Many people consider the sofa to be the crown jewel of the living room. It sets the style for the whole room and it’s usually the item that everything else revolves around. It’s an important purchase – and often an expensive one. Before you set out to shop, do a little homework first. It can save time and help you avoid some costly mistakes.
It may sound obvious, but first and foremost, consider size. In our guide to Starting A Design Project, we recommended that you plot out the dimensions of your room and the placement of your furniture on a computer design program or on graph paper. Measure the space where you plan to place your sofa – whether it is against a wall or freestanding in the room. The sofa should be big enough to fill the space, but it shouldn’t overwhelm the room. A small loveseat sofa generally measures 58 – 65 inches, an apartment or townhouse sofa usually falls between 73 – 80 inches, while a standard sofa is in the range of 81 – 88 inches. One word of caution — make sure that the size you select will fit in the front door!
A savvy buyer will ‘look under the hood’ at how a sofa is made. Generally considered the ‘bones’ of the sofa, a quality frame is made from kiln-dried hardwoods such as oak, maple or poplar that won’t warp or crack. Usually measuring 1 ¼” thick, these frames are securely screwed together. The feet should be part of the frame or affixed by a dowel and peg; they should not be glued. Inexpensive sofas are often framed in plastic, particle board or metal. With a shorter lifespan, an inexpensive sofa may be right for a starter home or a student apartment.
Seat support and construction also adds years of life – and comfort – to your sofa. 8-way hand-tied springs are the time honored traditional method of support where the springs are hand-tied in eight directions to give even wear and suspension. A newer choice is a drop-in coil suspension that is pre-assembled and machine-made, making them less labor intensive and less expensive. Drop-in coils are the preferred seat suspension system today because they wear and give evenly.
Cushion and pillow filling is key to comfort and durability. Dense poly cushions are the most popular because they hold their shape well, have some give, and are very supportive. For a softer, more relaxed effect, down-wrapped cushions have the same dense poly center wrapped in a blend of down feathers to give the cushion added padding. Full down is the softest cushion—and the most expensive. It sinks after one use and requires daily fluffing.
Think about how you will use your sofa to help you select one that’s just right for your lifestyle. Will it be used for everyday activities such as reading, relaxing or watching TV? Will it have to stand up to the hard use of kids and pets? Or, will the sofa be used only occasionally in a more formal setting? A sofa used primarily for relaxation may be deep and soft with loose pillows, while a camelback sofa with its curvilinear shape and shallow seating might be the choice for a more formal or traditional setting. But remember – there is no right or wrong. It’s a matter of personal taste and lifestyle.
There are also choices – and decisions – to make about arm style. The traditional rolled arm is very versatile and well-suited to cottage style or country English. For a contemporary, modern décor, the track arm is sleek and sophisticated with its clean, straight lines. The flare arm is an interesting blend of the track and rolled arm that makes for an eye-catching statement piece. Parsons arm, straight arm, curved arm, or even no arm – choose a style that fits your overall décor and dimensions. Consider how it will coordinate with the other furniture in the room.
Selecting a fabric is the fun part – but the choices can be overwhelming. Solid or patterned? Smooth or textured? Material? While solid colors may be easier to work with, patterned fabric doesn’t show stains as easily, while adding richness to the room. Textured fabrics also show less wear and tear than smooth ones. Synthetic fabrics such as polyester blends, nylon, acrylics or microfibers are durable, versatile, and easy to clean. Pre-washed cotton fabrics are ideal for a casual décor. Linen is durable but wrinkles and soils easily. Chenille is soft and durable, while leather also offers another interesting option for longevity in high usage areas.
To upholster or to slipcover? While loose slipcovers used to be associated with shabby-chic and romantic décor, today’s tailored slipcovered sofas are a good alternative to an upholstered sofa for every style. Ideal for a family with kids and pets, slipcovers can easily be removed for at-home wash and dry. Tired of the fabric? Swap out the slipcover without having to purchase a new sofa. Upholstering is the most tailored option; certain sofa styles and fabrics lend themselves to upholstering only.
With all these tips in mind, it’s time to go out and shop! Use your creativity and your intuition to find just the right sofa that will be the crown jewel in your living room.
Brought to you by Cottage Home – specializing in cottage furniture & farmhouse tables