By Bill Primavera
Perhaps you’ve never thought much about foam rubber as a stuffing for furnishings but I for one have never cared for it. In fact, I’ve always had a kind of aversion to it.
My last experience with foam rubber was a few years ago when the wingback chair in my office literally fell apart. I ordered a replacement from Macy’s from 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 or donating to Goodwill.
In the meantime, every time I sat to watch television, I never felt quite settled in place, but rather suspended by those little air pockets tucked within the foam. This was not a new issue with me.
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, feisty fellow that I was, 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.
The only time I delighted in the use of foam rubber is when I ordered it as the matt beneath the wall-to-wall carpeting in the central hallway of my former home, the result of a somewhat arbitrary decision. The red carpeting already had a deep rich pile and, combined with the mat, visitors literally sank into it as they walked 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 extended the life of that carpeting by many years.
Where did this foamy substance come from, I wondered, and how long had it been around? I learned that the pioneering work was done in Germany by Otto Bayer in 1937. I’m sure that many people who enjoy bouncing around on it are grateful for his work.
As for me, 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. I remember the time when an exceptionally large fellow came to our home and sat on our camelback loveseat and all but squashed its all-down pillow to a flat pancake. When he rose to leave the room, unconsciously I went to the chair to fluff up the pillow again.
While down pillows are the highest quality filling that can be purchased, they are also the most expensive. 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 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 from 6 to 45 that will tell you in advance the softness or firmness of the upholstered piece.
The foam stuffing in that wingback chair, unfortunately, must have been on the lower end of the scale. When I replaced the chair, I bought one with a pillow that needed to be plumped up after each seating, one that, when I plopped down on it, stayed 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 William Raveis Real Estate, 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, call him directly at 914-522-2076.