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Back to Class: Cushions 101

Custom built-in seat and back cushions with high density foam core



noun \ˈku̇-shən cushion

Merriam Webster defines a cushion as,

- a soft object or part that is used to make something more comfortable or to protect a surface from damage.

- a soft pillow, pad, etc.

- a pillow or pad with a mass of soft material, used as a comfortable support for sitting or leaning.


However a cushion is defined, we here at Covers Unlimited Inc. get a lot of requests to make them. Everything from, replacing overused sofa cushions to fabricating custom outdoor cushions, creating window seats to built-in benches & banquettes, and the list goes on, and on.

But what's the big deal about cushions anyway? Quite a bit actually. Today On the Blog, we talk about the different materials that comprise a cushion, why materials matter, and how you can make the best decision when it comes time to selecting ingredients for your cushion project.


To understand the history of a cushion, perhaps its beneficial to provide some background on the craft of upholstering itself. The word upholstery, comes from the Middle English word upholder, which referred to a tradesman who held up his goods. The earliest forms of upholstered furniture date back before 1600AD, when animal hides were stretched across wooden pieces, sometimes stuffed with animal hair, such as boar and horse hair, leaves and twigs. It wasn't until the Elizabethan Era, during 1558–1603AD, that upholstered furniture pieces became popular in wealthy households.

The iconic Elizabethan chair is one that we here at Covers Unlimited

have upholstered many times, and always marvel at what treasures we find inside. Eight way hand tied coil springs, boars hair, jute and hand tacks made up this ingredients of this chair.


Over the decades, furniture upholstery has evolved, and today we use high quality foams, natural latex sponges, and feather & down for a customized feel. Fill options for cushions have been refined to maximize comfort and longevity.

However, not all indoor cushions are constructed the same way. We often have customers come to us with flat, worn cushions that they purchased as part of a set, and wonder why their new products have gone bad so quickly. Most often times when we open up these cushions, we find that the product was mass-produced, and only filled with a low quality foam, and in some instances - only batting or Dacron. Typically, we will replace these with a foam core, wrapped in new Dacron.

Clockwise, from left - High Quality Foam . Dacron (batting) . Reticulated Foam . Feathers

Choosing the right foam boils down to compression and density. Compression refers to the indentation force deflection, while density refers to the softness or hardness of the foam. Some clients prefer the look and feel of feather cushions. In this case, the foam core is sandwiched between a custom stitched baffle box filled with feathers. This method provides a sturdy base, while achieving the luxurious look and feel of feather cushions.

Foam & feather baffle box


In the case of outdoor cushions, the ingredient list is similar. However, reticulated foams replace indoor foams (see above), and compression and density factors still apply. Reticulated foams have tiny holes throughout, and look just like a sponge. These tiny holes allow water to penetrate through the cushion to prevent mildew, while extending the life of the cushion.

Custom curved outdoor cushions with reticulated foam core, and outdoor fabric

To further extend the life of your new outdoor cushions, we always recommend our clients select a premium grade outdoor fabric with UV protection. Fabric manufacturers, such as Sunbrella, Pindler & Pindler, Maharam, and Perennials, to name a few, have come a long way in the look and feel of outdoor fabrics. No longer do you have to settle for a stiff, chemical filled product to achieve a beautiful, comfortable outdoor space.

Indoor/Outdoor fabrics


So, when you're thinking about your next cushion project, take a moment to consider the cushion ingredients. The fabric may be the decorative force that changes the piece and wows your friends and family, but the cushion is what shows them you care about their comfort and want them to stay a bit longer. And as always, we at Covers Unlimited are here to walk you through the steps to greater comfort. Sit well, our friends!

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