An interior design blog with furniture reviews, interior decorating tips, DIY projects, and home furniture guides.

Sofa Buying Smart Guide

Sofa Review Buying Smart Guide

Don’t Buy a Sofa Without Reading This!

Have you ever seen a Netherlandish renaissance painting of a figure reclining on a lumpy, choppy, hideous couch? Not a chance! They had opulent taste and knowledge about how to find the best sofa that money could buy.

catnapper leather recliner sofa Buying a sofa can feel a bit surreal because unless it’s something like an antique French Baroque recliner in supreme condition, the only investment potential you’ll ever receive is comfort and pleasure or hate and vexation. Whatever your budget, it’s still an investment and this guide will show you how to stretch your purchasing power to buy a sofa you will adore rather than regret.

The best place to start is by looking at upholstery materials because first impressions are powerfully lasting and it’s the first visibly striking feature you will see. So let ;s begin by looking at the most common upholstery materials used in sofas today.

TO FABRIC OR NOT TO FABRIC

How to choose a sofa fabric and why

You might be worried there isn ;t a fabric made on this planet strong enough to withstand the tsunami effects of everyday use, but there is. Many fabrics of today are manufactured with scotch guard protection and advanced technology for a variety of heavy uses than ever before. For more durability, the higher the thread count, (the number of threads per square inch) the more durable the fabric will be. Again: the tighter the weave, the stronger the fabric. These are all factors that will absorb heavy daily use or rough use by guests, kids and pets.

A sturdily woven fabric combined with a chemical treatment will stand up to sunlight fading and the occasional serious wine stain removal. If you need these kinds of fabric features, make sure your fabric choice can manage it and assume nothing when you are shopping. A higher priced fabric doesn’t automatically mean the fabric will withstand stain removal or heavy use.

tweed-sofa.jpg Tweed like fabrics can fray quickly because the lose weave makes them less sturdy. Tweed types of fabric are a fantastic way to bring in an accent, texture, and contrast, but choose it to upholster furniture you plan to use lightly. Flat weaves, cottons, jacquard will fray less than highly textured weaves.

Sofa fabric choice usually dictates price, but if you ;re after pattern, color and texture, chances are a fabric sofa is the only way to go for you.

And if it’s an individual, one-of-kind patterned sofa you want, you can always provide the dealer or manufacturer with your own fabric. This practice is called C.O.M. or customer’s own material but remember that an average sofa will need at least 15 to 18 yards of fabric. modern sofa

Just keep in mind that any sofa covered in scotch guarded fabric is still fabric no matter how chemically treated it may be. Regardless of how good the fabric is, it will still eventually wear out.  Although, a patterned couch fabric will hide stubborn stains better than any other upholstery option. A lighter, solid colored sofa will start to show its stains and wear quickly over time if those are frequent occurrences in your home.

Another popular upholstery top selling material is leather and I can show you why.

LEATHER SOFAS TAKE THE OSCAR!

How to buy a leather sofa and why

Fabrics can create a warmer feeling room and provide pattern possibilities galore, but to wipe up those accidental spills, leather takes the “Oscar” for zero effort. Although nowadays, leather is available in color choices to the moon and back making it a close competition between the two materials. Leather is sleek, durable, stain and crack resistant making it a great choice for a new sofa. It will endure a lot of abuse from rough kids or weekly dinner parties. Over time, it looks like leather is the better investment path for the “non pattern fanatic.”

If you didn’t want to buy a leather sofa for fear of it being clammy and cold, that ;s a myth. Leather conforms to you body temperature making it the ideal choice for any temperature. It will be warm in the cold winters, cool in the hot summers and what could be better that? It’s also the breathable choice for allergy sufferers.

Leather and fabrics are available in a myriad of colors these days, so it really comes down to your personal preference and how you need your sofa to function for you. Fabrics offer pattern, texture and leather does too with a natural character that is in a class of its own. Leather is a natural product that has its own DNA just as we have our own identifying markings.

