becoming 8-Way hand tied.

This couch is halfway to becoming 8-Way hand tied.

The bottom’s line

While we may not know how every couch plop will end up, we certainly know that comfort is the bottom’s line in seating.  Hopefully you have the best spring option that enhances style as well as comfort in your seat.  If you need help, call me at (213) 618-2143 to figure out if your seat is worth a plop.