Oct 12, 2012

How to buy a sofa.

When buying a new sofa it should be considered an investment. You're going to use it all the time, need it to work with the style of the rest of your space, and it should be durable enough to last 20 years or more.  Don't opt for throwaway pieces that last 2-8 years and then wear out or collapse; make a one-time purchase that you can re-cover. The right size and shape for your space is important. You want to be sure there is ample room to walk around comfortably.  As for details, if you have children a tight back will be easier to maintain than one with multiple back cushions and pillows.  If you love modern style, stay away from rolled arms and camel backs and opt for a sofa with straight lines and less detail. Here are my tips for sofa selection:

    1) Check the Frame
     A sturdy frame means a long-lasting sofa. Soft wood, such as pine, is low-cost, but it can warp or wobble after just five years. Hardwood (kiln-dried oak, ash, or beech, for example) is more durable. Avoid frames made of particleboard, plastic, or metal; they will warp and crack. Legs should be part of the frame or held on with screws or dowels (pegs) — not with glue alone. To test frame strength, lift one front corner or leg of the sofa off the floor. There should be no 'give' or bending in the frame and it should feel heavy. 

    2) Ask About Joinery
     A frame with joints connected by any of the following means is solidly constructed: wooden dowels, double wooden dowels, wooden corner blocks (the tag might read corner blocks glued and screwed), or metal screws and brackets. Staples or nails may be used for extra reinforcement, but never buy a sofa that's held together solely by staples, nails, or glue.

    3) Test the Springs
     Most sofas have sinuous or serpentine, springs — pre-assembled units of snaking wire. They're supportive, but can press on the frame or sag over time if the metal isn't heavy. The gold standard is eight-way hand-tied springs which are very comfortable and durable but a bit more expensive. Feel the springs through the upholstery — they should be close together and firm. Sofas with no springs, just webbing or mesh, are uncomfortable and flimsy Sit down firmly on a corner or outside edge of a sofa you're considering. Squeaks and creaks suggest that springs are incorrectly placed or hitting the frame. 

    4) Feel Your Fillings  Unzip the cushions and look inside. Polyurethane foam is a low-cost, easy-care cushion filling. The more durable, high-density type feels firmer, but softer, low-density foam deteriorates more rapidly with constant use. High-resilient (HR) foam is slightly more expensive but more comfortable and long-lasting. Polyester fiber is inexpensive but it flattens quickly. Goose and duck feather fillings are comfy, but they can clump so cushions need frequent fluffing. A down-poly fiber blend is cheaper, but also flattens fast. Two good options that are comfortable and reasonably priced: HR foam in a layer of down and conventional foam wrapped in polyester batting or a down envelope. The best: A series of springs encased in high density foam and then wrapped in a channeled bag with a mixture of feathers and down.

    5) Choose the Right Fabric Sofas for everyday use need durable fabric. Where the sofa will be used should be your guide for fabric selection. Cotton and linen are good choices but watch out for loose weaves since they can snag. Synthetic microfibers are fabulous, washable and stain resistant. Cotton and linen can be treated for stain resistance, but even then they aren't as easy to clean, or as durable. Blends of natural and synthetic fibers tend to pill so beware. Wool and leather are beautiful and strong but more expensive. Silk is sleek but fragile. Fabrics with patterns woven in tend to wear better than those with printed patterns.