Jun 272014
Found on la-belle-vie.tumblr.com

Found on la-belle-vie.tumblr.com

It’s a great feeling, isn’t it?

You set up your sofa in the living room. It feels like you are finally living there. You can claim that home as yours.

Finally, your own unique design aesthetic is there for everyone to see.

You jump in there, kick off your shoes and relax. You turn the TV on and you say to yourself, “This is the good life!” But ten minutes go by and you start feeling uncomfortable.

Maybe it’s a leather sofa, it’s the summer and you start to sweat. It feels pretty uncomfortable so you turn the AC down a notch. Ten more minutes go by and your skin is sticking to the leather again. You remember the salesman telling you that it was so easy to clean, perfect for you, your family, and your labradoodle. Unfortunately he didn’t mention it was rather uncomfortable laying on it if it’s more than 75F.

Or maybe the sofa is too small for you to fully stretch and your feet hang out. You start putting pillows here and there in hopes that it makes the situation more comfortable. It’s no use.

So you sit up straight because you have to make this sofa work. That’s when you discover the sofa is too high! Your feet can’t reach the floor unless you put three pillows behind you.

Dang it! You bought the wrong sofa.

What do you need to watch for when buying a sofa?

Let’s face it, the sofa is one of the most expensive pieces in your living room.

So you don’t want to make the wrong decision.

Statistics say that you are most likely going to keep it for ten years. Ten years is a long time. You don’t want to have to put 3 pillows behind you every time you sit on it for the next ten years!

I know what you are thinking. If I get a good enough sale, in the case it’s not my perfect sofa, I can change it in a few years.

Really? What are you going to do with this sofa? Donate it to Goodwill? Put it in another room where nobody will sit on it because it’s so uncomfortable? Have it collecting dust in that room that you haven’t decided what to do with yet?

If you are anywhere as stubborn as I am (I really hope you are not) you are going to keep it in your living room. After all it was a good sale but it was not free.

Year three after the purchase comes. Then one day you stop and look at your family room. It looks gorgeous. It took you a while to furnish it but it was worth it. You start moving your eyes through the room, noticing all the little details you placed around; the expertly arranged coffee table, the perfectly coordinated rug, the beautiful pillows. Your eyes focus on the sofa and you see it. It’s sagging!

Disaster! If only you had waited for the right sofa, if only you hadn’t been lured by that big sale…

You don’t want to be in that situation in three years, right? Don’t worry. You won’t if you follow these guidelines.

The fundamentals: Choosing the right frame.

Found on bhg.com

Found on bhg.com

Not all frames are created equal. You want to choose a sturdy frame, one that won’t warp or wobble over time. The top of the line in sofa frame materials is kiln-dried hardwood. This drying process takes the moisture of the wood away preventing it from warping or cracking later on. Some of the desirable hardwoods are: oak, ash, beech, maple and poplar.

An option that has developed in the past years is furniture grade plywood. It competes with hardwood in durability and it’s slightly less expensive.

Frames constructed from particle board, plastic or metal are not a good choice for sofa you want to keep for years.

The joints of the furniture are equally as important. You want to select a piece in which joints are secured with screws, wooden dowels, and glued. The corners should be strengthened with wooden blocks. Plain glue or glue with nails and staples will not stand to your kids jumping on it. You won’t be able to check this yourself but the salesperson or a catalog should have this information.

Testing the frame. When you are at the furniture store lift one of the front corners of the sofa from the floor, you shouldn’t see any warping. Then sit on a corner, grab the armrest and try to move it. Lastly grab the armrest and back of the sofa and try wiggling it. Unless you have the muscle power of Mark Wahlberg, that armrest should stay put.

Choosing the right springs

The top of the line in spring system is the 8 way hand-tied steel coil system. This is a more expensive option but it’s really comfortable and lasts a long time. Another great option is the drop-in coil system. In this system there’s an armature of coils connected to each other by metal clips and then fastened to the frame at the corners. Both the 8 way hand-tied steel coil system and the drop-in coil system are comparable in durability. Then there’s the zigzag suspension system, for this one the local response of the coil is not as good but it has a very firm ride (how the coils respond to you sitting on them) and it sags less over time.

Testing the spring system. Sit on the corners and edge of the sofa. If you hear a squeak while sitting down, then the coils are most likely incorrectly placed. Keep on looking.