Hides can show individual grain, deep color and texture even within the same hide itself sometimes. Interestingly enough, natural marks that occurred during the life of the animal will be visible leaving each hide totally unique and full of character. These markings separate real hides from man-made hides, but these markings do not weaken the hides in any way. From the large warm tan couch, darker two-seat to the leather sectional sofa, you can see style, color, shape, size and design are not difficult to find in leather furniture. It’s possible to find the design you want in the size you need for your large or small living room and for the right price to fit your budget.

brown-leather-sofa-couch.jpg dark-brown-leather-loveseat-contemporary leather-sectional-sofa

The only possible drawback to watch for with leather is room temperature. If you have a small living room with a fireplace that you use a lot, it can end up getting too hot and warping or retarding the leather over time.

It’s understandable you might have your heart set on that leather couch, but in a small room with an operating fireplace means you must use a very good screen. The fireplace screen will prevent direct heat from pounding the life out of your leather sofa.

Placing a leather couch in direct sunlight can have a similar damaging effect on the leather. Sometimes your sofa just won ;t fit anywhere else, so be sure to use an excellent window treatment to keep the intense sunshine off it to protect it.

There are many types of leather used in sofa construction, but the 3 main ones are full-aniline, semi-aniline and pigmented.

FULL-ANILINE LEATHER SOFA

Brown-Tufted-Leather-Sleeper-.jpg Transparent analine dyes are used to dye the hides without covering up the natural markings.

The transparent aniline dye leaves the leather malleable and very soft.The natural texture of the hide comes through with this dye process making it a highly sought after choice for sofa upholstery.

With the tufted couch example, you can see how a level of stylistic detail can be achieved in leather and it’s a perfect choice for a large sized traditional space.

kathy-ireland-leather-sofa Maximize your small condo living room or family room

The gorgeous white leather couch by Kathy Ireland just goes to show the range of stylistic shapes that high end sofas are available in these days. This rounded shape sofa without compromising adequate seating.

SEMI-ANILINE LEATHER SOFA Large-English-style-leather-sofa

Vermont-Leather-Loveseat.jpg Semi-aniline leather also preserves the natural markings of the leather,
but it’s not as transparent in showing the natural texture of the hide as with the full-aniline. These hides are a stronger option for
heavier wear and tear. Semi-aniline dyes lightly coat the hide after
the initial dyeing process is completed. An uncommon color doesn’t necessarily equal high end prices.

This modern rich shade of green will provide seating in a tight living room and also keep your budget happy. But, if you’ve got the cash and the space in a large home, you can find any style of sofa in leather and this tan colored English style leather couch is a great example of that.

classic-brown-leather-sofa.jpg PIGMENTED LEATHER SOFA

Pigmented is a fancy way of saying these hides are amended by buffing
the top first layer of the leather grain.

Pigments and lacquers are used to the surface layer in the revision process and the end result is a very strong uniform looking hide that will take virtually any amount of agony you plan to give it. This dark rich leather couch shows incredible craftsmanship that has been carried throughout right down to the carved legs.

Can you see this immaculate couch in your big living room? Too tame?

yellow-modern-leather-sofa

Then how about the moder n canary yellow leather sofa? It’s clear the leather option is not going to hold you back for style, color, design, size or quality.

LEATHER SOFA/COUCH CARE TIPS

Leather is durable, but don’t clean it with the strength of an attacking bull. First and foremost, read the instructions on your leather couch and follow them.

I would still do a patch test for color bleeding underneath somewhere out of vision just to be on the safe side. Also makesure the leather cleaner leaves no greasy residue behind.

Residue can lead to bacteria which can weaken your leather couch and eat away at the stitching. If there is color loss or any residue, contact the manufacturer for cleaning instructions.

Most sofa leathers are fine with a professional leather cleaner. Use a sponge and work it through with the leather cleaner to build up foam and then gently clean the area in a circular motion.

I can’t stress the word “gentle” enough. Just because leather is strong and durable material, doesn’t mean it needs to be cleaned with force. Cleaning leather is about technique and good products. Wait a few minutes after the applying the cleaning solution. Then use a lint free cloth to blot the solution. It’s okay to repeat this process on heavily stained areas.

