An Upholstering Primer: Part 3 of 4 — The Truth About Green Upholstery

An Upholstering Primer: Part 3 of 4 — The Truth About Green Upholstery

Oct 22, 2009

Let's now tackle the issue of green upholstery. Without naming names, there are companies out there claiming they specialize in and sell “green” upholstered furniture using natural, non-toxic and biodegradable materials offered at the same price as mass-produced companies. This is totally untrue and misleading. The reality is that the products and materials currently available for doing green upholstery are minimal and exorbitantly expensive...

This is due to low demand, the expense of producing these materials, and the distributor’s lack of incentive to enter the all-natural market, as many consumers do not wish to pay the higher price for these products.

Reupholstering a piece of furniture using green products takes twice as long in time and labor and costs ten times more in materials than when working with standard products.

Lets break it down:

Example 1


  • One piece of LX blue foam (1” thick x 24” wide x 108” long) costs approximately $14.00*
  • One piece of 100% "natural" latex foam (1” thick x 24” wide x 80” long) costs approximately $160*
  • *trade pricing

Latex foam (cream color) and standard blue foam (blue color)


  • One Can of 74 Glue used to glue foam together costs approximately $7.00
  • One tub of 100% natural latex glue costs $12

Spray Glue vs. Latex Glue

Example 2

Elastic webbing, which is used primarily by the “green” suppliers (as it is much faster to install) is attached with staples and both the webbing and staples are not biodegradable. If the 8-way hand-tied spring or zigzag springs are being used, they are not biodegradable and neither are the tacks that are used in conjunction with the springs. In addition, all the fabric being used is attached to the frame with staple or tacks.

Example of 8-way hand-tied springs

Example of zigzag springs, which are less expensive than hand-tied springs

Upholstery staples

Metal upholstery tacks (#6 size)

Example 3

There is a tool/product called “Curve Ease” that is used to close the fabric of the outside arms and outside back of your pieces, it is made of metal and takes approximately two hours to install, A greener alternative is to hand stitch these areas closed, which takes approximately 4 to 6 hours to do. You can begin to see why truly green upholstery can be quite pricey.

Curve Ease: tacking strip used to close and attach outside arms and backs of furniture

Example 4

However, my all time personal favorite misleading products are the all-natural slipcovers and all-natural hemp pillowcases or bags, which are sewn together by nylon thread or monofilament thread and closed with a plastic or metal-toothed zipper. Hello?!

The bottom line is this: if you want your upholstery project completely green, bring your check book and remember as of today that “all natural," “completely green," “non-toxic” and “biodegradable materials” are very loose terms in the upholstery world.

Coming up! Next week will be my final week of the upholstery primer and I will answer all your questions. Thanks for reading!

-Matthew Haly

Related Posts:

An Upholstering Primer: Part 2 of 4 — Finding a Good Upholstery Atelier
An Upholstering Primer: Part 1 of 4 — Consider Your Furniture

A master craftsman in his field, Matthew Haly has become an authority in the world of upholstery and high quality millwork. His broad skill set and friendly demeanor have made his downtown studio, The Furniture Joint, the “go-to” resource for design professionals and savvy clientele nationwide. Formerly a contributing editor for Domino, his work has also appeared in countless photo shoots for shelter magazines such as Elle Décor, Interior Design and Country Living. He has appeared on the Rachael Ray show, The Steven & Chris Show in Canada, and was most recently featured on ABC news. He has been touted as the “Furniture Doctor” by The New York Times.

Matthew recently authored Matthew Haly’s Book of Upholstery, published in 2009 on Random House’s Potter Craft imprint. It explores techniques, tips and tricks to producing A-level upholstery projects at home. The book is an excellent resource for those unable to enroll in Matthew’s highly popular evening upholstery classes.

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