15 Designer Tips for buying a sofa

August 01, 2014

2014-08-ADV-EDM journal- Designer tips blog headerHow To Invest in a Sofa 

The sofa. Purchasing one that you absolutely love, that will stand the test of time, can be an intimidating and all-consuming task. You can troll your favorite websites for ideas but eventually you need to venture outside and visitHickory-White-upholstery-construction1-460x292 the better stores, doing the bum test, curling up as you would at home, trying to find THE ONE.  It is easy to become so preoccupied finding the new love that is the right look and size, is comfortable and practical, but also within your budget and expectations. It can become difficult to focus on all those details but also remember the other important features of a stylish yet quality investment such as: how well it is made, how long it will last and if the cost reflects its quality.  A good design consultant can make this ardent task easier.  Here are a few things to look for when you are on your journey.

Wood:The frame determines how long the sofa will last without losing its shape. The best frames are made of kiln-dried hardwood. Frames made out of softer woods like pine will warp more easily, and if the wood has a lot of knots it can crack and break.  Be sure to check the thickness of the wood which should be at least 1 inch thick.  If you can reach under the front part of the sofa you can feel the frame and get an idea of the what is being used.



Construction:Joinery is so important. To find out how the frame is built, ask your consultant. Some manufactures have one of those chair models that is cut in half, notice the joints. Ideally they should be mortise and tenon or dowelled joints; these will have the most strength. Screws are good, staples are not. Lastly, a good frame has reinforcing blocks — these keep the frame shape.

How about the legs. Built in legs are stronger than those that are screwed in. Lift one front corner about 6” to check out the legs, take a look at the other front corner it should be lifting too. If it doesn’t lift also, the frame isn’t twisting and is not as strong as you would like it to be.

Upholstery (Inside)
Springs: It’s all different types and qualities. Typically the best sofas will have eight way hand tied springs, but good quality sofas have sinuous springs (s-shaped wires that that run from front to back). Remove the cushions and feel the springs.. push and they ought to feel very strong and sturdy. construction_5

Cushions: There are many different types and qualities of cushions that will heavily influence your comfort and the look of the piece. You need to ask your consultant about the cushions’ filling. The top-of-the-line filling is a spring-down cushion which has springs in the center, are encased in foam and then covered in a down and feather blend, but often manufacturers will use other combinations to achieve the look and feel. Lift the cushions and feel how heavy they are. There is a relationship between quality and weight, generally, if they’re heavy it probably means that they used either down or a mix of down, better quality foam and Dacron. (Note: sometimes if the cushions are sewn to the frame, the manufacturer skimped on material, where lies the possibility that the sofa is probably not the best quality, or it’s an aesthetic choice, you’ll need to determine this).



Upholstery (Outside)
Fabric: This is where your personality comes to life. The sofa cover, what you choose varies the price point tremendously. If you are going with fabric, look for one that is heavy and that is honestly appropriate to your lifestyle. Having pets requires a tightly woven fabric, and kids bring potential stains so you’ll want an option that is less likely to stain — usually synthetic fibers. If leather is your thing make it top grain leather for the best in durability if that’s what you need.

Tailoring:The more you pay the better the tailoring should be. All seams and welting should be straight. If you have a patterned fabric, the pattern should match up on all cushions and pillows.

And one last tip: If you live in condo or an apartment, measure the room and the sofa to make sure it’s the right size and don’t forget to measure the doorway, stairway, halls and elevator!


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15 Designer Tips for buying a sofa

1. Dimensions
“The perfect sofa is 40″ deep, 60″ long, and 36″ high with a 19″ seat height. For a traditional sofa, I like a scroll arm, and for modern, I love a square arm, both with the same overall measurements.” —Mary McDonald

2. Length
“Most of my clients ask for sofas to be ‘long enough for a nap’ — so I make them at least 90″ long or even longer if the room allows.” —Ginger Barber

3. Test It Out
“Cut a template from brown paper in the size of the sofa you’re considering, place it on the floor, and see how it looks before you buy.” —Chandos Dodson Epley

4. Sectionals
“On a sectional, always do a tight back instead of loose cushions. It will help keep the overall profile from becoming overwhelming. And keep the back fairly low —around 32″. This will make the sectional feel a little less imposing.” —Madeline Stuart

5. Room Planning
“Don’t do a sofa and loveseat combination when you can do a sofa with two chairs. It’s more functional and sophisticated” —Jeff McElheran

6. Matching Colors
“To establish calm, I upholster sofas in a solid that’s the same color as the walls and curtains.” —Barbara Barry

7. Seat Cushions
“I never use two seat cushions, because then three people won’t sit on the sofa. I’ll use three seat cushions if a sofa is 7′ long or longer, and if it’s 6′ or less, I use just one cushion.” —Rose Tarlow

8. Online Shopping
“If you’re buying a sofa online, a good formula to ensure comfort is a combined seat height and depth of 40″ to 44″. If the sofa is 16″ high at the seat and 24″ deep, add them together and you get 40″. Or combine a 20″ seat height with a 24″ depth for a total of 44″. If you’re short-legged go with 40″; long-legged, 44″.” —James Howard

9. Ceiling Proportions
“If you have 8′ ceilings, you’ll want a low sofa, which gives the impression that the ceiling is taller than it is. In a room with a high ceiling, you want a high-back sofa to be a weighty presence that can hold up to the room.” —David Easton

10. Pattern
“I never use big patterns or trendy colors for large upholstered pieces. The punch of pattern or hot splash of trendy color should come from the throw pillows so they can be easily substituted when you need change.” —Tom Stringer

11. Lifestyle
“Think about what you like to do on your sofa.” Abigail Valladares

12. Sturdy Sofa
“My dad taught me that to ensure the sofa you are buying is sturdy and well built (he’s an engineer), you lift up one of the front legs 5″ to 7″ — the other front leg should lift as well. If it’s still touching the floor, the frame is weak.” —Katarina Rodman

13. Skirts
“Always use dark fabric for skirts so heel scuffs are not visible.” —Jill Sharp Brinson

14. Sofas in Apartments
“Apartment dwellers, beware: Your sofa should never be longer than the ceiling height of your elevator. Measure once, then measure twice, and just to be triply sure, have your building’s super measure, too.” —T.Keller Donovan

15. Comfort
“Look and comfort, both are of equal importance.” —Leta Kalin