It’s time to buy a new living room sofa. It’s a big investment and a central piece of furniture you will be living with for a long time. You don’t want to make any mistakes and you want to make sure you are getting the quality you paid for, whether it’s a luxury sofa custom-made sofa, classic or modern sofa. Here are some tips:
Since you can’t see inside the sofa to inspect its engineering and construction, you will have to rely on how it looks and feels. A little knowledge will go a long way in helping you protect yourself and make the right choice.
Let’s start with the upholstery, whether it’s fabric sofa or leather sofa. Natural fabrics such as cotton, linen and wool are beautiful and soft, as well as great choices for climates with a lot of humidity since they do not trap heat. But they can start to show wear without proper maintenance and may be difficult to keep clean, especially if you have kids or pets. You might want to consider a blend of natural material with polyester or acrylic, because it’s easier to maintain, is durable and lasts longer in temperate climates. 100% synthetic upholstery may last a long time but you risk ending up with a “plasticy” look and feel. For high traffic areas, try a “performance” fabric. With today’s technology, these poly blends come in lots of colors and patterns, and are fashionable, easy to clean and will last a long time. And finally, leather. Although it’s more expensive than fabric, a classic leather sofa will add an aura of luxury to your living room. Leather with a semi-aniline finish should last a very long time and become more beautiful with age.
Here’s what to check for: Make sure the sofa’s piping and seams are straight and tightly stitched, and that there aren’t any ripples. See if the sofa covers (cushions, and side and back frames) are removable, which makes it more cost effective when you want to change the fabric if your interior design theme changes. Find out the sofa fabric’s “rub count,” which measures its durability. The industry standard for residential furniture is 20,000 – anything higher is a definite plus.
Whether you are considering a fabric sofa or a leather sofa, its cushion filling determines its firmness and comfort. This is often a matter of personal taste. If you prefer something soft and cushy, consider 100% goose down and feather cushions. However, this option, in addition to being expensive, can be high-maintenance and require daily attention. Then there’s foam. Available in a variety of density levels, it’s the least expensive and will hold its shape for a long time. However, a soft foam fill may break up over time. A foam and feather mix will provide a plush feel, but without the expense and maintenance. The most common used by furniture companies is a high-density polyurethane foam wrapped in either down feathers, or cotton or polyester batting. The result is a supportive cushion with a bouncy feel. The more feathers used, the softer the sofa will feel. Your new sofa should have higher density foam, which will feel firmer and last longer. Detachable cushions can help extend the life of your sofa because they give you the ability to flip and rotate them on a regular basis.
Here’s what to check for: When buying your living room sofa, ask about the foam density. If you choose a down feather seat cushion, check the inner cover or ticking that is used to contain the feathers to make sure it doesn’t tear easily. If the seller does not provide any information about the construction of the cushion, you may want to pass.
Whether the sofa has a modern or classic design, its frame is the most important component because the material used for its construction will determine the sofa’s life span. A good-quality luxury sofa will be made from a kiln-dried hardwood, such as birch, maple, oak, ash or teak, and held together with nails and industrial glue. The kiln drying process removes the moisture from the wood to prevent cracking and to help the frame retain its shape and stability over time. Low quality sofas are often constructed from particleboard, plastic or furniture-grade plywood with layers held together with staples. Hardwood or steel frames, especially those with reinforced joints, are built to last.
Here’s what to check for: Ask what the sofa frame is made from. Wiggle both the side and back frame of the sofa – a sturdy frame should not twist or wobble, an indication that the joints are not held firmly. Lift the sofa – it should feel heavy. Finally, test the frame by lifting a leg or corner a couple of inches. If the matching leg still touches the floor, then the frame is weak. Check the legs of the couch – they should be an integral part of the frame or attached with screws or dowels. Think again about buying if the legs are glued on. This test will help you distinguish between a well-made modern sofa.
Joinery and Springs
The frame should be joined with wooden dowels or corner blocks, or metal screws and brackets. If this is not obvious from examining the sofa, ask the salesperson. Check the springs that hold up the cushions, avoiding sofas that use only webbing or mesh. Ideally your new sofa will have serpentine springs, consisting of snaking wire that that spans the gap between frame members, but if the metal is not heavy-gauge, the springs may start to sag over time. Luxury sofas are usually fitted with “eight-way hand-tied springs.”
Here’s what to check for: Stay away from a sofa assembled with only staples, glue or nails unless they are used as additional reinforcement. Feel the springs through the upholstery – they should be firm and spaced close together.
Warranties and Return Policies
A living room sofa is a big and long-term investment, so it should come with a comprehensive warranty. Most furniture companies offer anywhere from one year to 15 years to limited lifetime warranties, subject to normal wear and tear. Remember, the longer the warranty, the better indication that quality materials were used. A warranty for less than 5 years might be a red flag. You also want a reasonable return policy. 30 to 60 day periods are standard but you will probably have to pay for return shipping.
Make sure you read and understand the warranty and return policy “fine print.”
Armed with this basic knowledge, now you can go shop for your new living room sofa with confidence.