Almost everyone will agree, a sofa is one of the most important pieces of furniture you can invest in.
Over the years, in my conversations with clients and friends, I’ve seen a pattern emerge over and over again: “…buying a sofa is one of the most stressful things I have to do this weekend….”
Why? Not only it’s a focal point of your living room, it’s generally thought that a sofa is something that will be in your home for at least a decade. Later, even if it gets demoted from the living room to the basement, you’re still stuck with it more than long enough for it to become a part of your life.
So, if you are thinking of purchasing a new sofa, you’re most definitely wondering where to begin? Well, since I’ve been designing, producing, assembling, fixing, upholstering and finally, of course, using sofas for a couple of decades now, I wanted to share with you a couple of tips on how to make your sofa buying experience a little bit less depressing.
The 4 Factors
There are 4 very important factors to consider in this sofa purchasing quest.
As they say, planning is half the battle and you already know this otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article, rather, you would be browsing the shops, guns blazing.
You’ll still get to do that, but first, make sure to prioritize the above 4 factors. Most of us prefer a good looking sofa over the ugly ducking, so Style probably ranks really high on the list. However, don’t make a mistake of buying a really cool looking sofa that will break down in a couple of years, get fabric tears or worn out patches that will force you to put one of those ugly blankets over it and pretend it’s how you like it
Obviously not everyone can afford a high quality sofa no matter how much money it saves in the long term so try to make the best compromise between the 4 factors and prioritize!
Determine the Size
After you have your 4 factors ordered down, it’s time to determine the size of your new sofa. So, measure, measure, measure!
I know this sounds obvious but you would be surprised how many people purchase new furniture without accounting for the size of the room it is going to live in.
Take it from my experience, in 110% cases, when you are in a large showroom, the sofa or chairs will look considerably smaller than what they actually are. It’s just how our brains work. Without measuring, you have a pretty big chance that you’ll buy it, take it home and stand in awe of the monstrosity that just took over your entire living room and made its lair there.
I would suggest carefully measuring the room taking into consideration any furniture, tables etc that will affect the positioning of the sofas. You could even mark out the floor with masking tape and then simply measure the maximum dimensions you would be happy with, afterwards, measure the minimum dimensions you would be happy with.
Of course don’t forget to measure the width of your door and hallways, you won’t be happy if it doesn’t go through and you have to return it.
Once you’ve done all of the above, let’s take a moment and review what our options are. Depending on your ranking of the Durability and Price factors, you might perspective on the following paragraphs might vary, however, it will be equally useful.
Low End Furniture
We all know when we see them and if we don’t, all you have to see is the price tag – it’s low for a reason. Most mass produced furniture tends to produced overseas and they’re cheap because the producers compete with price rather than quality. In that case, they have to find shortcuts when they create stuff, in order to have profit margins that are still decent.
Thus, you’ll find that these sofas tend to be stabled together vs dowelled or screwed together. Frames are usually made of plywood, lightweight wood, knotty pine or plastic with no real substance or strength, if you can pick the piece up in the showroom with ease then you can normally tell if a hardwood frame or not.
A sofa should feel hard and heavy, otherwise it won’t last. It’s simple as that.
The Internal components of these sofas tend to be of very cheap structure, sometimes, the seat platform might be made of only a few strips of webbing. I recommend removing the seat cushions and push down on the seat with your hand. You should be able to feel if there is any real substance to the seating area. This part is easy to miss this because, in a showroom, they might have a nice big fluffy cushion on the seat base which will take your eye away from the seat.
Sit on the cushion – does it spring back to shape? If it doesn’t now then imagine what it will be like after only two weeks of usage.
Mid to Higher End Furniture
These sofas are mostly made locally so they have to adhere to a bunch of rules and regulations when building furniture, and those rules are here to help us customers not feel cheated.
You will find, sitting on these type sofas, that there is a lot more substance to the feel. This is because you will be sitting on a much better quality seat made of foam or fibre and usually the seat will be sprung . You can check this by removing the seat cushion and pushing down on the front of the seat. If the seat goes down then pops back up it is a sprung edge, if it is solid then the chances are this is a cheaper inferior quality seat which probably has webbing under the cover rather than springs.
