Perhaps you’ve never thought much about foam rubber as a stuffing for furnishings, but I for one have never cared for it. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, as Jerry Seinfeld would say, but I’ve always had a kind of inborn aversion to the way it feels and performs.
A few months ago when the wingback chair in my man cave (actually a misnomer – my hideaway is really a rather nicely appointed room) literally fell apart, I ordered a replacement from Macy’s that I saw in a newspaper ad. I didn’t think about the materials used when I ordered it, but it seemed to have an appealing shape, considering that it was a lounger in disguise. When it arrived, however, I was disappointed to find that its arms, seat and back were upholstered in foam rubber.
Well, I thought, it is not as though I bought the throne from King Tut’s tomb. It was relatively inexpensive and I’d just live with it until I found a replacement with better materials before banishing this rubbery edition to a guest room. In the meantime, every time I sit to watch TV, I never feel quite settled in place, but rather suspended by those little air pockets tucked within the foam.
I still remember the joy and excitement when my mother came home one day with several tremendous paper bags filled with new pillows for the whole family. “And they’re foam rubber!” she exclaimed, as though modern science had finally reached our home. I was only seven years old and had little to say about what things surrounded me in our home, but one thing was certain: when I lay my head on foam rubber, I couldn’t sleep. I simply tossed the pillow aside and lay flat on the mattress.
Mother insisted that I try to get used to it, but after a week of tossing my new pillow aside, she finally relented and bought me a feather down pillow. My older brother and sister knew from that point that I was the “different” sibling in the family, and I rather liked the distinction.
Today, there is only one application in my home where foam rubber has served as an ice breaker among first-time visitors. It is its use as the mat beneath the wall-to-wall carpeting in our central hallway, the result of a somewhat arbitrary decision made some years ago. The red carpeting already has a deep rich pile and combined with the bouncy mat, visitors literally sink into it as they walk across it, all but losing their balance in the process, especially women in heels.
I couldn’t swear to it because I’m not the testing lab of Consumer Reports, but I suspect that its use has extended the life of my carpeting by many years.
Where did this foamy substance come from, I wondered, and how long had it been around? From Google, I learned that the pioneering work was done in Germany by Otto Bayer in 1937, and I’m sure that many people who enjoy bouncing around on it are grateful for his work ever since.
But I’m an old-fashioned guy who likes sofa pillows filled with goose feathers and goose down that have to be plumped up again after I sit on them.
While down pillows are the highest quality filling that can be purchased, they are also the most expensive and the highest maintenance. They must have down proof ticking under the upholstery fabric to prevent feathers from poking through, and still, sometimes they do. Also, there is the constant re-fluffing required. However, down used with other materials, such as polyester fiber, is a good option.
To be fair, there are foams labeled “high resilient” or HR that are more comfortable and reduce that droopy, saggy feel that can come over time. It even comes with an “indentation force deflection” number ranging between 6 and 45 that will tell you in advance how soft or firm the upholstered piece you purchase will have.
The foam stuffing in my new wingback chair, unfortunately, must be on the lower end of the scale. When I replace the chair – and I won’t do it from a newspaper ad this time — I’ll get myself a seating pillow that needs to be plumped up after each seating. One that, when I plop down on it, will stay plopped. To me, this represents those little things in life that don’t cost much but make you feel that you’re living in luxury.
Bill Primavera is a Residential and Commercial Realtor® associated with Coldwell Banker, as well as a publicist and journalist who writes regularly as The Home Guru. For questions about home maintenance or to engage him to help you buy or sell a home, he can be emailed at Bill@TheHomeGuru.com or called directly at 914-522-2076.