If your leather has become a little dry in some areas and you’ve not regularly kept up with cleaning it, you might find your leather sofa will drink up the leather cleaner. If this happens, add approximately 25% to 30% distilled water to the cleaner.

After cleaning, the leather couch material can be left to air dry naturally or you can use a hairdryer set on a low temperature, but I would just let it air dry. Regular cleaning will prolong the life of your leather sofa and keep it supple.

It’s quite reasonable to do a complete cleaning twice a year. For occasional stains and high traffic areas, clean frequently and stay on top of it. Conditioner and protectant products will also help to strengthen your leather sofa or courch.

Check manufacturer’s instructions when applying these products. Generally apply conditioner in the same way as the cleaning solution. Rub the conditioner in the leather, let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes and buff it with a clean, dry cloth. Essentially conditioning a leather couch is like feeding a thirsty couch.

Here are a few common sofa stains and quick clean up tips to help save you lots of money and time.

Sofa Liquid Stains

Some liquids will stain your leather couch so move fast to blot it. Try not to spread the liquid around and make a bigger mess for yourself to clean up later. Once you’ve collected the liquid, leave it alone for 2 or 3 days to let the stain settle and surface. Then try cleaning it with a leather cleaning solution.

Ink Sofa Stains

The wretched ink stain always manages to find its way onto a leather couch at some point, but now you’ll knowexactly what to do. Dip a cotton ball in straight alcohol or vinegar and then gently rub it into the ink stain. Let it air dry and see if the stain is out. If it’s still there, mix a little water in acetone free nail polish remover, dip a cotton ball in the solution and try rubbing that on your ink stain. That trick really should get it clean.

Mildew Sofa Stains

Mildew stains are another big, common stain removal problem. Mix one cup rubbing alcohol with one cup water and let sit for 5 minutes. Then dip a clean lint free cloth in the solution and wipe the mildew stain. Let it air dry. If the stain is still there, use a lint free cloth with a mild soap containing germicide and water to rub the stain clean. Let it air dry.

Food and Blood Stains

Generally most foods and blood won’t leave any stains. Just quickly wipe them away with a damp, clean cloth. Any other seriously ground in stain should be tackled by a leather care professional.

You’ve thought about materials for your sofa, so now let ;s look at what ;s necessary on the inside for the best comfort, function, style and design.

What’s In a Sofa/Couch Frame?

The last thing you want to find is your bum has fallen through your couch and hit the floor. Poorly manufactured furniture will do just that and sag or come up in spring coils in no time. Buy a sofa that is well made your investment will last you a long time and pay you off with durable comfort. There are a few filling options to select from for every budget and lifestyle.

FOAM COUCHES italian-cream-sofa.jpg

modern-contemporary-sofa.jpg Foam would be the low maintenance route. They are firm sofas and maybe overly firm for
the first 2 months
. With natural wear, they relax 20% for a comfy, cushy experience. The couch should not relax anymore
beyond that.

If foam appeals to you, use only 100% high density foam because anything lower will crumble like an oatmeal cookie in a couple months.

Both these modern contemporary sofa examples demonstrate just how crucial quality filling is for the design and shape of the furniture. Either couch would be manageable on a small budget in a larger living room.

6-curves-tufted-loveseat-sofa FOAM/FIBER WRAP SOFAS

Foam/fiber wrap is extremely similar to the foam. A layer of foam is placed
between 2 layers of hollow fiber making it an equally low maintenance
option.

The only minute difference is the extra layer of fiber for a little more softness. This 6 curves tufted loveseat sofa would easily anchor your small living room apartment and it would be worth every penny!

HOLLOW FIBER SOFAS armless-mocha-sofa

This is a great choice for hypoallergenic concerns.

If you or your family member has allergies or other sensitivities, hollow fiber filling might be the perfect worry free way to go.

Hollow fibers are also popular for people who want a sofa made of slightly lighter materials. Unlike the traditional feather sofas, hollow fibers are very effervescent and require less “plumping.”