However, lately I’ve noticed that even some of the mid level furniture makes are starting to cut corners (probably due to the popular demand for lower prices). This is definitely not the case with all so, if you decide for a mid to high quality sofa, you have to ask some questions and check a few things. If you like what you find out and you like the sofa – buy it.
1. Check the frame. Is it hardwood or something else?
Try to avoid soft woods like pine, plastic or metal could crack or chip, try to lean toward kiln-dried wood like beech, ash or oak, depending on your budget. One important note is that
2. Check the filling.
Polyester costs less than other types but it flattens quickly (Poly fiber blends cost even less but they clump and get lumpy). Polyurethane foam is the most common filling as it’s cheap and low maintenance, however down/feather combinations are the best choice. Another great choice is down mixed with HR foam.
3. To Spring or Not To Spring.
In this price level, most sofas will have springs, but you still want to check this. They might still have webbing or mesh slings which is a deal breaker. The springs should be thight and close together and they should never feel like they are poking through the fabric.
4. Ask about joinery.
Avoid furniture that has been glued, stapled or nailed together – those are just quick, cheap solutions of a manufacturer that doesn’t care if your sofa will break after a year or not. Proper furniture should be using wooden dowels or blocks, metal screws and brackets for the main joints of your sofa (and most importantly – the legs, if they are not a part of the frame). Glue, nails and etc should only be used for extra support, and never to hold the sofa together.
5. Ask about the fabric.
Cotton and linen are reasonably priced and easy to maintain. Microfiber blends tend to be stain resistant but otherwise act like cotton. Leather looks great and lasts a long time, however, it’s very pricy. Silk gives the sofa a very nice look but it’s very high maintenance. Natural blends with polyester can wear over time so make sure, no matter which fabric you choose, to ask about it’s score on the Martindale Rub Test. If it’s between 25,000 and 100,000 – it’s good.
When choosing your fabric you need to be aware of the room it is going to live-in. Maybe you are planning on keeping this suite for years so maybe you want to choose a fabric that will stand the test of time that is not going to go out of fashion! Plain fabrics are the best for this because you can modernise the sofa with accompanying contrasting cushions, which are easy to change as the fashion changes.
If the sofa is going to get extreme hard wear and tear then maybe you should opt for a contract type fabric which can be up to five times harder wearing than some other fabrics. Your furniture builder can advise on the best type of fabric to suit your requirements.
Another question to be asked when choosing your fabric is. Will the sofa be sat under a window or in a conservatory? If the answer is yes then maybe you should steer away from a printed design fabric or a dark coloured fabric. Why? Because the sun will fade the fabric over the years. The best type of fabric for this situation would be a lighter fabric with maybe more of a weave texture. This would disguise any fading and make it less obvious.
Custom Made Furniture
Often much more expensive than a mass produced sofa, but definitely worth the price. If it’s built correct it is going to last a lifetime. Not to mention that you’ll have a sofa no one in the world has.
Another good reason why to choose this category is Comfort. You can custom-order everything, from the frame, filling, height, width, length, make it perfect for you.
If you’ve seen an almost perfect sofa but it lacks one aspect that you desire, you can have a sofa created that will look just like that one, only improved. Just keep in mind the same tips and questions from the section above and go for it, you’ll never regret it.
As I mentioned, the most important thing is planning. If you’re not among the rare people who don’t have to worry about money, make sure to prioritize between Style, Comfort, Durability and Price. Generally, a lot of people make a mistake of thinking too short-term and thus, they end up loosing more money long term by purchasing a cheap sofa initially. A well done sofa can last you a life time and when you want to refresh it’s appearance, you’ll always be able to reupholster it and refresh it’s appearance!
Also, I am mostly talking from experience and I understand that I cannot know it all, so, I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences that will help me and everybody choose an even better sofa next time. Don’t be shy and share.
Thank you for reading and sharing – stay tuned!