Skip to Main Content
view cart 0

Distressing...or Defect?

by Nick, Digital Specialist | April 18, 2020

Distressing is common in a lot of today's furniture, but some things can be looked upon as a defect instead of something intentional. Which is which?


As the demand for furniture trends more causal and comfortable, it is not uncommon for manufacturers to distress the furniture on purpose or make the seats and backs of living room furniture softer. Families and friends are prioritizing gathering together in a comfortable, cozy environment. If you haven’t purchased furniture in a long time, this extra distressing of wood products and sink-in feel of a sofa may come as a surprise to you and you might think that some of these inherent construction features are defects when they are really not. Here’s some of those features and a way to tell if it’s defective or just meant to be that way.

Let’s tackle living room sets first. Based on popular demand, sofas and sectionals have gravitated towards being larger in size and are built with gathering and comfort in mind. Obviously in a more urban environment where space is at a premium, smaller scale pieces may be preferred. But homes in the suburbs trend big and so does the furniture that goes in them. Sectionals have been hugely popular for a long time because you can fit a lot more people on them. They’re great for movie night or having friends over. And many sectionals come with endless configurations to fit any space.

The more comfortable the set, the more lived-in the set will look. It is not uncommon for cushions, especially back cushions, to come ready for comfort, with a sink-in feeling. These types of cushions have fiber fill that is meant to conform to the body. But when it conforms and you get up, it tends to take the shape of your body. You may think that this looks sloppy or worn and may consider this a defect. In fact, the manufacturers put exactly the amount of fill required. The fronts of seat cushions often have comfort wrinkles as well. Backs will often have dimples and wavy welts. Loose backs will look the sloppiest but can be fluffed more easily. Again, these are not considered defects. At first, seats may come a little firmer, but will soften over time with use. Seats on higher-end pieces often also come with crowning to extend the life. The wider the seat, the more butt prints you may leave behind. Seat cushions and backs are meant to be fluffed and rotated to bring their shape back. (Click here for our video on furniture care.) Please review the pictures below of the most common normal features of living room furniture.

FYI, for a more tailored look, you might want to consider a tight back sofa with extra firm cushions and no welt, just a seam. Less wide seats hold their shape better.

As far as wood products go, distressing can be a major feature of the design. On wood furniture, from little worm holes, to stain splatters to frosty hang up, to dings and dents, it seems like anything goes. Natural wood comes with, well, natural markings. Different pieces of wood will take stain very differently causing shade variations. Knots are a normal characteristic of wood. Rustic furniture is very popular right now and sometimes comes barely finished and even with some rough spots. These are all considered beauty marks of that unique tree. See the pics below for common distress marks normal to wood furniture.

For a cleaner look, go with a painted piece, a veneered product, laminate, or a lacquered product where the beauty marks have either been removed or don’t exist at all because it is a composite product, not made of wood. It’s all about personal taste.

Click here for our video with our customer service manager Gene where he talks more about what’s a defect and what’s not.

Click here for part 2

Click here for part 3

Click here for part 4