Finding Your Perfect Mate Part 1: The Sofa Basics

Choosing a sofa is a big decorating decision.  As one of, if not the, largest and most used piece in the room, a sofa can make or break your room.  Whether it is going to take front stage with a bold print or color, or provide a neutral backdrop, we want to make sure you go into the buying process armed with knowledge about your options and an idea of what will work in your space.

Finding Your Perfect Mate Part 1: The Sofa Basics will look at the steps to take prior to shopping and the basic sofa criteria to look for.  In Part 2, we will look at the many styles and options you will have to choose from (leg styles, arms, fill, etc.) as you "test" and shop for a new sofa.


Prior to shopping, there are several things that are important to evaluate:
  • First things first. Don't forget to measure your space.  Sounds simple, right?  I remember all too well the time my brother went out and bought a sofa, trusting his "eye".  You can guess how that worked out, right?  He ended up taking the molding off the door frame in an attempt to squeeze it in.  In the end... my sister ended up owning a new sofa!  (In case your wondering, no, he did not consult with me!) Long story short, the last thing you want is to fall in love with a sofa only to get it home and realize that an 84" sofa would really have been better than the 96" or vice-versa.  There are a lot of over-sized pieces on the market so you'll want to figure out how big of a piece your space can handle prior to shopping.  Showrooms are expansive so it can be deceiving; pieces don't look nearly as large as they might in your own home.  
  • For ease in conversation and reaching the tables around it, the sofa should be similar in seat height to the other seating and the coffee table, and the arm height should be close to that of the side tables.What kind of purpose will this sofa serve?  Is the room for lounging or entertaining?  A deep seated sofa with loose down seats and back may be perfect for relaxing, watching television, or reading.  If your room has a more formal purpose, then choose a more streamlined, elegant look with a tight back and tight seats. A shallow seat will lend itself to sitting upright and engaging in conversation more easily. If a sophisticated look is your intent, you may want to consider an armless sofa. Love is the feeling we have for this incredible sofa from BKIND3, designed intentionally to be extra deep, this sofa has both formality and comfort. As Carl Gustafson describes, "it is perfect for tucking you legs under; its not a sit and have 'tea with'; its designed for lounging.
  • A sofa is an investment, so think about the look carefully.  You may want to consider what feels "trendy" to you - in styling, color and pattern - and decide the direction you want to take based on what you feel you will enjoy for the next several years.  You can always reupholster a sofa, but the bones will remain the same.  If your style is contemporary, look at sofas with straight, clean lines.  For a more traditional look, try a sofa with rolled arms, loose back cushions, and fluffy accent pillows.
  • Choose your fabric carefully. If you are placing this in a room with heavy traffic, a strong, textural fabric may be your best option to endure lots of wear and tear. In a room that is less often used, you may not hesitate to go with a delicate silk or a bright and bold print.  Because quality sofas are made to last over a long period of time, many people choose to consider a more neutral fabric and make statements in the accent pillows and room accessories.  It is much less expensive to replace those than to recover the sofa if you decide to move it or change the look of the room. We just ordered Paprika sofas for a client the other day to replace his beige ones. Its your choice, consider what you can live with and what you are going to love today, tomorrow and down the road. If color is your thing, we say go for it; the important thing is to think long-term.

Additional criteria to consider once you have started the sofa buying process:
  • Comfort:  Sit in the sofa!  Though this seems logical, many people buy sofas based on looks alone. Even if you are buying your sofa from a catalog and cannot visit a showroom to try it, you should sit in other sofas with similar profiles to ensure comfort. Is the seat the right height? Is the pitch of the seat correct for your stature/needs? 
  • Weight & Construction:  Try to lift the sofa.  A well made piece will be heavy and difficult to lift.  Also, listen and feel for a sofa that seems wobbly or creaky, and if you find one, keep on movin'...your search has not ended.
  • Support: You need to consider the interior construction of the sofa.  Remove the cushions to feel for close, evenly spaced springs. Put the cushions back on to make sure they all fit perfectly within the frame.  There should not be gaps, crowding, or popping.  Take the covers off the cushions to evaluate the make of the cushion.  You won't want feathers popping through the fabric, so make sure that they are tightly woven within the cushion.  A cushion with stitched channels for the down or fill is ideal to avoid the inside settling to the bottom of the cushion as it puts up with daily use.
  • Padding:  Are the arms and back adequately padded?  You don't want to be able to feel the frame through the arms at all.  If the arms and back seem weak, then they most likely won't be able to put up with constant leaning, pulling and sitting on the them. 

Now that you have a basic knowledge of the considerations of comfort and style, you are almost ready to begin shopping.  The next task is to consider the silhouette and style that is right for you.  Come on back next week for, "Finding Your Perfect Mate, Part II"; we're putting together a 101 on the many options and styles available to assist you in this process.  Stay tuned!
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