Residential Versus Contract Furniture

Updated: Feb 4

I get asked frequently what the difference is between a chair in a regular furniture store versus a contract or commercial grade piece of furniture. The image above was something I created a few years back to show clients the differences side by side. As contract furniture is sometimes more expensive it's important to show why the client pays more and the value you get for it. It's not a simple markup, but a difference in manufacturing processes that makes the piece more durable and in the case of the chair above, more appropriate in a senior living community. Considerations have been made for easing facility maintenance as well as using durable contract grade fabrics to make cleaning easier and prolonging the life of the furniture piece. Typical residential grade chairs can max out at holding up to 150 pounds whereas contract pieces can hold 250 pounds of weight or more. There are differences in foam density, moisture barrier fabric covers for the cushions, seat deck, and in some cases the seat back and arms, to protect from fluid penetration. The biggest change in this particular chair is it's dimensions.

The chair shown in the image above is a great example because it's made for senior living. The seat cushion is a denser foam (2lbs versus 1.8lbs for residential) so that the user doesn't sink too low into it. If they do, it makes it more difficult or for someone with muscle weakness or mobility issues, nearly impossible to get out of the chair without assistance. Second, the width of the chair is closer than a standard residential chair. The reason for this is that the aging population aren't relying solely on their legs to lift out of a chair anymore due to weakness, injury, or muscle atrophy. When their legs can't do the job anymore they use their arms to lift themselves out of a chair . If the arms on a chair are too far apart or too low they can't do that. Seat depth and height on this chair is different as well. 19 inches in depth & height is optimum. When in doubt don't go deeper or wider. Choose less depth and higher cushion. Too deep or too low and again, getting out of the chair becomes too difficult. This particular furniture company makes an entire line of high quality sofas, loveseats, chairs, dining chairs, bar stools, and storage furniture specifically to accommodate senior living environments. I'd love to see an entire line like this geared towards residential customers because these pieces are the perfect solution to the growing aging in place community's accessibility needs.

If you are working on a project that would be perfect for contract or senior living furniture, aging-in-place, or have a special situation, please contact us at to schedule a consultation appointment. We are ready to help.

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