A Review of a Restoration Hardware sofa

Steve Sechrest, COCOCOHome – Co-founder, Charlotte NC

Watch the video version of A Review of a Restoration Hardware Sofa.

We like to compare our COCOCO furniture to Restoration Hardware’s.

We do this because we offer a product line that in many cases shares some style elements with  RH pieces and because they have certainly been a taste maker in many respects.  Sometimes they have come out with a particular look before us, and in many cases we have come up with the style before them.   We also think we make a better product than they do.  More comfortable and better made, from better materials.

We think this because we have gone into their stores and looked at their furniture and sat on their furniture but most importantly because our customers tell us so.  We get phone calls all of the time from people who have received a piece they ordered from RH and were surprised and disappointed with the quality of what they received and want to switch to our furniture.

Not long ago Restoration Hardware came out with a version of our Chelsea Chesterfield  they call the Cambridge.   We have a recent customer who came down from Ohio to visit us in North Carolina.  He was adamant that he wanted to learn more about exactly how our frames were built, the materials used and how they were put together. Our conversation soon made clear why he was so concerned.

He told me that he had ordered a Cambridge Chesterfield from RH last fall that ended up being delivered around Thanksgiving.

Now on their website here is what Restoration Hardware says about how this piece is made:

“Masterfully constructed by Timothy Oulton in the classic Chesterfield style.”

Kiln-dried hardwood frame
Deep hand-tufting
Stands on a caster-fitted base
Pocket-coil spring suspension

COCOCO’s Chelsea Chesterfield Leather Sofa in Pure “Molasses”

Our customer told me that almost as soon as he saw it he had issues with it.   The tufting seemed shallow and imprecise.   The legs were not very straight, but the biggest issue was that there were noises coming from the frame.

Resto sent a technician to his home to see what could be done about the issues and when the technician arrived he turned the couch over and opened up the bottom of the couch.  The Tech’s first comment when he saw the inside of the couch was apparently “high, high prices and cheap, cheap, construction”.

This would have just been another in a long line of stories from customers who were not happy with their RH furniture, but then he said “I’ve got pictures”.

Looking at his pictures you can see that the tufting is somewhat flat and lacks the deep buttons and distinct folds in the leather you should expect on a Chesterfield that is tufted using the classic techniques. Compare the tufting on the Restoration Hardware Chesterfield to the tufting on ours.

Shallow tufting on RH Cambridge Sofa

Deep button tufting on COCOCO Chelsea Chesterfield

When we are talking about a Chesterfield it comes down to the tufting. It is kind of what makes a Chesterfield sofa a Chesterfield. If you look at the pictures of our Chesterfield leather sofa and compare it to Restoration Hardware’s sofa you will see there is a qualitative difference in the tufting. Their tufting pattern is a bit more spread out than ours but that is superficial. If you look closely, you will see that they do not achieve the same level of detail in the pleats in the tufting. In fact, of you visit one of their stores, and look closely, you will see that many of the “tufts” are actually created with sewn seams rather than hand folded material. This is particularly true on the fabric versions.

You see, the company in China that makes the Chesterfield styled sofa that Restoration Hardware sells, does not actually “tuft” the couch at all, at least not in the way we think of tufting. You see, when we tuft a Chesterfield, our craftsmen actually use long upholstery needles to pierce the leather or fabric and then pull the button tightly into the foam behind it and tie off the cord using cotton batting, all the while creating the distinctive diamond tuft pattern as they go. You can see an example of this process in our video The Making of a Chesterfield. These Chinese built Chesterfields such as Restoration Hardware’s Kensington and Pottery Barn’s Chesterfield are made with a process they call “pre-tufting” whereby they use sewing to create a look that emulates tufting before they even put the material on the frame. They put the “pre-tufted” material on the frame and then use buttons with a shank on the back which they push through the material and then use a lock washer on the back to hold it in place. This allows them to use labor with no actual upholstery skills to produce their furniture.

In this image you can see that the legs on the couch were not at all straight and the feet themselves looked pretty rough when compared to our solid maple legs.

Crooked RH feet

Maple legs on COCOCO furniture

The first thing our customer noticed when the technician opened up the bottom and exposed the guts of the couch  was that there was Chinese writing on the frame.

As you will recall, RH’s site says that this couch is made using “pocket-coil spring suspension”.  It was clear that this was not true.  The Tech told him that the springs were a “no sag” spring you might find on an inexpensive sofa with a single row of coil springs running down the middle.  The coils are clearly not pocketed. True pocketed coil springs would form a solid platform of springs on which the seat would float and there is no cavity underneath the springs.

Sinuous “No Sag” springs in Restoration Hardware Sofa

Pocketed Coil Springs in COCOCO frame

The RH site says the frame is made from Kiln Dried Hardwood.  Now that description  can legitimately encompass the use of hardwood based plywood.  Indeed, we use 3/4″ Oak Plytanium  plywood from Georgia-Pacific to create our frames.  This Restoration Hardware frame, however, was made from 1/2″ plywood, possibly birch, mixed with various mixed pieces of lumber.

RH frame made from 1/2 inch plywood

COCOCO Frame made from 3/4″ Oak “Plytanium” from Georgia-Pacific.

Our customer, who works in an environment that involves fabrication and manufacturing, was shocked at the quality of the wood used and even in the lack of precision in the cutting of the wood.    It did not even look like they used a sharp blade on the saw with which they cut the piece.

There was one spot where  two pieces of plywood butted up to one another right in the middle of the frame and they had been joined with staples.

Whenever two pieces of the frame meet like that, the  pieces should be interlocked, glued to avoid squeeks, and conncected with long wood connectors as you can see in this picture of our frame.

Poor quality cuts, improper joinery  and alignment in RH frame

Properly interlaced and glued joinery on COCOCO Frame

There were crooked pieces of wood used  in constructing the frame and we discovered blocks of 2 x 4 of random lengths that were split, possible weathered and generally looked like they might have been picked out of a construction site debris pile.

This did not seem to our customer to be a piece that had been “Masterfully constructed” by anyone.

Crooked wood parts in RH frame

Blocking made from apparently discarded wood in RH frame

Compare that to our precision cuts and glued connections on our professionally engineered frames.

Our customer returned this couch and came down to North Carolina to see for himself that we are building our furniture the right way, using top quality materials, well designed and engineered frames, and time-tested techniques. He ordered a COCOCO Chelsea Chesterfield.

To find out more about our Manufacturing Process visit our “How our Furniture is Made” page.

Chelsea Chesterfield Leather Sofa in Berkshire Boubon