Although, you should still frequently plump and rotate your cushions to protract the natural life of your sofa. Most of us in small apartments have to be “space smart,” so here is an example of an armless sofa for that very tiny condo living room, but this one comes without the high end price tag.

classic-rolled-arm-Skirted-Sofa.jpg FEATHER SOFA

Feather was the number one filling material used inside sofas and chairs until recent times, but it is high maintenance filling as you need to constantly plump everything back into shape just as you do with your bedroom pillows each morning.

Feather cushions are unbelievably heavy and luxurious looking. To plump them, drop each cushion from each corner to evenly disperse the feathers. A full feather filling would only suit the compulsive pillow plumper in the family.

Your sofa dealer should have specific information about the precise down to feather ratio.

Governmental regulations permit the manufacturers and dealers to have an error margin of 15%. For instance, a label that states 80% foam and 20% down could mean it is only 5% down and that is a huge difference, which is totally inadequate for a high end product you think you are purchasing.

BARE BONES CONSTRUCTION OF A SOFA

Your sofa can have the swankiest design, expensive upholstery and filling materials, but still fall apart without solid construction. Good quality frames are made from kiln-dried, knot free maple, oak or poplar hardwoods. Individual frame pieces are stabilized by dowels and glue in better furniture.

Cheap workmanship is easy to microfiber-sectional-sofa spot with an abundance of staples and inadequate corner bracing, while better quality frames are screwed together fairly securely.

This microfiber sectional sofa won’t disappoint with the workmanship or design.

Sectional sofas are making a huge comeback for their versatility and they can be arranged or divided to fit in a small urban living room apartment or larger living room. It’s a great example of a space saving piece that promises comfort without breaking the bank.

Furniture stores often have cut outs to show you the interior construction of
their products. Look for quality 8 way hand secured springs or S springs which will stand out compared to the cheaper wire coils. Lower quality couches will have plastic parts, metal and laminate boards.

FINISHING COUCH DETAILS

burgundy-dual-reclining-sectional-sofa You know your sofa is better constructed if you can see lining in your cushions. It’s a labor intensive detail that keeps feathers from poking
through. It also takes some pressure off the outer decorative fabric.

Any pattern should match from top to bottom with the cushion tops matching up to the rest of the couch. Anything that doesn’t match up
or line up quite right could be a sign of poor construction from the inside out.

Any sofa that can be easily lifted from one corner will prove to be too weak to last very long. You won’t be lifting this burgundy recliner sectional sofa from any corner. It’s just too well made for that flimsy test! It’s an example of a higher end piece that will last, provide ample cozy seating and colorfully anchor a grand living room in any large home.

WHAT SIZE SOFA IS BEST FOR ME?

Don’t feel pressured to make a decision in the furniture store immediately on the spot. If the salespeople make you feel that way, shame on them! This is where shopping on line is a wonderful advantage! Where to buy a sofa is as important as what you decide to buy. Who wants to have an aggressive salesperson chasing them throughout a display room anyway?

fabric-mocha-sectional-sofa

A sofa can feel much smaller or bigger than it really is when you first see it whether online or in a showroom.

Make a paper template of your sofa choice and place it where you plan to keep it. Put down some pillows and cushions on your template to give it bulk and height. This will allow you to approximate how much space your couch will take and how much room you will have to move around.

Take this fabric upholstered mocha sectional for instance, unless you are considering a sofa this versatile enough to be arranged and divided as you need, most sofas simply will not provide this degree of versatility, so be sure of the size that will best fit your needs. This sectional is a wonderful example of a sofa that won’t cost a fortune, but can be made to fit your small sized condo living room.

You need room to move freely and you don’t want a piece of furniture so large that it completely dominates the whole space and all your other furniture. A sofa in proportion to your room and other furniture will be enhancing as an overall story more than one piece that plays like a dictator.

If you have a large enough living room and a large family, plus you do an awful lot of entertaining, you can definitely use a bigger sofa set without having to second guess your decision.

HOW WILL YOU USE YOUR SOFA

contemporary-modern-sofa If you plan to use your sofa more throughout the day, you might be thinking of a brighter, more user friendly color and fabric choice. A living room used throughout the evening might invite a richer and darker color palette for your sofa.