Deciding on the cushions

There are several options for cushion filling and they differ in price, how comfortable they are, how durable and the maintenance they require. The High-resilient (HR) foam is expensive but also really comfortable and lasts the longest. Then comes the polyurethane foam which is cheaper and easier to care for. However it comes either in high density, which is usually too firm or low density which wears faster with the use. The polyester fiber is also economic choice but it deflates fast.

Moving on to the feathers. The first option is goose and duck feathers which are comfy but they clump. Then you have goose down mixed with feathers. This is the top of the line in filling, they are plump, you can’t beat the look of these but, you guessed it, they are more expensive and high maintenance as they need constant fluffing. Lastly there’s the down and poly fiber blend which tends to flatten quickly.

You can also go for a mix of high resiliency foam, wrapped in down and feathers or conventional foam covered in polyester batting.

The tush test. When it comes to cushions and how comfortable a sofa feels you need to sit on it. You need to try a variety of positions. Don’t be afraid to lay down on it, specially if you’ll be taking naps on it or doing plenty of reading. How does the sofa feel? How does the backrest feel? Lean on the armrests, do they feel right? What about the sofa’s depth? Do your feet touch the floor without you having to put pillows behind you? Also check out how it feels with other people sitting on it, ask the salesperson to sit beside you.

Upholstery secrets

nathanturner com

Found on nathanturner.com

Unless the sofa is just for looks, the fabric you choose needs to be durable.

The Wyzenbeek test checks the durability of a textile. The fabric is stretched and double rubbed with cotton duck fabric until it shows noticeable wear. 15,000 rubs completed by this test is considered a very durable fabric, while 30,000 rubs is considered heavy duty.

Cotton and linen are great choices for a sofa and can be treated to be stain resistant. Synthetic microfiber will probably be your first choice if you have a preschooler running wild with greasy hands after dinner. Natural and synthetic fiber blends are inclined to fast pilling, you need to have that in mind for a high-use sofa. Wool and leather are attractive, strong textiles but they are on the expensive side. Silk is a fragile fabric, unless your family and your guests are very careful and your only pet lives in a fishbowl, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Pattern is an excellent stain disguiser. Just make sure you can live with that pattern for many years. You also need to consider that patterns that are woven in age better than their printed counterparts.

Cleaning is a big deal in my family. I have a preschooler and a dog. They both constantly test my patience when it comes to my white couch. In hindsight I should have chosen something different. Regarding spot cleaning, the fabric of your sofa will be under one of these four classes: W for water-based agents, S for chemical solvents, WS for both or X for brush clean only. Needless to say I will not go for the fabric with the X in the tag.

Speaking of tags, you may find that they withhold a Gold UFAC (Upholstered Furniture Action Council) mark. This means that they comply with the UFAC’s fire safety guidelines. Hopefully, that feature never gets put to the test in your home.

A final upholstery test. Make sure the piping is straight and the stitching is tight. If the sofa will have patterned upholstery, check for pattern matching. The last thing you want to see in your living room is a striped sofa that runs it’s stripes horizontally, then vertically and then at an angle. You get the picture, disturbing.

Coordinating the style

You want to make sure that the style of your sofa goes with the rest of your living room furniture. However, keep in mind that you’ll have it for many years so don’t buy something too trendy or you’ll regret it in a couple of years.

Acing the proportions

Found on ladolcevitablog.com

Found on ladolcevitablog.com

Ideally you’d have a floorplan with all the furniture in your living room distributed in a stunning way. If you can’t do that take blue painter’s tape and draw the sofa on the floor with it. Live with it for a couple of days to make sure it will be the right size for the room.

If you plan to take naps on your sofa, the space between the armrests is key. Make sure you don’t fall short by mistaking length of the sofa with length between the arms.

Consider how many people you’d like to sit on it. If you need space for three and you have two bottom cushions, somebody will end up sitting in the crack and nobody likes that. You can go for three cushions or one single long one which is very much in style now.

For the back of the sofa you have two options. The first and more used one is the pillow back. It’s the most comfortable and inviting choice. However the cushions need some maintenance. The other option is a tight back which requires minimal maintenance, just fluffing of the seat.

The checkout questions

Before you order your sofa, you need to iron out a few details. Firstly, you need to know how long it will take to arrive. For custom upholstery pieces 4 to 12 weeks is usually the case. However if the fabric is out of stock at the mill it could take lots longer. Have the sales person check that for you.

The other two things I always like to ask is return policies and warranties.

Thought you were done? Wrong! Here is a link to excellent advice from the top country designers gathered by House Beautiful.

Did I miss any information? Do you have any success stories you want to share? Are you ready to go to the furniture store? Please post a comment.