Not long ago, a customer came down from Ohio to visit us in North Carolina after ordering a Cambridge Chesterfield from RH. Restoration Hardware had come out with a version of our Chelsea Chesterfield they call the “Cambridge,” which has a tufted seat. 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 customer told me that almost as soon as he saw it, he had issues with his Cambridge Chesterfield from RH. The tufting seemed shallow and imprecise. The legs were not very straight, but the biggest issue was the noise coming from the frame. It kept squeaking. Something wasn’t right.
This instance is not out of the blue – we get phone calls all the time from people who have received a piece they ordered from RH, and were surprised and disappointed to discover that despite the luxury price tag of RH furniture, the quality of what they received was not up to snuff – they want to switch to our furniture.
Two similar looks, but the same product?
Let’s take a closer look. Here is what Restoration Hardware says about how the Cambridge Chesterfield is made on their website:
- 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
Restoration Hardware had sent a technician to his home to see what could be done about the issues. When the technician arrived, he turned the couch over and opened up the bottom of the couch. According to this customer, the tech’s first comment when he saw the inside of the couch was “high, high prices, and cheap, cheap construction.”
But you don’t have to take our word for it, you can see for yourself. This customer was upset enough at his experience to share the photos with us.
Problem #1: Tufting
You can see that the RH sofa 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 classic techniques. This is also causing the unsightly wrinkling that comes from loose application.
Compare the tufting on the Restoration Hardware Chesterfield to the tufting on ours.
When we are talking about a Chesterfield, it comes down to the tufting. It is the star of the show, and besides the rolled arms, it’s pretty much what makes a Chesterfield sofa a Chesterfield. If you look at the pictures of our Chesterfield leather sofa and compare 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. This is not how you tuft a Chesterfield at all.
You see, the company in China that makes the Chesterfield-appearing sofa that Restoration Hardware sells, does not actually “tuft” the couch at all, at least not in the way we think of tufting. When we tuft a Chesterfield, our craftsmen use long upholstery needles to pierce the leather or fabric and then pull the button tightly into the foam behind it, and then tie off the cord using cotton batting. This creates the all distinctive diamond tuft pattern. 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.
PROBLEM #2: Crooked RH Feet
PROBLEM #3: DIFFERENT SPRINGS THAN WHAT IS LISTED ON THE PRODUCT PAGE
As you will recall, RH’s product page for the Cambridge says that this couch is made using “pocket-coil spring suspension.” These photos tell a different story. 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. These coils are not pocketed. True pocketed coil springs form a solid platform of springs on which the seat can float and there is no cavity underneath the springs.
At COCOCO Home, we only use a pocketed coil spring suspension system in our frames.
Shown Below: Pocketed Coil Springs in a COCOCO frame, which are individually encased and interlaced with vertical springs, offering superior comfort, stability and durability.
PROBLEM #4: FRAMING & LACK OF JOINERY
The first thing our customer noticed when the technician opened up the bottom and exposed the guts of the couch was the Chinese writing on the 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. 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, likely birch, mixed with various mixed pieces of lumber.
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 (the worst place this could happen) and they had been joined with staples. It was easy to figure out why this sofa was squeaking.
Whenever two pieces of the frame meet like that, the pieces should be
- Glued to avoid squeaks
- Connected with long wood connectors
PROBLEM #5: REJECT WOOD
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, possibly 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.
Compare that to our precision cuts and glued connections on our professionally engineered frames.
While the models may appear similar on the surface, where we stand apart from Restoration Hardware is in the final product. We believe we make heirloom-quality furniture that is more comfortable and better made, from better materials.
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, expertly-engineered frames, and time-tested techniques. He ordered a COCOCO Chelsea Chesterfield.