You may want to use mohair, velvet, silk, damask or other such luxurious fabrics for night time use. For regular overnight guests, a sofa should be at least 36-42″ deep for an average sized adult and upholstery fabric in heavy cotton or chenille would be the most comfortable to sleep on.

For example, this fancy soft sage green sofa comes with a fancy price tag and you can probably see it sitting prominently in your large living room, but it won’t make for a comfortable bed for those overnight guests.

If  you have pets that enjoy scratching everything you own, you might consider a sofa design that can be easily slip-covered for added “scratch” protection. It ;s also a quick clean up solution for accidents, stains and you can just leave it off for formal entertaining.

These are just more ideas to think about to help you make the right sofa decision for your lifestyle needs.

STYLISTIC SOFA, CLASSIC COUCH, FUNCTIONAL THOUGHTS

A few functional and stylistic questions can help narrow down and point you in the right sofa design direction. For example, lose cushions will provide movement, flexibility but you’ll have to turn them around and do some plumping while the attached cushions equal zero maintenance.

If you want a one cushion sofa, you are leaning towards a modern sofa style, but 2 or 3 cushions will take you in the traditional direction. Even selecting the arm design is important for utilization. If you don ;t want dinner guests mounting your sofa arm like cattle, you might want an armless design rather than a traditional rolled arm. You might like the look of a straight Parsons arm or a curvy English arm full of character.

contemporary-modern-sofa-couch.jpg leather-recling-sofa-tandem.jpg kathy-ireland-3-seat-leather-sofa.jpg

You can have your sofa wearing a skirt or you can keep those legs visible! It ;s all about design choice and customizations to get the right look

for you. If you want to show off those legs, styles range from wide bun feet, thin stumpy feet, large square legs, or
formal curved legs with ornate feet. If you choose to display those legs and feet, you can also choose which stain or wood you prefer.

SOFA DELIVERY

Measure doorways, hallways, elevators, ceiling heights, banisters and anything else your sofa will be delivered through. Don’t buy anything you can ;t get through the front door or up to your 3d floor attic living room!

IT’S YOUR SPACE AND YOUR COUCH!

Let’s briefly go over the finite specifics of what you need for your individual space. If you are in a large home, look at this high-end-red-leather-sectional-sofa high end muted red toned leather sectional.

It’s a luxurious sectional big enough to accommodate your family, friends and fill up your large living room or family room. F victorian-button-tufted-leather-sofa or the high quality alone, you won’t mind the monumental price tag it comes with.

For that large detached home with a Victorian inspired large living room or family, try this sublime Victorian button tufted leather sofa.

A trendy studio apartment would be too crammed without a space saving armless convertible modern leather sofa.

A swanky small townhome would welcome this two toned contemporary armless sofa.

convertible-modern-black-leather-sofa contemporary-armless-sofa

Consider a leather sofa bed for that small loft living room that has to pull double duty for guests lines.

kathy-ireland-leather-sofa-bed.jpg

This modern contemporary leather sofa has stylish sleek lines and it would look fantastic in modern condo with unique architectural lines.

modern-contemporary-leather-sofa

Perfect for Small Living Rooms: this two toned plush beautiful couch will fit into an apartment, house, or loft living room

simmons-upholstered-sofa

This style will compliment any look from classic to mission put this loveseat in a townhome or urban apartment living room or even den!

upholstered-loveseat-sofa

Here is another two toned modern sofa that would adorn any modern or contemporary living room.

upholstered-two-tone-sofa

3 Tips For Your Grand Sofa Buying Guide Finale

1. Always buy quality sofas, it will pay for itself in the end and you’ll come out ahead.

2. Buy, buy, buy the sofa (couch) you can’t live without. Don’t over think it when you instinctively know the right decision.

3. Use this Sofa Buying Guide to make an informed decision have a questions please let me know I will be happy to help you make sure you get the best sofa! Send me a picture of your room or what kind of sofa you are looking for.

Nicolette Interior Design Diva