In my decade-plus of interior design, I have come to realize that excellent design truly is in the details, and what makes a piece of furniture gorgeous may not be noticeable at first.
Today, I want to dive into sofas, and I don’t just mean to take a nap (though I wouldn’t say no to that, either!). I’m going to discuss how to tell a quality sofa from…not, and why you need to avoid “fast furniture” and invest in pieces that LAST!
Why Your Sofa Is Important
From being the focal point in your living room to where you relax after a long day, your sofa is one of the most visible AND most used pieces of furniture in your home. It’s where we invite our guests to sit and get comfortable, but it’s also the piece we use to bring our design together.
Hardly any piece of furniture in your home is as necessary to your comfort and design as your sofa, yet you still want it to last for years and look beautiful. This is why I highly recommend you treat your sofa as an investment piece, rather than something you can pick up at a big box furniture store.
Here’s what you want in a sofa:
- Comfort that allows you to truly sink in and feel at home;
- Style that works with your unique preferences;
- Proportions that meet your needs
- Durability and quality construction from the ground up
Sounds simple to find, right?
Not so much!
Let’s look a little deeper to learn how to select the best sofa for your home.
Avoiding Mass-Produced Sofas
Okay, you can probably guess that buying a furniture at the same place you can buy your groceries is a bad idea. However, the furniture you’ll find at big-box furniture stores isn’t much better quality! Mass produced furniture, regardless of where you get it, simply won’t have the same quality as hand-crafted design. Yes, a $500 couch is inexpensive, but in two years, you could be facing a broken frame, torn upholstery, and broken-down cushions. However, a quality sofa will last decades, so in the long run, you are DEFINITELY paying for quality.
But what about Crate & Barrel, Restoration Hardware, or Pottery Barn? They’re expensive, so they must be good quality, right?
Well…Not exactly. Even high-end furniture stores often use sub-par materials. See, quality is all in the details, not the designer, and sofas vary so much in price that even the price isn’t a great indicator of quality. You really just have to dig into the details. So, here are the things you want to look for when you invest in your sofa.
Sofa springs play a huge role in both durability and comfort, so you don’t want to skimp. The industry standard you want to select are called 8-way hand-tied sofa springs. Simply put, this means each spring is hand-tied by craftsmen and women in eight different ways covering the spring front and back, sideways, and diagonally. Not only is this a more labor-intensive method, this creates a more comfortable seat deck that is also remarkably stable and durable. While buyers will pay more upfront for an 8-way hand-tied sofa, it will last years longer than sinuous springs or jute webbing
What to look for: Firm, comfortable seating and stability.
For a couch that’s going to last for years, you want to select one with a hardwood frame with few knots (where cracks are likely to occur). For this, I’d recommend kiln-dried alder or poplar as both of these woods are known for their durability and have few knots.
Kiln-dried wood is a traditional method of drying wood so it doesn’t shrink, warp, or crack. This gives it strength, and is vital in a couch frame for its durability.
Also, take a look at it’s construction – a couch that is glued or stapled together is simply not going to be sturdy over time. Sofa construction should be held together with dowels and screws, and every corner should have a corner block screwed in for additional support.
What to look for: Absence of knot holes, the sofa sits evenly on the floor without squeaking or wobbling.
This is generally the make-or-break test of a couch as you can tell the comfort immediately. While, some foams feel fantastic in the showroom, but within six months the foam is breaking down and you’re collapsing into…well…butt divots.
So, what makes a good cushion? Quality foam wrapped in feathers and down. Foam should have a rating of 1.8 pounds or higher, otherwise it will break down in no time, then it should be softened with down and dacron fabric to ensure added softness and comfort.
When you run your hand across upholstery, you can actually feel the quality, especially compared to big-box furniture retailers and mass produced sofas. Upholstery should be thick, and when you run your hand across the back of the sofa, it shouldn’t feel “shallow.”
What to look for: Straight seams (a sign of quality and care) and the pattern matches and continues in sync across the entire sofa.
Sofa Shopping in the Showroom
Here are some questions to ask the salesperson when you’re in the showroom:
- How is this sofa constructed?
- What materials are used in this sofa?
- What is the guarantee on this sofa?
When you’re in a showroom, a salesperson should have the specs of the sofa immediately available, and should have no trouble answering your questions.
Now that you have the information, go out and invest (not buy!) in a sofa that will bring you comfort and style for years to come! Be sure to stop by our online showroom where you can rest assured you will only see the best quality sofas for your home or office.
For more helpful design tips, sales notifications, and more, subscribe to our newsletter and get a FREE design guide, The Psychology of Color to help you use colors throughout your home to evoke mood, feelings, and emotions!